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Sam Presti says he’s happy to be picking at No. 3

By Darnell Mayberry Published: May 20, 2009
What now?

That’s the question the Thunder and its fans are asking after the ping-pong balls delivered Oklahoma City only a sliver of good fortune Tuesday night in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Thunder will have the third overall pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, a slot that is one spot higher than it entered the night slated to pick but two spots lower than the one everyone had hoped to come away with.

The Los Angeles Clippers, with the third-best chance, landed the No. 1 overall pick and likely will select OU forward Blake Griffin, long considered the consensus top prospect. Memphis jumped from sixth to second and could select consensus No. 2 prospect Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old point guard from Spain.

That would leave the Thunder to choose from a gifted group of players that includes Connecticut 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, Arizona State shooting guard James Harden, Arizona power forward Jordan Hill and Southern California shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

All have question marks. All have limitations. All are projected to be role players rather than stars.

"Having the third pick for us is a lot better than having the fourth,” said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. "And when you have No. 3 you wish you had No. 2. But this is definitely a great position for us to be in. I think we’ll definitely get some phone calls and we’ll have some options. We also like the group of players that will be there, so I’m excited.”

The Thunder, coming off a 23-win season, has several needs to fill as it continues retooling its roster. The most pressing is interior defense, which could go a long way in lowering this year’s disappointing averages of 103.5 points allowed and 47.5 percent opponent field goal percentage.

Thabeet could fill void with his rebounding and shot-blocking skills. He averaged 10.

Is 3 the lucky number?
The Thunder will pick third in the NBA Draft on June 25. Here’s a look at who has been taken in that spot since the NBA Draft Lottery was instituted in 1985.

→2008: O.J. Mayo, Minnesota

→2007: Al Horford, Atlanta

→2006: Adam Morrison, Charlotte Bobcats

→2005: Deron Williams, Utah

→2004: Ben Gordon, Chicago

→2003: Carmelo Anthony, Denver

→2002: Mike Dunleavy, Golden State

→2001: Pau Gasol, Atlanta

→2000: Darius Miles, Clippers

→1999: Baron Davis, Charlotte Hornets

→1998: Raef LaFrentz, Denver

→1997: Chauncey Billups, Boston

→1996: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Vancouver

→1995: Jerry Stackhouse, Philadelphia

→1994: Grant Hill, Detroit

→1993: Anfernee Hardaway, Golden State

→1992: Christian Laettner, Minnesota

→1991: Billy Owens, Sacramento

→1990: Chris Jackson, Denver

→1989: Sean Elliott, San Antonio

→1988: Charles Smith, Philadelphia

→1987: Dennis Hopson, New Jersey

→1986: Chris Washburn, Golden St.

→1985: Benoit Benjamin, L.A. Clippers

Compiled by Mike Baldwin

The possible picks
An early look at four players the Thunder might consider selecting if general manager Sam Presti keeps the No. 3 pick at the June 25 NBA Draft:

PG Ricky Rubio
Spain, 6-foot-4, 9.8 pts., 5.7 assists, 1.9 steals.

→Closer look : The teenage point guard from Spain is projected to be selected No. 2 by Memphis, but ESPN’s Chad Ford predicts the Grizzlies will take Hasheem Thabeet. His stats were ordinary, but some feel the 18-year-old legend might be viewed as the best player in this draft, even better than Griffin, a decade from now. Often compared to Pete Maravich, Rubio has a great basketball IQ like Maravich, looks like Maravich, and can dish out eye-popping passes like Maravich. But he’s not near the shooter or scorer Maravich was.

→NBA comparison: Steve Nash

→Draft Express comparison: Steve Nash

C Hasheem Thabeet
Connecticut, 7-foot-3, 13.6 pts., 10.8 reb., 4.2 blocks

→Closer look: Look for most mock drafts to have the Thunder selecting the 7-foot-3 UConn intimidator. Thabeet has a large wing span and could provide the rebounding and shot-blocking defensive presence the Thunder sorely lacks inside. But he’s far from a slam dunk. The Tanzania native still has much to learn. He has poor hands, is a sub-par offensive player and could have difficulty with the pick and roll. Some scouts question his basketball IQ and whether he can consistently play hard.

→NBA comparison: Dikembe Mutombo

→Draft Express comparison: Samuel Dalembert

PF or G Jordan Hill
Arizona, 6-foot-10, 18.3 pts., 11.0 reb., 1.7 blocks

→Closer look: An athletic power forward, Hill has developed the reputation for competing hard, consistently improving his three seasons with the Wildcats. Hill has the size and length to play inside and operates efficiently in the paint. Hill runs the floor well and can finish around the basket. Hill, though, lacks polish and must develop a mid-range jumper. He’s viewed as an average defender who lacks fundamentals and court awareness but has good upside.

→NBA comparison: Chris Bosh

→Draft Express comparison: Chris Wilcox

SG James Harden
Arizona State, 6-foot-5, 20.1 pts, 5.6 reb., 4.2 assists

→Closer look: Possibly the most NBA ready player in this draft, the left-hander with good range can fill it up. Harden is a viable threat on the perimeter but can also drive to the basket to get to the free throw line. He played only two seasons at Arizona State but is an advanced player with an outstanding feel for the game. His drawbacks are he has average size and isn’t very quick. His ceiling isn’t as high as more athletic players in this draft but he should be productive.

→NBA comparison: Brandon Roy

→Draft Express comparison: Manu Ginobili

Compiled by Mike Baldwin

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