Many Thunder fans are probably still recovering from a post-playoff hangover.
But the NBA Draft is now just three weeks away, and if we’ve learned anything about the Thunder on draft night it’s that it is a team liable to do anything. No one knows whether the Thunder will select a player, trade up, trade down or trade out.
Add to that, fewer fans seem to be paying attention this year. A deep playoff run and first-round positioning that inspires widespread yawning have taken away from the intrigue of the Thunder’s draft. Perhaps there is a growing awareness that whatever prospect the Thunder plucks won’t make an immediate impact. Heck, he might not even make the team. That’s what having a stable of young talent in place and possession of the 24th overall pick gets you.
But draft guru Chad Ford of ESPN.com held a chat today and wrote something very interesting. (Worth noting, though, that the words ‘Oklahoma City’ and ‘Thunder’ weren’t written anywhere in his hour long chat? Further proof that the Thunder is on the back-burner in this year’s draft.) Ford broke down the depth of this year’s class, and indirectly said the Thunder is in prime position to get a quality player. When asked about the draft seemingly being weak at the top but deep toward the end of the first round, Ford responded with this:
For sure. I think people misunderstand the criticism of the draft. The top two picks are really good … but they aren’t superstar caliber. The next 10 players in the draft are typically the sorts of players you get in the late lottery to mid first round. But after that, the draft is really loaded into the mid to late 30s. If I’m drafting anywhere between 15-35, I’m happy with the draft.”
Not saying Ford’s say should be taken as gospel. But that’s got to make Thunder fans feel pretty good, no?
If Oklahoma City stands pat, it’s sounds like the Thunder, at 24, can land a serviceable player with potential to grow into something special. That 24 range is where sleepers usually rest, and the Thunder could very well come away with the next great steal. A few of the more notable recent 24th overall picks include Serge Ibaka in 2008,Rudy Fernandez in 2007, Kyle Lowry in 2006, Delonte West in 2004 and Nenad Krstic in 2002.
Other players recently picked in the 25 to 30 range include Taj Gibson, Nicolas Batum, George Hill, Aaron Brooks, Shannon Brown, Jason Maxiell, David Lee, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Beno Udrih, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa and Josh Howard and John Salmons.
So, historically, there’s clearly been plenty of talent to choose from in the 24 spot.
In its latest mock draft, NBADraft.net currently has the Thunder selecting UCLA swingman Tyler Honeycutt. The website DraftExpress.com currently has the Thunder selecting Duke forward Kyle Singler. And in his latest mock, Ford has the Thunder taking Serbian forward Nikola Mirotic in a select-and-stash strategy.
None of those names are likely to get you all that excited. But maybe one of them, or someone else in that cluster will prove to be effective.