To say that the Thunder is secretive doesn’t do the franchise justice.
The CIA has black site prisons that are more open than the Thunder.
So, it’s a pretty big deal when the Thunder allows a peek over the wall and a glimpse at what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s exactly what happened on draft night.
We now have a better idea of what the team is thinking and doing.
Oh, Sam Presti and Co. didn’t come out and announce it via neon sign. This is still the Super Secret Society of Thunder that we’re talking about. But in making its picks on Thursday night — power forward Mitch McGary at No. 21, small forward Josh Huestis at No. 29 and point guard Semaj Christon via trade — it gave us all sorts of interesting insight.
Here are some of the things we learned:
* The Thunder is planning for life after Nick Collison.
Collison is one of the original members of the Thunder. He was with the franchise in Seattle before it moved and has been in Oklahoma City since Day 1. He’s been a foundational player. An outstanding character guy, he’s been an example to younger guys and a builder of Thunder culture.
But Collison is 33 years old and only has a year remaining on his contract.
In drafting McGary, a guy who arrives with almost exactly the same size, same build and same mindset, the Thunder is clearly aware that a day is fast approaching when Collison won’t be around. McGary isn’t an exact clone. He is tough and rugged like Collison, but he isn’t nearly the defender that Sir Nick has been. Still, they tick many of the same boxes.
McGary even looks and sounds a bit like Collison.
Yes, McGary comes with way more baggage than Collison ever had. Surgically repaired back. Positive marijuana test. But if injury and knuckleheadedness are things of the past, McGary could be a big-time back-up to Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins/Steven Adams.
*The Thunder has a ringer for Trivial Pursuit.
Huestis is a Stanford alum, so that’s a decent tipoff to how smart he is. But that doesn’t tell the half of it. His two finalists in recruiting were Stanford and Harvard, and he scored a 31 on the ACT.
*Guards will be the focus in free agency.
The Thunder focused on forwards in the draft. Granted, it got some versatile guys. McGary is a power forward who can also play center, and Huestis is a small forward who can also guard anything from a point guard to a power forward.
Still, the Thunder needs a third-string point guard. And probably a couple of shooting guards. And maybe even a spot-up, knock-down shooter for good measure.
Passing on guards like Shabazz Napier in the draft makes it clear that the Thunder wants more experience at the position. When the free agency market opens Tuesday, OKC will be shopping for guards.
*The Thunder could provide halftime entertainment, too.
Meet Mitch McGary, unicyclist.
Yep, he’s 6-foot-10, and he can ride a unicycle.
*Perry Jones is expendable.
Huestis might not be as athletic as Jones, but then again, he might be. Presti quickly point out Huestis’s athleticism in his post-draft presser. The GM even said he was among the most athletic guys to ever walk through the doors of the Thunder facility.
That harkened back to Durant’s comment during the playoffs about Jones being the most athletic player in the NBA.
Listen, everyone loves KD, but there’s no way that’s true. Jones isn’t even the most athletic guy on his team. Unless you want to try to convince me he’s more athletic than Russell Westbrook. Or Serge Ibaka. Or even KD, who is nearly 7-feet tall but runs the floor and handles the ball like a point guard.
But I digress.
Huestis’ athleticism was on display in Stanford’s NCAA Tournament victory against Kansas earlier this year. He guarded Andrew Wiggins, who only took six shots, made just one of them and managed a meager four points.
Wonder what ever happened to that Wiggins guy?
Seriously, though, Huestis, who is expected to play much of this next season in the D-League, gives the Thunder another athletic wing and means it can wheel and deal Jones.
Listen, I understand that seeing fireworks is more fun than reading between the lines on draft night. And yet, we got a different kind of thrill. We got a glimpse of what’s going on inside Thunder World Headquarters.