An unpredictable NBA Draft resulted in a predictable opening selection for the Thunder on Thursday night.
In dire need of a post presence, OKC selected 7-foot, 255-pound center Steven Adams with the No. 12 pick.
Numerous pre-draft reports had the Thunder attempting to obtain the No. 1 pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers or the No. 2 pick from the Orlando Magic, but to no avail.
“It’s funny, this was an interesting draft in so many ways,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said, addressing the media after midnight. “We explored a lot of different things, obviously not a lot of it was what was being reported, but that’s not a surprise at this time of year.
“We looked at moving up. We looked at moving back. We had some different concepts to move out of the draft if different players weren’t available when we selected. … We looked at everything, just like every team would. We’re thrilled with where we ended up.”
Born in New Zealand, the 19-year-old Adams became the first Kiwi to be drafted in the first round. He flashed a New Zealand flag sewn on the inside lining of his suit and thanked Kiwi fans during his post-selection interview at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” the well-humored and affable Adams said in a brief teleconference call with local media. “I’m just really trying to break away for all the rest of the New Zealanders to come through and hopefully pass me.”
The Thunder surrendered the No. 29 overall selection (Kentucky guard Archie Goodwin) and cash to move up three spots in the first round and obtain Colorado forward Andre Roberson, who originally was selected by Minnesota at No. 26.
With the second pick in the second round (No. 32 overall), OKC selected 19-year-old shooting guard Alex Abrines, who will remain with his elite club in Spain until the Thunder deems him ready for the NBA.
After the draft, Presti confirmed the Thunder also acquired Arizona power forward Grant Jerrett (No. 40 overall) from Portland for cash considerations.
All told, OKC wound up getting three 19-year-olds and the 21-year-old Roberson.
“Once again, Thunder U is served,” vice president/assistant general manager Troy Weaver said.
Considered a project, Adams played one season at Pittsburgh and almost certainly will spend his rookie season playing with the Tulsa 66ers, the Thunder’s Developmental League affiliate.
Asked what he thought of that scenario, Adams momentarily drew a blank.
“Playing in Tulsa? … Oh, sorry. Yeah, yeah, yeah. My bad,” Adams said. “No, I don’t mind. Either way. I’m just committed to the coaches and just making sure I do whatever they say. If they feel I’m ready to be a Thunder, then that will work. If they don’t and I’m going to Tulsa, that’s just how it is.”
Adams worked out for the Thunder in early June. Asked if he envisioned being selected on draft night by OKC, Adams said: “To a certain degree I did, but it was actually what I was hoping for, just because I kind of fell in love with the place.
“It’s a really big honor, to be honest with you, to wear the jersey.”
Though Roberson is 6-foot-7 and 206 pounds, he excels defensively and ranked second nationally in conference rebounding (11.2) last season.
Roberson (pronounced ROB-er-son) was selected as the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of The Year and was a first-team all-conference pick. He left the Buffaloes after his junior season and was just 10 rebounds short of becoming the school’s all-time leader (1,055).
Presti and Weaver said they were allured by Roberson constant movement on the court and his ability to defend multiple positions.
Roberson is the only CU player with 1,000 points and rebounds, 150 blocks and steals, and 100 assists in his career. He also was the first player in school history to lead the team in rebounding, blocked shots and steals for three consecutive seasons.
The modest rookie salary scale will help the Thunder’s payroll stay under the punitive luxury tax threshold. OKC has $64.8 million in guaranteed salary to nine players for the 2013-14 season, which is well above next season’s projected team salary cap of $58.4 million.
In order to avoid tax penalties next season, the Thunder’s payroll must stay below the projected threshold of $71.6 million.
Under the league’s rookie salary scale, the most Adams can make next season is $2.09 million while Roberson’s max is $1.11 million.
The Thunder has three centers under contract. Starter Kendrick Perkins has roughly $18.5 million and two years left on his deal; Hasheem Thabeet will earn $1.2 million if he makes the roster and Daniel Orton will earn $916,099 if he makes the roster.