The Thunder traded its last 25th overall pick to Denver in January for a 34-year-old journeyman point guard and the right to move up nine spots in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
That was Johan Petro’s most significant contribution to the Oklahoma City franchise. With what little profit general manager Sam Presti was able to turn from the seldom-used 7-foot center from France, he spent it on another 7-footer Thursday when he acquired B.J. Mullens — via the 25th pick. Thunder fans are now wondering just how much value this latest center project has. They have every right to be leery. Although an interior player with rebounding, shot-blocking and post-defense skills was the Thunder’s most pressing need going into the draft, Mullens has become a polarizing pick among many fans who can’t get past the franchise’s recent history of drafting 7-foot centers. There was Robert Swift, the 12th overall pick in 2004. There was Petro in 2005. And how could anyone forget about Mo Sene, the 10th overall selection in 2006? Combine the career production of all three, and you still come out with averages of just 4.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 414 games. So who’s to say Mullens, the 20-year-old, one-and done prospect out of Ohio State, will be any different? The truth is, there is no guarantee he will be. Only hope. Mullens averaged 27.4 points and 15.1 rebounds in his senior year at Columbus, Ohio’s Canal Winchester High School. He was a McDonald’s All-American, a First-Team Parade All-American and earned a selection to USA Today’s 2008 All-USA boys basketball team. He was projected as a top five pick. Instead, the NBA shut off high schoolers from jumping straight to the league, and Mullens’ credentials never translated to the college. He averaged just 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots with the Buckeyes and was criticized for a lack of focus and displaying incredible inconsistency. "He was not used to playing against people his own size in the low post,” said Bob Baptist, who covers the Buckeyes for the Columbus Dispatch. Baptist routinely watched Mullens display everything a project center typically shows. He struggled to hold his position in the post because of a lack of strength.