Opinions varied considerably on how to grade the Thunder's selections in Thursday night's NBA Draft, but such usually is the case when a team is stockpiling talent.
Impatient critics tend to grade more harshly than those willing to wait.
“In order to maintain, build and enhance an elite organization, it's imperative that we continue to layer young talent into our organization as we move forward,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti explained at 12:10 a.m. Friday. “Tonight was another opportunity to do that.”
OKC selected three 19-year-olds and one 21-year-old underclassman, none of whom is expected to contribute immediately on a team figured to once again challenge for the NBA crown next season.
The first opportunity to judge the Thunder's selections will come July 7-12 when the 10-team Orlando Pro Summer League is held on the practice court at Amway Center.
OKC's summer league roster has yet to be finalized, but it's likely that center Steven Adams (No. 12 overall selection), forward Andre Roberson (No. 26) and power forward Grant Jerrett (No. 40) will participate. Shooting guard Alex Abrines (No. 32) will play pro ball in Spain next season and will not partake.
Other Thunder players expected to compete in Orlando are guards Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and DeAndre Liggins, forward Perry Jones III and center Daniel Orton.
The Thunder was looking for an inside presence and certainly found it in the 7-foot, 255-pound Adams, a 19-year-old New Zealander who played one collegiate season at Pittsburgh. Some consider Adams the most raw prospect taken in the first round.
“It's very, very hard to find guys who can protect the basket and are physical,” Presti said. “This is a young player, but this is a physical player. He understands that he has a long way to go.”
The 6-foot-7, 206-pound Roberson is a high-flyer with an energy level similar to three-time All-Star Russell Westbrook.
“We think he's a unique player,” Presti said of the 21-year-old junior out of Colorado. “He guards a lot of different positions. We feel like he has a lot of tools to work with physically. Another thing we really like about him is he's got tremendous endurance and persistence on the floor with activity. We feel that's an attribute. … He's going to have to find his way, just like Steven and the other guys that we've drafted in the past.”
Thunder vice president/assistant general manager Troy Weaver described the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Abrines as “one of the best, most talented, young players in all of Europe. He's 19 years old and just a gifted basketball player. (He) can do a lot of things with the ball, a natural feel for the game for a young age.”
The 6-foot-10, 232-pound Jerrett left Arizona after his freshman season during which he only started two of 34 games and averaged 5.2 points in 17.8 minutes.
“This guy can really shoot the ball,” Weaver said of the 19-year-old Jerrett. “He shot 40 percent (.405) from 3(-point range) in college, which rarely happens for a 6-10 kid. We like his tools and his skill set.”
Eight 7-footers were drafted in the first round and half the field in Orlando will have 7-foot rookie first-rounders.
In addition to Adams, also competing will be Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel, Boston's Kelly Olynyk, Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee and Utah's Rudy Gobert.
“Coming into the program you're going to have to understand there's going to be a learning curve for everybody,” Presti said. “That's been the case across the board. One of the things about our team that we always have to keep in mind is that the core group is really still evolving and growing.”