OKC Thunder: Thunder stuck with worst-case scenario

In a draft that appears to be void of a single franchise player and short on can't miss stars, the Thunder must either hope the Toronto Raptors jump into the top three and try again next year or be prepared to make the best of an imperfect situation.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 20, 2013

Our next chance to judge the James Harden trade — as if it hasn't been scrutinized enough — has come.

The NBA Draft Lottery is Tuesday night. It will reveal this year's draft order and determine whether the Thunder will receive Toronto's first-round pick.

It's a selection Oklahoma City received as part of a package that included Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two other picks.

Whatever happens, the team's fan base, as well as close followers of the trade's fallout, likely will be split.

If the Thunder lands the pick, it'll be the 12th overall selection and perhaps viewed by most as a disappointment. If the pick remains with Toronto and rolls over into next year, the Thunder seemingly will get criticized for failing to receive an asset in exchange for Harden that could help sooner rather than later.

A perfect storm put the Thunder in this position of possibly picking at the back end of the lottery. No way could this have been what the front office had in mind when the powers that be insisted on Houston including Toronto's first-rounder before pulling the trigger on the deal.

But here they are, stuck with a worst-case scenario after everything that could go wrong for the placement of this potential pick did go wrong.

First, a quick refresher on how we got here.

Houston acquired a Toronto first-round pick in the deal that sent point guard Kyle Lowry to the Raptors. The Rockets then sent that pick to the Thunder along with Martin, Lamb and two additional picks they had acquired from other teams in previous deals: a future first-round pick from Dallas and this year's second-round pick from Charlotte.

The Raptors pick, from the start, was traded with what is referred to as protection. In this case the selection would remain with Toronto if the pick landed in the top three or 15 through 30. Because the Raptors failed to make the playoffs, their pick is guaranteed to be in the top 14. The pick will remain with Toronto only if the Raptors move into the top three in Tuesday's lottery. Because the system is heavily weighted toward the lottery team with the worst record, the Raptors have just a 2.5 percent chance of a top three pick.

If Toronto does move into the top three, the protection would kick in and the pick would defer to the 2014 draft. But then the protection decreases to only the first two picks, as well as 15 through 30.


by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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