B.J. Mullens is a project. He started only two games his freshman year at Ohio State. But at a time when there are few quality NBA centers, Thunder general manager Sam Presti felt fortunate an athletic 7-footer was available late in the first round. "Physically he has great gifts,” Presti said. "He can also shoot the ball. Sometimes big guys take a little bit longer... The thing that really stuck out was he has a little bit of an edge, a chip on his shoulder. He really wants to invest and get better.” Mullens and Hasheem Thabeet were the only two centers taken in the first round Thursday night. Next year’s draft also is expected to be void of quality center prospects. Earlier this week there was a rumor Presti might be willing to swap the unprotected 2010 first-round pick he got from Phoenix in 2007 to move up and grab Mullens. Instead, the Thunder traded a a future second-round pick to switch places with Dallas at the No. 24 and 25 slots. "He’s a guy we feel has a significant upside,” Presti said. "We wanted to be proactive and get him and get in front of our pick and nab him.” With Pittsburgh power forward DeJuan Blair still available, Presti instead selected Mullens, who probably won’t make a key impact for at least two or three years. Mullens started only two games for the Buckeyes, averaging 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 20.3 minutes a game. "It’s not a very good center class,” said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. "I like (Mullens) very much as a player, but I think it’s going to take him awhile to learn the game at the next level.” Thunder officials watched Mullens practice several times and spoke extensively with Ohio State’s staff, including the strength and conditioning coaches. Presti and the Thunder coaching staff knows it will have to be patient with the Columbus native who was one of only four freshmen to be selected in the first round. Many felt Mullens could have used another year or two in college. He was one of only four college freshmen to declare for the draft. "I knew I was one and done,” Mullens said last week following a workout with the Hawks. "Sometimes the obvious thing is staring you in the face and you can’t hesitate.” Dallas officially selected Mullens at No. 24. OKC selected Rodrique Beaubois, a point guard from Guadeloupe, playing in France, at No. 25, and traded him to the Mavericks. It won’t be a huge financial risk. As the No. 24 pick, Mullens will make $933,500 his rookie season, $1 million his second year and $1.03 million his third season.