Ask 10 people what the Thunder should do in Thursday night's NBA Draft and you might get 10 different answers.
Opinions vary for two reasons.
There's not a single can't-miss prospect this year, and the Thunder, with three of the top 32 picks, has plenty of options.
For those reasons, this year's draft-night decisions could be the most difficult the Thunder has ever had to make. Throw in the fact that the 12th overall pick is a selection the Thunder acquired as part of the James Harden trade and even more pressure falls on Oklahoma City to get it right.
The Thunder could go big, which most assume will happen with that 12th selection, or go small. We could see a more polished player's name called, like Duke center Mason Plumlee, or an international project, such as Frenchman Rudy Gobert. It's also not out of the realm of possibilities that the Thunder packages its picks and trades up, a popular idea that would put the franchise in better position to snag a more promising player, such as Maryland center Alex Len or UNLV forward Anthony Bennett.
Anything could happen, and by now we know to expect the unexpected from the Thunder.
But of all the possibilities, the best option for OKC could be trading back.
It sounds counterproductive, and Thunder general manager Sam Presti has never done it. But here's why the Thunder could and perhaps should consider it Thursday night.
Among the 60 players who will be drafted, approximately three (perhaps at best) appear to be a cut above the rest: Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Kansas guard Ben McLemore and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. Everyone else might never amount to anything more than a role player.
The 14th pick, therefore, ultimately could be every bit as good as the fourth pick.
Five spots below the Thunder, meanwhile, 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. To sweeten the deal, the Thunder might have to send its 29th overall selection to Atlanta as well. But both options should be on the table from the Thunder's standpoint.
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.