Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC's best bet in the NBA Draft could be trading back

Five spots below the Thunder's No. 12 pick are the Atlanta Hawks, who own back-to-back selections at 17 and 18. It might be that the Hawks would be willing to part with both to move up to 12 if they are enamored with someone available at that spot.
by Darnell Mayberry Modified: June 24, 2013 at 8:48 pm •  Published: June 24, 2013
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photo - Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder NBA basketball team general manager, speaks at a press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012.  Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder NBA basketball team general manager, speaks at a press conference at the Thunder practice facility in Oklahoma City Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

ESPN.com, for example, projects the Thunder to select Pittsburgh center Steven Adams with the 12th pick. The website's mock draft has the Hawks then taking Plumlee at 17 and Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo at 18. Is Adams that much better than Plumlee? Maybe. But maybe not. By moving down five spots and acquiring back-to-back picks, however, the Thunder would double its chances of hitting on one player, probably of similar potential.

The Thunder's payroll for next season is teetering toward the tax threshold, but the difference in salary between the 12th selection and the combined payments that would be owed the 17th and 18th picks is only about an additional $1 million.

Additionally, the Thunder isn't obligated to sign all of its draft picks. OKC, because of its stacked roster and mounting salary cap constraints, is widely believed to be interested in plucking an international prospect with one of its three selections Thursday. That player, in all likelihood, would then continue developing overseas while not costing the Thunder a dime.

History also suggests that the Thunder would be just fine trading back.

In 2008, Jason Thompson was selected 12th while Roy Hibbert went 17th and JaVale McGee went 18th.

In 2009, Gerald Henderson was taken 12th while Jrue Holiday went 17th and Ty Lawson went 18th.

In 2010, Xavier Henry was selected 12th while Kevin Seraphin went 17th and Eric Bledsoe went 18th.

In 2011, Alec Burks was the 12th pick and Iman Shumpert and Chris Singleton were the 17th and 18th picks, respectively.

Last year, Jeremy Lamb went 12th while Tyler Zeller and Terrence Jones went 17th and 18th.

The jury is still out on 2012. But from 2008 to 2011, every 17th and 18th selection has had a better career to this point than that year's 12th pick.

That's not always the case, of course.

But it's enough evidence to show moving back in this case could swing the odds in the Thunder's favor.

It's enough to suggest the Thunder should pick up the phone and call Atlanta.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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