Tag Archives: draft

NTTB Rumblings – 16 May 2018

img_4063Erik Horne (NewsOK) looks at Andre Roberson’s value to the Thunder: “The injury had elements of a Greek tragedy. The Thunder’s defense carried it through the first two months of the season as the offense finally came around in December. The demolition of the Pistons was the apex — the Thunder overwhelming them on both ends with Roberson at the core, snatching defensive rebounds and starting the fast break, cutting to the basket for give-and-go layups off Steven Adams post passes, shutting off drives to force ball reversals and turnovers.”

Albert Dadson (Hoops Habit) says the Thunder need to try and get into the first round: “An interesting place that Carmelo may not agree to go but would be a place where he could win again is Philadelphia. The Philadelphia 76ers will more than likely have two first round picks after the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick falls out of the first three slots, in addition to their own pick at No. 26. That second first round pick would be the one to target, though again, expecting a first-rounder for Melo at this stage is an uphill battle.” Continue reading NTTB Rumblings – 16 May 2018

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Daily Thunder Rumblings – 23 June 2017

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Honestly, I went into draft thinking the Thunder would draft like 8 guys, but they only came away with one. Here’s the Terrance Ferguson edition of DTR.

Tim Kiernan of Sports Illustrated grades the Thunder’s selection of Terrance Ferguson: “Ferguson shut down his workouts late in the predraft process and was believed to have a promise somewhere in the first round. The Thunder may have been that promise. OKC takes a nice upside swing here in a draft where three-point shooting is at a premium.”

Basketball Insiders looks at the Thunder’s selection: “Known for his athleticism and perimeter defense, Ferguson presents qualities that ideally fit today’s league as a “3-And-D” player. Oklahoma City will likely elect to use him at the shooting guard or small forward position, as he has a 6-foot-7, 190-pound frame. Ferguson has length that will allow him to disrupt passing lanes and contest shots, which will definitely help the Thunder get out in transition.” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 23 June 2017

The Thunder select Terrance Ferguson at 21

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With all the build-up to this draft, the Oklahoma City decided to stay at 21 and selected hometown kid Terrance Ferguson. The 6’7″ wing last played for the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League in Australia. He played in 30 games averaging 15 minutes per game. He scored 4.6 points on 39.1% shooting from the field and 31.3% shooting from deep.

Ferguson was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but grew up in Dallas, Texas. After high school, he had many scholarship offers from different universities, most notably Alabama and Arizona, but instead chose to go overseas to pursue professional opportunities. He signed with Adelaide and played in 30 of their 31 games. The one game he did miss was due to suspension after striking Mark Worthington of the Cairns Taipans a player from another team. He helped lead the 36ers to the league semifinals, where they eventually lost to the Brisbane Bullets in the 3rd game of a 3 game series.  Continue reading The Thunder select Terrance Ferguson at 21

Thunder Draft Options: Dropping back and 2nd round

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Rainier Ehrhardt – AP Photo

As we head towards the 2017 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a bevy of options at their disposal. I’ve looked at the Thunder moving up, staying put, or getting involved in a trade. But the team has a couple more directions they could go in. They could trade down and in the process pick up another asset. Or they could draft at their position and then buy or trade for a 2nd rounder later in the draft. Their original 2nd rounder was traded to Denver in the Joffrey Lauvergne trade from last offseason.

The team is at a little bit of a crossroads in their current development. They have a top-5 superstar that is currently in his prime, but the rest of the roster is extremely young. Last season, the Thunder had three rookies who played extensive minutes. In addition, the four best players on the team behind Russell Westbrook are all 25 years of age or younger. Of those 4 players, three have been signed to extension (Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Victor Oladipo) and the fourth will likely learn his fate by the middle of July. Continue reading Thunder Draft Options: Dropping back and 2nd round

Daily Thunder Rumblings – 22 June 2017 (Draft Day Edition)

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Welcome to Draft Day. Let the madness begin…..

According to NewsOK, Sam Presti is the top draft day decision-maker in the league.

Brett Dawson looks at what the Thunder may do with their pick based on recent draft history: “There’s a school of thought that the Thunder has enough young players, so it should be looking to trade for a veteran – or, at the very least, take an older rookie who’s closer to contributing. There’s the notion that you can’t have too many good young assets, and so OKC should take the most desirable player possible in the hopes of creating a trade down the road. There’s plenty of debate about what the Thunder should be looking for. A backup point guard? A shooting wing? One of the many available big men with upside?” Continue reading Daily Thunder Rumblings – 22 June 2017 (Draft Day Edition)

1st Annual NTTB Mock Draft

2015 nba draft

I tried doing this last year, but I was stuck on the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Since I’m currently in Oklahoma for this summer, here goes nothing. A couple things: First off, this is done as the draft currently is right now. Trades happen, and it seems like this draft is going to be especially active. But this mock draft will go as if no trades were to ever happen on draft night. Team needs will be taken in consideration. Second of all: Mock drafts are pointless and usually incorrect….but they are fun as hell.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Karl Anthony Towns – C/Kentucky – He’s basically already been given a promise. Towns was last seen buying snow shoes and snow tires. Moving on..

2. Los Angeles Lakers – Jahlil Okafor – C/Duke – Los Angeles loves their franchise big men. And Okafor is about as offensively talented as they come. If the Lakers stay with the pick, they’ll choose Okafor.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – D’Angelo Russell – G/Ohio State – Philly was said to covet this draft for the guards at the top. Well, they get first dibs.

4. New York Knicks – Emmanuel Mudiay – G/Congo – If (IF) the Knicks keep this pick, look for them to go after the dynamic guard out of the Congo. Phil Jackson probably thinks he can lure another franchise player via free agency, so drafting a possible franchise guard will be the cherry on top if he accomplishes his wishes during free agency.

5. Orlando Magic – Kristaps Porzingis – PF/Latvia – The slender Latvian who’s ceiling many are saying is Dirk Nowitzki falls to the Magic who await with open arms.

6. Sacramento Kings – Mario Hezonja – G/Croatia – Who knows what the Kings will do? But if they keep this pick, look for them to pair franchise center DeMarcus Cousins with this Croatian dynamo that has drawn comparisons to Drazen Petrovic (R.I.P). If you young’ins don’t know who that is, do yourself a favor and YouTube him.

7. Denver Nuggets – Justice Winslow G/F/Duke – Denver, a team chock full of bad shooters and undersized big men, goes on the defensive with their pick and gets one of the better two-way wings in the draft.

8. Detroit Pistons – Stanley Johnson – G/F/Arizona – Stan Van Gundy loves to surround his big man with shooters. While Johnson may not be as prolific a shooter as some other names in the draft, he is one of the better two-way players in the draft, and will immediately be the best perimeter defender for the Pistons.

9. Charlotte Hornets – Frank Kaminsky – F/C/Wisconsin – With their recent moves (getting Nic Batum, Spencer Hawes, Matt Barnes, and reportedly Jeremy Lamb), the Hornets seem to have shored their perimeter needs. That frees them up to take the best player available and that player, to them, is Kaminsky. The Hornets rave about Kaminsky and would love nothing more than to pair him with Al Jefferson as an inside/outside post combo.

10. Miami Heat – Trey Lyles – F/Kentucky – The Heat are in that weird state where they don’t know if they are good enough to contend in the East, but they also don’t want to start rebuilding. Lyles will provide them with good depth at the forward spot, and may even start at small forward.

11. Indiana Pacers – Cameron Payne – PG/Murray State – Payne would give the Pacers a change of pace from incumbent starter George Hill, who had injury issues last season. Pairing Payne with Paul George would allow the Pacers to run a lot more.

12. Utah Jazz – Myles Turner – F/C/Texas – The Jazz are looking for post depth and Turner plays a different enough style to add another dynamic to the Jazz.

13. Phoenix Suns – Willie Cauley-Stein – C/Kentucky – One of the biggest weaknesses for the Suns last season was interior defense. Cauley-Stein fixes that immediately.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder – Devin Booker – SG/Kentucky – OKC finally/hopefully/maybe gets the SG they’ve been coveting to pair with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

15. Atlanta Hawks – Kelly Oubre – G/F/Kansas – Atlanta would love for Oubre to be their version of Kawhi Leonard. Someone that can guard multiple positions and also develop a dynamic offensive game.

16. Boston Celtics – Sam Dekker – F/Wisconsin – The departure of Jeff Green and the continued development of James Young have opened up a wing spot for the Celtics heading into next season. Dekker may seamlessly transition into that spot if he is take with this pick.

17. Milwaukee Bucks – Rashad Vaughn – G/UNLV – The Bucks are said to really like Vaughn’s offensive repertoire and see him as a key piece of their puzzle.

18. Houston Rockets – Tyus Jones – PG/Duke – The uncertain future of Patrick Beverly mixed with the desire to maybe want a floor general who will push the ball more leads the Rockets to pick Jones.

19. Washington Wizards – Bobby Portis – PF/Arkansas – The versatile Portis will give the Wizards a different look than what Kevin Seraphin currently provides them as a back-up PF/C. Portis is a madman on the full, chock full of energy and ability.

20. Toronto Raptors – Montrezl Harrell – PF/Louisville – The Raptors have a lot of questions from their PF position (Amir Johnson and Tyler Hansbrough are both expiring, while the question lingers whether Lucas Nogueira is ready for consistent mintues). Enter Harrell and his toughness.

21. Dallas Mavericks – Jerian Grant – G/Notre Dame – Yep, that Rajon Rondo trade really worked out. Hence, Grant.

22. Chicago Bulls – Delon Wright – G/Utah – Derrick Rose gets injured a lot. Kirk Heinrich is old. Aaron Brooks is short and is a free agent. Enter, Wright.

23. Portland Trailblazers – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – F/Arizona – Portland may be in a world of hurt if LaMarcus Aldridge walks in free agency. At least they got Noah Vonleh from the Hornets. Now, they pick Hollis-Jefferson to eventually replace Nic Batum.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers – RJ Hunter – G/Georgia State – What better than to surround LeBron James and Kyrie Irving with another shooter.

25. Memphis Grizzlies – Jarell Martin – PF/LSU – Martin would fit in well with the Grizzlies’ front court, as there are rumors that the Grizzlies have already given Martin a promise to draft him.

26. San Antonio Spurs – Guillermo Hernangomez – C/Spain – Other than Minnesota and the Towns pick, this was probably the easiest pick to guess in the draft. Spurs…a Euro big man…possible championship contributor incoming.

27. Los Angeles Lakers – Justin Anderson – G/F/Virginia – Let’s see, an aging Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, and Jordan Clarkson. Yeah, you take the perimeter defender who can hit 3’s.

28. Boston Celtics – Kevon Looney – F/UCLA – The Celtics go with the versatile front court player who still has upside.

29. Brooklyn Nets – Terry Rozier – PG/Louisville – If there is one player the Nets are dying to get rid of somehow, its Deron Williams. Rozier is a step in the direction.

30. Golden State Warriors – Rakeem Christmas -PF/C/Syracuse – With David Lee likely not being on the team next season, Christmas give the Warriors an athletic big man that works in their system.

Ten Prospects for the Thunder in the 2015 NBA Draft

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After a disappointing 2014-15 season that was riddled with injuries, the Oklahoma City Thunder enter the 2015 NBA Draft with a sense of optimism. If Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka can remain relatively healthy next season, then this team is still a championship contender. With that said, the Thunder are basically playing with house money when it comes to this draft. Will they be drafting an integral piece to the present championship puzzle? Maybe. Or maybe they’ll be drafting a piece that won’t pay dividends for another year or two. Or maybe they won’t be drafting anyone at all. There are a ton of options at the Thunder’s disposal and this draft is shaping up to be one of the most active for the team. Here’s a look at 10 prospects the Thunder may draft at different stages in the draft.

The Trade-Up Prospects

There have already been rumors that the Thunder are looking to trade Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, and Steve Novak ahead of the draft. While this group of players isn’t necessarily attractive to most teams, to a team needing perimeter shooting, this haul may be a steal. There are two teams in the draft that are desperate for shooting and have already made moves this offseason to shore up that need. Detroit, under the direction of Stan Van Gundy, is looking to surround Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond with perimeter shooters, a la Dwight Howard in his Magic days. While Detroit already obtained Ersan Ilyasova from Milwaukee, they may want some more shooting at a cheap price. A likely deal would be Lamb, Jones, and No. 14 & 48 for Anthony Tolliver (who has a partially guaranteed contract) and No. 8. Detroit could use a wing defender and may be able to find one at 14.

Conversely, Charlotte is another team in serious need of perimeter shooting. The Hornets finished with the worst 3-point shooting percentage in the league. Earlier in the offseason, they traded Lance Stephenson for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes. But if they can get more perimeter shooting, it may completely transform the dynamic of their team. A likely deal would be Lamb, Jones, Novak, and No. 14 for Gerald Henderson (1 year at $6 million) and No. 9.

Edit: The Hornets traded Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh to the Portland Trailblazers for Nic Batum. And, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, the Thunder traded Jeremy Lamb to the Hornets for Matt Barnes. So there goes that theory!

So if the Thunder move, who do they take?

1. Stanley Johnson – Arizona/Freshman/6’7″ (6’11” wingspan)/240 lbs

One of the best two-way wings in the draft. Compares favorably to Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls. Great size for a wing, and has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways (transition, 3-point shooting, shooting out of the pick and roll). Needs some seasoning. Struggles with finishing at the rim. Likely won’t contribute too much in rookie season.

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2. Devin Booker – Kentucky/Freshman/6’6″ (6’8″ wingspan)/210 lbs

One of the best, if not the best, shooter in the draft. Shot over 40% from 3-point land on 3.7 attempts per game. Great from deep and from mid-range. Compares favorably to Eric Gordon of the New Orleans Pelicans. Good size for  a wing. Youngest player in the draft. Not a high flyer or overly athletic. Extremely low steal rate. Likely won’t contribute too much in rookie season.

3. Mario Hezonja – International/FC Barcelona/6’8″ /210 lbs

Doubtful Super Mario falls to the No. 8 or 9 spot. But if he’s there and the Thunder have traded up, they may seriously consider drafting Hezonja. Gifted with a great jump shot, athleticism, and unabashed confidence, Hezonja plays a lot like the Thunder’s own Russell Westbrook. He has great size for a wing and has the potential to be good on the defensive end. Consistency is the biggest issue with Hezonja. He’s had games where he looks like the best player on the floor, and then he has games where he disappears for long stretches.

Prospects at 14

There could be a possibility that the Thunder like a player they can draft at the 14th spot. The draft has a weird way of shaking out sometimes, and players that you thought wouldn’t be available at your spot, suddenly become available. Here are the prospects the Thunder could pick at their spot.

1. Kelly Oubre Jr. – Kansas/Freshman/6’7″ (7’2″wingspan)/205 lbs

GREAT size for a wing. Can likely develop into a good defensive player based on his physical attributes alone. Compares favorably to James Posey or Giannis Antetokounmpo. Shot the ball well from 3-point territory in his freshman year (36% on 2.6 attempts per game). Good mid-range game. Solid defensive rebounder from the wing, with an ability to keep balls alive on the offensive end. Strong, wiry frame that can easily add 10-15 lbs of muscle. Struggles with creating offensive (only 0.8 assists per game) and consistency. Likely won’t contribute immediately, and may benefit from some time in the D-League.

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2. Cameron Payne – Murray State/Sophomore/6’2″ (6’7″ wingspan)/185 lbs

Playmaking point guard that can score in a variety of ways. Compares favorably to Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks. Has good size for a point guard with a wingspan that will help him immensely on the defensive end (nearly 2 steals per game in college). Does a great job of changing speeds to keep defenses off balance. Did a great job of balancing his playmaking and scoring, dishing out 6 assists per game, while scoring 20 points. Has a good, but not great shot. Needs to put on more weight. Struggles finishing at the rim, instead choosing to shoot floaters (nearly 3 per game,which led all college players). Small school competition stigma.

3. Bobby Portis – Arkansas/Sophomore/6’10.5″ (7’2″ wingspan)/245 lbs

A high energy player with a relentless motor, Portis reminds me of Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. The SEC Player of the Year led the Razorbacks in points (17.5) and rebounds (8.9) per game. He gets most of his points off his energy in transition and put backs. But he is a very skilled all-around player, shooting 53.6% from the field overall and 46.7% from 3-point territory on nearly one attempt per game. His major downfall is that he isn’t overly athletic. His game stays closer to the ground than most NBA scouts would like. He is actually my darkhorse for this pick.

4. Sam Dekker – Wisconsin/Junior/6’9″ (6’11.5″ wingspan)/220 lbs

Dekker is an all-around talent that is good at most things, but not necessarily great at any specific skill. He has great role player potential and can play multiple position (naturally a 3, but can likely play small-ball 4 also). Defensively, Dekker can guard multiple positions. His size and strength allow him to guard bigger players, and his lateral quickness allows him to keep up with wings. He will likely be able to compete immediately on the pro level. He’ll need to hit his 3’s more consistently at the next level to be an elite contributor. May be a bit redundant for the Thunder if they re-sign Kyle Singler.

Trade Down Prospects

Another possibility for the Thunder is to trade down later into the first round, while possibly picking up another asset. If the Thunder have a player in mind that they can possibly be taken lower than 14, they’ll likely look to move down. Remember, as you get deeper into the first round, the cost of the player goes down. And with the Thunder likely to be in the luxury tax, anything that can bring the price tag of the tax bill down will be a relief.

1. RJ Hunter – Georgia State/Junior/6’6″ (6’10.5″ wingspan)/185 lbs

Three-point specialist that shot only 30% from deep this past season, as defenses keyed in on him as the focal point of their attention. Compares favorably to Jeremy Lamb. He also averaged 3.5 assists which highlighted his playmaking ability. Good mid-range shooter. Can be a bit streaky as we saw in the Georgia State’s first game in the NCAA tournament against Baylor. His length allows him to be a menace on the defensive end, as he averaged 2.1 steals and 1 block per game. Body frame doesn’t seem like it can pack on too much more weight. Small school competition stigma.

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2. Jerian Grant – Notre Dame/Senior/6’4″ (6’7.5″ wingspan)/200 lbs

Combo playmaking guard that led Notre Dame in points (16.5) and assists (6.6). Compares favorably to former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson. Does a real good job of changing speeds and has a quick first step. Good upper body strength that allows him to get to the rim and score through contact. Good, not great, shooter. Solid defensively. Strength allows him to not be too affected by screens and his lateral quickness allows him to keep up with guards. Can take bad shots early in the shot clock. Can be a bit inconsistent at times. Will be 23 years of age at the beginning of the season. Likely ready to contribute right now, but does not have a ton of upside.

3. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Arizona/Sophomore/6’7″ (7’2″ wingspan)/210 lbs

One of the better wing defenders in the draft. Compares favorably to Tony Allen and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Length, strength, and athleticism give him the potential to be a top-flight perimeter defender in the league. Scores most of his points in transition and straight line drives to the basket. Rebounds well for his position, especially on the offensive end (2 offensive rebounds per game). Hollis-Jefferson’s biggest weakness is his jump-shot. He just under 21% from 3-point territory. With the Thunder already having an elite defender that struggles with his jumper (Andre Roberson), it may be a bit redundant to draft a similar player that will be a net negative on the offensive end.

The Thunder have a ton of options in this draft. They could take one of these 10 players, or they could surprise everyone and draft a complete unknown (hello, Josh Huestis). Thunder GM has plenty of cards up his sleeves, and will pull the one he feels will make the Thunder a better team for next season and for seasons after that.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2015 Draft Preview

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In life, well laid plans seldom come to fruition as easily as we’d like them to. After four straight season of near perfect health, which culminated in an NBA Finals appearance in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder have seen three straight seasons cut short by ill-timed injuries. In 2013, Houston Rockets’ point guard Patrick Beverly launched himself into Russell Westbrook’s right knee in the first game of the playoffs, causing Westbrook’s meniscus to tear. In 2014, Serge Ibaka’s calf injury caused the Thunder to fall behind 2 games to nothing to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. A hole too insurmountable to climb even when Ibaka returned for Game 3 of that series. And then the nightmare that was last season, as the Thunder bench looked more like a triage unit at times with all the leg casts, hand casts, and men in suits.

With all the injuries though, the Thunder were still in the playoff race til the end of the last day of the regular season, as they finished with the same record as the New Orleans Pelicans, but lost out on a playoff spot because of a tie breaker. The Pelicans won the season series 3-1, with the final game of the series being decided on a near halfcourt double clutch 3-pointer by Anthony Davis to win the game as time expired. That shot was a microcosm of the Thunder’s entire season: so close, yet so far away.

With the playoffs out of the picture, the Thunder found themselves in an unfamiliar positon: picking in the lottery. They likely did not envision themselves picking in the top 14 for the foreseeable future. Being the team with the best record to not make the playoffs, the Thunder fell into the 14th spot in the lottery. They also have their 2nd round pick, No. 48.

The first question that needs to be asked is, “What is available in this draft that the Thunder needs?” When completely healthy, the Thunder are as good as any team in the league. They have a scoring machine in Kevin Durant, a beast of a point guard in Russell Westbrook, a 3 and D power forward in Serge Ibaka that has led the league in blocks 3 of the last 4 seasons, and two young centers that are still developing in Enes Kanter and Steven Adams. What is missing out of that group is a consistent two guard.

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To the Thunder, a consistent 2-way shooting guard is about as rare as an albino unicorn that spits fire. The Thunder used a sort of platoon system when it came to their 2-guard position last season. The de-facto starter was Andre Roberson, whose is one of the better wing defenders in the league, but is a liability on offense due to his unreliable shooting. The other 2-guards on the roster also had their flaws. Dion Waiters is likely a better overall player than Roberson, but has a tendancy to not be very efficient on the offensive end. Waiters’ role on this team is likely better served as a 6th man. Anthony Morrow is one of the best 3-point marksmen in the league, but struggles on the defensive end. And Jeremy Lamb is the enigma wrapped up in the question mark at the end of the bench.

With all those 2-guards on the roster, the next question likely becomes, “Why would the Thunder draft another 2-guard?” Therein lies the dilemma with this team. It is loaded! They have 2 point gaurds, 6 wings, and 5 post players (assuming they match any offer for Kanter) all under contract for next season. The thing is all 13 of those players can play. That number doesn’t take into account Kyle Singler, who is a restricted free agent and Steve Novak, who will likely get traded to shed salary. In addition, the Thunder also have Josh Huestis, their first round pick from last season, who delayed signing his rookie contract in order to get more experience with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Blue. There’s a possibility that Huestis may delay signing his rookie contract for a second season if the Thunder doesn’t feel he is ready to play in the league.

“Could the Thunder trade the pick?” is a valid question. Not many teams are in a position to not need a lottery pick while picking in the lottery. But the Thunder could realistically be in that position. Thunder GM Sam Presti is all about parlaying assets into something more valuable in the future. While the Thunder’s high-valued assets are likely untouchable (Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Kanter, Adams), this lottery pick could likely be had for the right price.

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But then the question becomes, “Would the Thunder forego the opportunity to get another young piece that will be on a rookie contract for the next four seasons?” If the right player is available, I think the Thunder stay the course. But who is that right player? If you look at the players the Thunder have brought in for workouts, you’ll see a pattern developing. Names like RJ Hunter, Jerian Grant, Devin Booker, Sam Dekker are not only players that will likely be there at 14, but also similar in skillset. The outlier may be someone like Bobby Portis, who has worked out for many of the teams in that 10-18 range, and has been rumored to have received a promise from several of those teams. I don’t buy into the Cameron Payne hype because the Thunder already have two point guards on the roster, and have a third one that they love in the D-League (Semaj Christon).

The most likely scenario for the Thunder is to trade out of the lottery but stay in that 18-24 range. Doing that, the Thunder can still draft a player they like and snatch another asset in the process (likely a future 2nd round pick). It wouldn’t surprise if the Thunder drafts Portis, Grant, or Hunter in that position.

As for the 2nd round, look for the Thunder to select a draft and stash player. The Thunder brought in Nikola Radicevic, a 6’5″ Serbian point guard, for a workout about a week ago. Radicevic likely has ties to Thunder assistant coach Darko Rajakovic.

When it comes to the Thunder and this draft, nothing would surprise me. They hold all the cards. They need nothing, but could use a little bit of everything. Thursday night will likely be a busy night for the Thunder.

The Oklahoma City Thunder tank conundrum: The difference between 14 and 18

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With Tuesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs (and New Orleans’ subsequent defeat of the Golden State Warriors), the Oklahoma City Thunder found themselves in a position they hadn’t been for the past month: outside the top 8 in the Western Conference. With only four games left and with New Orleans holding the tie-breaker between themselves and OKC, the likelihood of the Thunder missing the playoffs has become a very real possibility.

The 8th spot in the Western Conference is almost guaranteed to get the 18th pick in the draft, while the 9th spot in the Western Conference is slotted to be the 14th pick in the lottery, as they would hold the best record of all the non-playoff teams. The 14th worst team in the league has a 0.5% of getting the 1st pick, a 0.6% chance of getting the 2nd pick, and a 0.7% chance of getting the 3rd pick. The team that picks in the 14th spot has never won the draft lottery a.k.a the Number 1 pick. In 1993, the Orlando Magic won the draft lottery with a 1.52% chance of winning it. They had the best record of all the lottery teams and remain the team with the worst odds to ever garner the Number 1 pick. Since then, three more teams have been added to the NBA, so the odds are even lower now.

The possibility of Oklahoma City getting the top pick is damn near slim to none. Same goes for them getting the 2nd or 3rd pick. The question then becomes what’s more important for a championship contending team that has been saddled with bad luck: a higher draft pick or postseason experience for their playoff neophytes? More simply, is there a discernible difference between the 14th pick and the 18th pick?

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Looking back at the last five drafts, those five draft spots are extremely important for getting good role players, with the possibility of getting a lower tier superstar. The top three players that have been chosen in those spots in the past 5 yeas have been Kawhi Leonard, Eric Bledsoe, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Other players of high value include Nikola Vucevic, Dennis Schroder, Terrance Jones, Marcus Morris, and Jusuf Nurkic. Of all those players, only Marcus Morris was chosen with the 14th pick. Meanwhile, Terrance Jones and Eric Bledsoe were both chosen with the 18th pick.

From the numbers, there are no discernible differences between the 14th pick and the 18th pick. Without all the injuries, the Thunder are a championship contending team. If the team is able to keep Enes Kanter in the offseason, their needs will be peripheral at best. If the team is able to draft the mythical creature known as a 2-way shooting guard, then great. We’ve all seen grainy videos of two-way shooting guards that can shoot from the perimeter and defend their position well. According to lore, they still exist. Another need that could be addressed in the draft is another good shooter. Other than those two things, health is probably the only thing the Thunder need for next season.

Well, health and more playoff experience. Some of the remaining Thunder players that have survived the triage-apocalypse that has been this season, have never been featured players on playoff teams. Dion Waiters, Kyle Singler, and Mitch McGary have never been to the postseason, and Enes Kanter made it to the playoffs in his rookie season with the Utah Jazz, but didn’t play many meaningful minutes as the San Antonio Spurs swept the Jazz in what was a lopsided first round series. The experience earned, even at the hands of a sweep by the Golden State Warriors, will be irreplaceable come this time next season.

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Think back to when the Thunder first played the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the 2010 postseason. Oklahoma City lost the series in 6 games, but the experience earned in that series fueled their next four postseason runs. The Thunder have a new set of players that have replaced some seasoned vets the Thunder had in their previous postseason runs (Kendrick Perkins, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher). Those new players need to experience what playoff basketball, at its highest, it like. I’d rather they earn that experience now, than have to earn it next season when the Thunder hopefully are chasing a title and the stakes are a lot higher.

The Thunder are in a position to get the best of both worlds: a solid first round pick and playoff experience. Is there risk for injury if the Thunder make the playoffs? Of course. But there’s a risk of injury any time any of these players gets on a basketball court, whether its in an NBA game or an offseason workout. Missing the playoffs on purpose makes no sense whatsoever, especially when there is only a 0.18% chance of obtaining a top-3 pick. Plus, there’s no way Russell Westbrook will ever stand by and allow the team to lose on purpose. The Thunder will try their hardest in these last four games, and will allow the chips to fall wherever they may fall.

Scoreboard Watching: The Last 10 Games

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In a season that started off with championship aspirations, the Oklahoma City Thunder still find themselves in a position to achieve that goal, albeit a lot lower in the standings than previously envisioned. If healthy, the Thunder would clearly be atop the Western Conference standings. But as is the case when the words, “if healthy,” are used, the Thunder this season have been anything but healthy. Of the players currently on the roster, the Thunder have lost about 164 games due to injury. That figure would likely rival the last 5 seasons combined. Regardless of all of this, though, the Thunder are still firmly entrenched in the 8th spot of the Western Conference with 10 games to play. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 8.

Anytime you are in the middle of a playoff race, you always have to look at the teams you are trying to gain ground on and the teams that are looking to gain ground on you. You watch out for, not only your team’s scores, but also the scores of those teams you are looking out for. Here’s a look at some of the teams who fortunes directly affect the future of the Thunder’s playoff hopes and beyond.

The Predators

Phoenix Suns

  • Current Record – 38-34
  • Position in the Conference/Position in relation to the Thunder – 9th in the conference, 3 games behind OKC
  • Remaining Schedule – vs. Portland, vs. OKC, @Portland, @Golden State, vs. Utah, @Atlanta, @Dallas, @New Orleans, @San Antonio, vs. Los Angeles Clippers
  • Winning Percentage of Remaining Opponents – .630

After the trade deadline, Phoenix had to adjust after trading two of their top three guards (Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas). While they gained Brandon Knight, the adjustment period did cause the Suns to lose 7 of their first 11 games after the All-Star break. That spurt allowed the Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans to push ahead of the Suns in the battle for the 8th spot. The Sun have probably the toughest remaining schedule of the three teams looking for the 8th spot. Not only is the winning percentage of the teams remaining on their schedule .630, six of those ten games are on the road. The only solace the Suns can take is that some of those teams may be resting players in preparation for the playoffs.

green morris suns evans withey pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans

  • Current Record – 37-34
  • Position in the Conference/Position in relation to the Thunder – 10th in the conference, 3.5 games behind OKC
  • Remaining Schedule – vs. Sacramento, vs. Minnesota, @Los Angeles Lakers, @Sacramento, @Portland, vs. Golden State, @Memphis, vs. Phoenix, @Houston, @Minnesota, vs. San Antonio
  • Winning Percentage of Remaining Opponents – .495

While the Pelicans have a much easier upcoming schedule, they are still dealing with injuries to two key players. Point guard Jrue Holiday remains without a timetable and Ryan Anderson is still about a week or so away from returning. The lack of depth in their guard rotation has started to rear its ugly head in the last few close games. Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon have had to log major minutes in the last two months, and seem to be tiring at the end of games. Anthony Davis is doing everything he can to help the Pelicans, but teams are starting to double him in the post. If the Pelicans are going to make any moves, it’ll be in the next four game, as their next four opponents have a winning percentage of .307.

The Prey

San Antonio Spurs

  • Current Record – 45-26
  • Position in the Conference/Position in relation to the Thunder – 6th in the conference, 4.5 games ahead of OKC
  • Remaining Schedule – vs. Dallas, vs. Memphis, @Miami, @Orlando, vs. Denver, vs. Golden State, @OKC, vs. Houston, @Houston, vs. Phoenix, @New Orleans
  • Winning Percentage of Remaining Opponents – .568

The Thunder had a golden opportunity to make up ground on the Spurs last night, but watched that wilt away before halftime, as they fell behind by as much as 30 points in the 3rd quarter. The Spurs’ remaining schedule is not easy, but, luckily, they play the more difficult opponents at home. In year’s past, the Spurs would usually rest their players during this stretch of the year, but with the Mavs and the Thunder on their tails, the Spurs will likely not be doing that so much this season.

nowitzki mavericks duncan spurs

Dallas Mavericks

  • Current Record – 45-27
  • Position in the Conference/Position in relation to the Thunder – 7th in the conference, 4 games ahead of OKC
  • Remaining Schedule – @San Antonio, @Indiana, @OKC, vs. Houston, vs. Golden State, vs. Phoenix, @Denver, @Los Angeles Lakers, @Utah, vs. Portland
  • Winning Percentage of Remaining Opponents – .538

The Mavs have been prone to inconsistencies of late (6-7 in their last 13 games) and may still be suffering from chemistry issues. Monta Ellis’ effectiveness hasn’t been the same since the Rajon Rondo trade and the Mavericks’ big man depth is questionable. They struggle a bit on the road and have two 3-game road trips coming up. The Thunder have one more game against the Mavericks and it comes at the back end of a tough 3 game road trip. If there is a team that may relinquish their positioning, it may be Dallas.

The Future Commodities Stakeholder

Washington Wizards

  • Current Record – 40-32
  • Position in relation to the Thunder – 1 game worse than OKC
  • Remaining Schedule – vs. Charlotte, vs. Houston, vs. Philadelphia, vs. New York, @Memphis, @Philadelphia, @Brooklyn, vs. Atlanta, @Indiana, @Cleveland
  • Winning Percentage of Remaining Opponents – .476

While the Wizards’ fortunes hold no bearing for the Thunder’s playoff implications, they do hold significance for the Thunder’s first round draft pick. The Thunder currently have a better record than the Wizards which would give them the 19th pick in the upcoming draft. The trade that garnered Dion Waiters for the Thunder came at a cost of the Thunder’s first round pick. That pick had a restriction of Top 18, meaning that if the pick was in positions 1-18, the Thunder would keep the pick. If the Thunder were to pick in the 19-30 spot, that pick would be conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers (via Denver from Cleveland). If the Thunder and Wizards finish with the same record, the position of the pick will be decided by a coin flip, with the winner of the flip getting the 18th pick.

The Thunder are firmly in the 8th spot in the West. Their playoff destiny could be decided in the next 6 games. They have a tough 2 game road trip remaining (@Phoenix and @Utah) and then play the Texas triangle and Memphis after that. Come out of that gauntlet with a winning record, and you control your playoff destiny. Finish less then .500 in these next 6 games, and things could get very harry. This is my favorite time of year to not only watch the games involving the Thunder, but also watch the games of the teams that can affect the Thunder’s future. Here’s to the last 3 weeks of the season.