Draft Day is less than a week away in the NBA world and, at the very least, this year’s version promises to be an active one in Thunder land.
OKC holds three picks (the 12th, 29th and 32nd) heading into Thursday’s festivities. Who should they take? Should Sam Presti swing a trade? We asked all that and more to our Thunder writers. See what they had to say:
1. If all the expected players are there at 12, who should the Thunder take?
Darnell Mayberry (beat writer) - Let the record show that I’m terrified of being on the record with this answer. Every player projected to be available at 12 has bust potential. Reluctantly voicing my opinion on who the pick should be could reflect really, really poorly on me in five years. I don’t envy the task Sam Presti has on his plate. With that said, Michael Carter-Williams would be my pick if he’s available. I don’t trust any of the big men, and the Thunder is likely to need a new backup point guard sooner rather than later to replace Reggie Jackson.
John Rohde (beat writer) - If you actually know who’ll be available, please tell me. The top 12 could include 15-20 possibilities. If Gorgui Dieng is available, the Thunder should take him, unless Cody Zeller is available, unless Steven Adams is available, unless Alex Len is available, unless C.J. McCollum is available …
Berry Tramel (columnist) - I like Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng. He’s a big man with some skills. I don’t think he can help immediately, but that’s OK. The Thunder doesn’t need immediate interior help. It needs help in the future.
Anthony Slater (sports blogger) - I’ve always preferred the ‘best available’ draft strategy. Take the best talent, with the highest upside, regardless of position, and figure the rest out later. Everyone (understandably) expects the Thunder to go big at 12. But I’m not sold on any of the guys that’ll be there. Maybe snag a talent like Michael Carter-Williams or C.J. McCollum if they fall, or even San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin (it could be the school, but I see a little Kawhi Leonard in him). Then nab a guy like Jermaine O’Neal in free agency to temporarily relieve the interior issues.
2. Fact or fiction: We should expect some sort of draft day trade from Sam Presti.
Mayberry - Fact. The guy can’t help himself. He has three attractive assets and doesn’t seem likely to use them all.
Rohde - Fact. We’ve always thought there are no limitations to what Presti could do. Given his payroll restrictions, however, I believe this is most limited moment Presti has had as general manager.
Tramel - Fact. The Thunder often deals on draft night, but this year, it’s even more likely, because OKC has two first-round picks and really has little space on the roster, even for rookies. I suppose the Thunder could jettison DeAndre Liggins or Daniel Orton, someone like that, but it’s more likely the Thunder trades its two picks and moves up to No. 10 or something in that neigborhood.
Slater - Fact. I don’t expect a big splash (like packaging all three for an established talent). But it’s doubtful the Thunder uses all three picks. They don’t have the roster spots. You could draft and stash an international, but more likely, they’ll ship one or both of the later picks for future assets.
3. Who’s one player the Thunder could realistically snag at 29 or 32 with the best potential to have a good pro career?
Mayberry - Give me Archie Goodwin at 29. I love his athleticism, energy and fearlessness. He needs a lot of work. A lot of work. But if he’s willing to put in the time and the work Goodwin could someday be the steal of this draft.
Rohde - Personally, I’m not sure what the potential is for the first 28 players. The 2000 draft is widely considered the worst ever (1. Kenyon Martin; 2. Stromile Swift; 3. Darius Miles; 4. Marcus Fizer; 5. Mike Miller). This year’s draft has balance, but does it have quality? As for your question, perhaps Giannis Adetokunbo of Greece has the most potential.
Tramel - Maybe it’s because I’m a hopeless romantic, and Rohde’s great story from Sunday is fresh on my mind, but I like Ray McCollum Jr. Just like Little Ray, I played some hoops when I was a kid at the old North Base gym. Unlike Little Ray, I never dunked.
Slater - Recent history is lined with legit rotation players coming off the board around that area of the draft. Draymond Green went 35th last year. Jimmy Butler went 30th the year before, with Chandler Parsons going eight slots later. In this year’s draft, Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan), Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) and C.J. Leslie (NC State) seem like potential steals. But we’ll see.
4. How important is this draft for the Thunder?
Mayberry - On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being vital to the franchise’s future, I’ll say 3. It’s important to continue to add young talent to the roster, and this is as good of a chance as the Thunder might have for foreseeable future. But the Thunder is in a position of strength this year. It’s a luxury to be able to mine this year’s field for a gem, not a necessity to find one.
Rohde - The draft has always been important in terms of finding talent, but now it’s become particularly important financially. The Thunder needs to find players able to contribute while still on their rookie contracts.
Tramel - Oh, no more or less important than any other. If the Thunder finds a superstar at No. 29, then it will be a vital draft. If the Thunder gets a dud at No. 12, then the draft was wasted opportunity. But likely, it will be just another draft.
Slater - Feels pretty huge. The Thunder have little financial flexibility moving forward and, barring unforeseen trades or struggles, won’t have this early a pick for a while. Seems like OKC is one role player away from rounding out a championship-caliber roster. They have two to three chances to possibly hit on one next Thursday.