Two of the Thunder’s biggest needs are shooting guard and center. General manager Sam Presti might address both Thursday night in the draft. Trying to figure out Presti’s intentions is like trying to predict Oklahoma’s weather. Based on reports around the league, Presti is leaning toward James Harden or Stephen Curry.
If that’s the case, how does Presti also address center, since UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet will be long gone by the time he picks again at No. 25? Detroit might be willing to trade its first-round pick if a team takes Amir Johnson. The deal makes sense for both sides. Johnson earns $3.67 million next season but comes off the books in 2010-11. A forward taken out of high school four years ago, Johnson probably wouldn’t figure prominently in OKC’s plans. The benefit is Presti could gamble on B.J. Mullens, the only other center projected to go in the first round. The deal wouldn’t derail Presti’s long-term plan. Adding another rookie with a cap friendly salary the next four years gives him even more financial flexibility. Why would Detroit make the trade? The Pistons plan to pursue a couple of high-profile free agents like Ben Gordon and Paul Millsap. Detroit already has some cap space but would clear an additional $5 million without Johnson and the money slotted for its No. 15 pick. OKC and Detroit reportedly would swap first-round picks, essentially allowing Presti to move up 10 spots. Since Detroit is more interested in clearing cap space than adding a rookie, Presti should tell the Pistons if he takes Johnson that he also wants to keep his No. 25 selection. Unless another team is willing to take Johnson, you have leverage. The Pistons subplot aside, Presti can go a number of different directions Thursday night. It appears the Timberwolves, armed with three first-round picks or possibly trading Kevin Love, are determined to acquire the No. 2 pick from Memphis and select Ricky Rubio. If that scenario plays out, Presti’s decision could comes down to Thabeet, Harden or Curry. Thabeet would fill the Thunder’s biggest void — a defensive inside presence.