The days of the Oklahoma City Thunder living off lottery picks are officially over.
For the second straight season, the Thunder will not have a selection in the top 20 picks of the NBA Draft, forget about the first 14.
Oklahoma City is slated to select 28th overall in Thursday night's draft. It's the lowest first-round selection in franchise history, including the Seattle years. There have been studs, like Tony Parker in 2001, at selection 28, and that slot has seen its share of duds, like Maurice Ager in 2006.
The odds of the Thunder landing the next Parker are slim. But this year's draft class is one of the deepest in years, and there should be plenty of value left for the Thunder at 28 if the team holds on to its pick.
Here's a look at five players the Thunder could be targeting at 28.
College: St. Bonaventure
Position: Power forward
2011-12 stats: 18.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg, 1.0 apg
Strengths: Nicholson is a skilled big man who flew under the radar for a mid-major program. But by all accounts, he could be a steal in the latter part of the first round. He has an incredible 7-foot-4 wingspan, and uses it well with an inside-out offensive game that makes him an intriguing prospect. He has a soft shooting touch out to the 3-point line, which could someday turn him into a good pick-and-pop threat. But he's an efficient scorer. He never shot less than 56.4 percent from the field. Nicholson also has good timing as a shot blocker. And the fact that he didn't take up basketball until late in high school suggests there's plenty of room for him to continue developing despite playing four years of college.
Weaknesses: He lacks strength. In the NBA, he could struggle to establish and hold his spot in the low post, which might turn him into primarily a jump shooter. His consistency is a question mark. Will he play hard every time down the court? He's also turnover-prone and is not a good passer. He registered just 87 assists against 296 turnovers during his four seasons at St. Bonaventure.
Comparison: Channing Frye.
College: Michigan State
Position: Power forward
2011-12 stats: 16.2 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.0 bpg
Strengths: Green can do some of everything well. He's one of the most versatile players in the draft. He rebounds at a high level, shoots it well, passes with precision and creates for teammates. And he's got the necessary intangibles to succeed. He's tough, plays with high energy and has a high basketball IQ. Green has a 7-1 wingspan, and that length could be what makes up for his lack of height for his position. Mix in the perfect blend of unselfishness, and Green has the makings of the perfect glue guy on the right team.
Weaknesses: Green's problem might be that he doesn't have a natural position in the NBA. It appears he might be too big to guard wing players and not big enough to consistently and effectively bang in the post. He's also not a great athlete. He lacks explosiveness, quickness and agility, and his body needs work. He measured in at 11.3 percent body fat. Only 18 players who were tested had more.
Comparison: Brandon Bass.
Position: Point guard/shooting guard
2011-12 stats: 16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.9 spg, 3.8 tpg.
Strengths: Wroten's gifts start with his size, which is incredible for his position. He can see over the defense and, with time, will be able to muscle opponents from all spots on the court. He plays with a pace that belies his youth (he just turned 19 in April) and is a great slasher when he puts the ball on the floor. Wroten has superb court vision and knows how to set up teammates. He's also an above-average rebounder for his position and isn't afraid to battle with bigger players.
Weaknesses: He's a lefty who struggles with going to his right hand. From there, he has a tendency to make poor decisions. He's extremely turnover-prone, and he's not a good shooter at all. He'll have to improve on each of those traits before being able to run an NBA team.
Comparison: Tyreke Evans
Position: Shooting guard
2011-12 stats: 13.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 2.7 tpg.
Strengths: A knockdown, lights-out shooter who shot 46.6 percent on 3s this year, Lamb possesses shooting skills that could help him contribute as a specialists right away. He's billed as a combo guard who has the ability to play the lead guard spot as well. But he's a scorer first and second and, maybe, a passer third. The efficiency with which he scores, however, makes up for his shortcomings as a set-up man. He connected on at least 47 percent of his shots from the field in both of his seasons at Kentucky while doing a great job of limiting his turnovers (just 1.1 per game as a sophomore).
Weaknesses: He doesn't create much offense for himself, and he certainly won't at the NBA level against more athletic defenders. His ballhandling skills need to improve as well. He might not be able to play the point guard position. Lamb also lacks explosiveness, which could prevent him from finishing at the rim, and strength, which could cause him to get pushed around on defense.
Comparison: Jason Terry.
Position: Small forward
2011-12 stats: 16.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.3 spg.
Strengths: Taylor is an elite athlete who possesses a 40-inch vertical. His athleticism makes him especially dangerous in transition, where he excels at finishing the break with great efficiency. It also is seen in his ability to attack the rim and finish with rim-rocking dunks or with finesse using either hand. Taylor's size is a tremendous asset as well, allowing him to defend multiple positions and shoot over smaller defenders. He has a great mix of perimeter shooting (42.3 percent from 3-point range) and tenacity on defense that could make him an ideal role player.
Weaknesses: His efficiency plummets when forced to create offense off the dribble. His struggles stem from below average ballhandling skills, which need to improve if he has aspirations on being anything more than serviceable. The biggest knock on Taylor, though, is his drive. He has a history of inconsistency, and it's led to questions about how good he wants to be. Couple that with the fact he's 23 and a four-year college player and there are justifiable questions about how much upside he still has.
Comparison: Richard Jefferson.