Thunder Draft Options: Standing Firm at 21

NCAA BASKETBALL: JAN 02 Indiana at Nebraska

Oklahoma City comes into this draft with only one pick: no. 21 in the first round. There are options to move up, move down, or trade. But another scenario would be the Thunder staying at 21 and drafting a player there. Luckily for them, this is an incredibly deep draft with talented players scattered all they way into the first third of the second round. With that said, there are also disclaimers. Picking in the 20’s is a crap shoot. For every Reggie Jackson or Serge Ibaka the Thunder have drafted in the 20’s, there’s also a Mitch McGary or Byron Mullens.

There are a number of factors that could come into play with this draft pick. Are the Thunder looking for someone that could play immediately as a role player? Or are they looking for someone with more upside that could possibly be more than a role player once they fully develop? Players that can fit into a role immediately are usually older players that have several seasons of either college experience or international play under their belt. A good example of that from the Thunder would be Alex Abrines, who was able to step into the role of floor spacer after about the first quarter of the season. Domantas Sabonis, on the other hand, had only two years of experience at Gonzaga, and is more of a developmental project for the Thunder. The Sabonis the Thunder get in 2 years will likely be a much different player than the Sabonis they had last season.

With that said, here are 5 options the Thunder may choose from their draft spot at 21.

O.G. Anunoby – SF

Indiana | Sophomore | 6’8″ | 7’2″ wingspan | 11.1 pts | 56.6% FG | 31.1% 3pt FG | 5.4 rebs | 1.4 assists | 1.3 steals | 1.3 blocks

When you look at the physical profile of Anunoby, it just screams defender extraordinaire. The man should be able to do it all from the wing or post position. His wingspan allows him to eventually be able to guard positions 2 through 4, easily. His athletic ability is top-notch when compared with the other 3/4’s in the draft. And his potential is was just beginning to scratch the surface.

And then the knee injury happened. In the middle of January, Anunoby was battling with a Penn State player for a rebound when his right knee buckled under him. The diagnosis: a torn ACL. Anunoby would miss the remainder of his sophomore campaign and would not be able to participate in any of the pre-draft workouts that many of his fellow draft candidates would take part in. And that’s where the big unknown lies with Anunoby.

For all intents and purposes, ACL injuries aren’t the career killers they used to be. But medical advances still haven’t reached the point where they can predict with a hundred percent certainty that the player who suffered an ACL tear would return to about as normal as he used to be. Much of Anunoby’s game was predicated on athleticism, so if that wanes, it may change the trajectory of Anunoby’s game.

In addition, while Anunoby’s defense is his current bread and butter, his offense is still a work in progress. His jump shot was starting to come along, but is still very inconsistent. His play-making ability, while improved from his freshman season, still isn’t up to an average level for a wing. And his free throw shooting is an issue. Any team that drafts Anunoby will definitely be taking the development road with him, especially as he recovers from his injury well into the season.

Derrick White – PG/SG

Colorado | Senior | 6’4.5″ | 6’7.5″ wingspan | 18.3 pts | 51.2% FG | 40.1% 3pt FG | 4.1 rebs | 4.3 assists | 1.2 steals | 1.4 blocks

White went from relative obscurity at a Division II school to top of the heap in the Pac-12 his first season at Colorado. White started off at University of Colorado – Colorado Springs as a 6’0″ freshman. He left the school as a 6’5″ junior who held the record for most points and assists in a career at the school. He transferred to the University of Colorado, where, after sitting out a year, he took the league by storm and was named first team All Pac-12 and a member of the five man All-Defensive team by the end of the season.

White is an extremely efficient offensive player. He can knock down shots from the mid-range and from deep consistently. His height allows him to see over the defense and make passes other shorter point guards may struggle with. He’s also able to snag a couple rebounds on the offensive end because of his length. Defensively, that length allows White to get into passing lanes and to disrupt shots. He’s not overly athletic, so it’s a little bit of a question whether his defense is translatable to the NBA. On the Thunder, White should be able to wear a couple hats immediately: as back-up point guard and as a guard that can play alongside Russell Westbrook.

His length may help him out, but the speed of the game is likely something White has to get used to in his first season. And that will affect him on both ends of the floor. That lack of athleticism, while not severe, will likely hinder White’s ability to guard smaller point guards. On the offensive end, White may struggle with getting around the pick and roll and getting to the basket.

Semi Ojeleye – PF

Southern Methodist | Junior | 6’7″ | 6’10” | 19 pts | 48.8% FG | 42.4% 3pt FG | 6.9 rebs | 1.5 assists | 0.4 steals | 0.4 blocks

A lot like Derrick White, Ojeleye has had a bit of a journey to get where he is currently at. Ojeleye started his collegiate career at Duke, but after two seasons of little playing time, he transferred to SMU. After sitting out a year, Ojeleye took the American Athletic Conference by storm, finishing the year as the conference’s player of the year.

Ojeleye is a bull of a man, whose physique looks more suited for the gridiron than the hardwood. But that physique hides feet that can move like that of a soccer player and the ability to shoot from deep like a guard. Defensively, Ojeleye will be able to body up power forwards, while also sticking with with guards in pick and role situations. He may be the best prototypical 3 and D post player in this draft. If used correctly, his career trajectory may mirror that one of Draymond Green.

Outside of shooting 3’s, though, Ojeleye offensive game is basically non-existent. He’s not a good playmaker from the post. And he can be a bit loose with his dribble. In the post, he likes to use his strength, but he struggles against length. And in the NBA, many of the power forwards are both strong and long. In addition, at 22.5 years of age, Ojeleye is likely close to being a finished product in terms of basketball potential. He likely is what he is at this point. For the Thunder, who have developing power fowards like Domantas Sabonis and Jerami Grant in their stable, taking a player like Ojeleye may just be overkill.

Juwan Evans – PG

Oklahoma State | Sophomore | 5’11.5″ | 6’5.5″ wingspan | 19 pts | 44% FG | 37.6% 3pt FG | 3.4 rebs | 6.5 assists | 1.7 steals

Local product Juwan Evans may fall a little short in the height department, but that didn’t stop him from leading the Cowboys to a top-5 ranking in scoring offense for all of Division I. What’s even more impressive is that Evans is likely the only NBA player off that team. He was the engine that made that Cowboys’ offense go, and go they went.

Evans is a creator in the pick and roll and that’s what makes him a valuable commodity in this draft. His quickness allows him to get around the initial defender and get into the teeth of the defense, while his play-making ability allows him to find the open man. In addition, Evans is a good enough shooter to keep defenses honest.

Where Evans will struggle is on the defensive end, where his lack of height (and strength) will keep him from being an average defender, at least for the interim. In addition, Evans will likely struggle with finishing at the rim through contact. Many have Evans comped to a young Chris Paul, but people forget how strong Paul was when he first entered the league. In addition, Evans is a player that needs the ball in his hands to be successful. With Russell Westbrook already on the team, I don’t see how he and Evan could co-exist on the court together.

Terrance Ferguson – SG/SF

Adelaide 36ers (Australia) | International (Freshman) |  6’7″ | 6’9″ wingspan | 4.6 pts | 39.1% FG | 31.3% 3pt FG | 1.2 reb | 0.6 assists | 0.2 steals | 0.3 blocks

Ferguson is another journeyer with ties to Oklahoma. His hometown is Tulsa, but instead of playing college ball after high school, Ferguson chose to play internationally in Australia. His one season overseas had its ups and downs, but Ferguson has a lot of raw talent, especially on the offensive end. His athletic ability and shooting stroke make him a prospect to take a chance on. The question becomes, is 21 too high to take a chance on him?

Ferguson has shown in workouts that his immediate skill is shooting. He’s actually worked out twice for the Thunder already. He reminds many of a young Gerald Green with his athleticism and ability to shoot. But like Green, he offers little else at this point in his career. And like Green, he may find himself as a basketball world journeyman if he doesn’t develop other skills outside of shooting. In addition, Ferguson’s body is not yet ready for the rigors of the NBA. The 6’7″ wing weighs just 181 pounds. For comparative purposes, the 5’11” Juwan Evans weights 177 pounds. Ferguson has a lot of work ahead of him, but if the Thunder see a player that could possibly develop into something valuable, they may take a chance and grab him at 21.

There are several other players at play for the Thunder at 21. But there is an immediate need for the team at back-up point guard and at wing. So these are the areas I focused on. Big men such as TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu of UCLA, Jordan Bell of Oregon, and DJ Wilson of Michigan have all been mentioned as possibilities for the Thunder. But in focusing on their immediate needs, I don’t think the Thunder need to draft another big man at this time. With that said, if Enes Kanter gets traded before or during the draft, the immediate need for the Thunder may immediately change.

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