By now, Thunder fans have memorized the NBA lottery ping-pong formula. They know by finishing with the league’s fourth-worst record last season, the Thunder has 119 ping-pong combinations, which means it has an 11.9-percent chance of winning the May 19 lottery. What many fans fail to acknowledge, somewhat inexplicably, is that leaves an 88.1-percent chance the Thunder will not get the No. 1 pick. Barring a deal, there is an 88.1-percent chance Blake Griffin will not be on the Thunder’s roster next season. How’s that for being Thunderstruck? The quicker Thunder fans accept these odds, the better off they’ll be come draft day on June 25. Only twice in NBA history has a team with the No. 1 pick traded that selection. In 1986, Cleveland drafted North Carolina center Brad Daugherty in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers via Philadelphia. In 1993, Orlando drafted Michigan forward Chris Webber, then traded his rights to Golden State for No. 3 overall pick of Memphis State guard Anfernee Hardaway. This is the stubbornness the Thunder will face if it doesn’t win the lottery. Teams don’t give up the No. 1 pick easily, and when they do, the asking price is steep. Coming out of college, Webber and Hardaway were both remarkable talents and the best at their respective position. Yet the Warriors had to give up Hardaway and three future first-round draft picks to get the rights to Webber. That’s a hefty price tag, considering the value of those two players was fairly equal at the time. No one comes close to Griffin in terms of potential this year, which means the cost of getting the No. 1 pick figures to border on ridiculous — especially for the franchise located 23.19 miles away from where "The Terminator" played college ball. Thunder general manager Sam Presti will do what he can to obtain the No. 1 selection, but don’t expect him to jeopardize a young foundation that took two seasons to build. Don’t assume the Thunder will make whatever sacrifice is necessary to trade up to No. 1. Better prep yourself, because there’s probably a better chance the Thunder will trade down rather than up. The Thunder has the best chance of being saddled with the No. 5 overall selection in this year’s lottery. Those odds are a rather whopping 35.1 percent. If that indeed is where the Thunder is positioned, don’t be stunned if Presti swaps the No. 5 pick for more picks. After Griffin, there are slim pickins in this year’s draft, which explains why so much borderline talent left college early. If this year’s crop truly is as weak as many claim, why not trade down and take a chance on similar talent that’ll be available later in the draft while collecting future picks in more talented draft pools? With two first-round picks this year, two first-round picks next year and roughly $13 million in cap room, Presti certainly has several cards he could play. Cap room is handy for getting free agents and re-upping pending contracts. Draft picks are handy come draft day. What if Presti kept all the above and simply tried to fill some gaps with their lottery pick and the No. 25 overall pick next month? What if Presti drafted no one next month and instead maneuvered trades for proven NBA talent? Will this happen? Possibly. Could this happen? Absolutely. Only one team gets to pick Griffin. The 29 other teams have to do what’s best for them, including the Thunder. Consider yourselves warned. John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
No. 1 Trades
Only twice in NBA history has the No. 1 draft pick been traded in that year’s draft. →1986: The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted North Carolina center Brad Daugherty after a trade that sent forward Roy Hinson from Cleveland to Philadelphia. That same day (June 16), the 76ers also traded center Moses Malone, forward Terry Catledge and two first-round draft picks to Washington for center Jeff Ruland and forward Cliff Robinson. →1993: The Orlando Magic drafted Michigan forward Chris Webber at No. 1, then traded his rights to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Memphis State guard Anfernee Hardaway (the No. 3 pick that year), plus three future first-round choices.