When it comes to draft picks, a team only has 3 choices: Move up, stay put, or move down (or out) in order to pick up more assets. These are the options facing the Thunder. Last season, with 3 draft picks in hand, they stayed put at 12 (Steven Adams), moved up to 26 from 29 (Andre Roberson), stayed put at 32 (Alex Abrines), and moved up (bought) 40 (Grant Jerrett). With the 21st and 29th pick this season, here’s a look at some of the players the Thunder may target if they move up, stay put, or move down.
Moving Up Into the Top 10
As I’ve previously discussed, the Thunder do have some assets that could potentially entice a team to give up their higher draft pick. In addition to the 21st and 29th pick, the Thunder also possess a $6.6 million dollar Traded Player Exception, a bevy of young cheap players, and two expiring contracts (Kendrick Perkins ($9.4M) and Collison($2.2M)). So with all that in hand, how far up can the Thunder move? Well, you can pretty much throw out any chance of moving into the Top 10. The only option I could really see in the Top 10 is Sacramento at 8, but we’d have to probably give up one of our young players (Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, or Perry Jones) along with the draft picks to do so. If the Thunder make this type of move, it’s because they either love someone a lot or because someone they love (but thought wouldn’t be available) has dropped. There are only 3 players I could see causing this type of jump:
1. Marcus Smart – PG/SG / Oklahoma State / 6’3″ / 227 lbs /So. – Smart is one of those players that is hard to ping on mock drafts. We know he won’t go top 2, but he could possibly go anywhere from 3-10. Smart was tabbed as a Top 5 type player, but the incident with the Texas Tech fan and the fact that he didn’t vastly improve from his freshman year to his sophomore year, has caused some prognosticators to cool a bit on Smart. If he drops past 7, look for the Thunder to try to sneak in at 8 with their 2 draft picks and Reggie Jackson. Chances of this happening: 5%
2. Joel Embiid – C / Kansas / 7’0″ / 250 lbs /Fr. – Embiid’s worst enemies are the ghosts of Greg Oden and Sam Bowie. Especially in a draft that features not one, but two dynamic wing players. Embiid’s latest set back may cause teams to get “fragile center-itis”. Nerlens Noel was slated to go Number 1 last season before he tore his ACL in February 2013. He ended up dropping to 6th and sat out the entire year. If teams in the Top 10 are looking for someone who will play immediately, they may end up passing on Embiid. Chances of this happening: 2%
3. Elfrid Payton – PG / Louisiana Lafayette / 6’4″ / 185 lbs /Jr. – When the season ended, some mock drafts had us taking Payton…at 29! No one has moved up more in this draft process from mid-April to now than Payton. His physical attributes have some people comparing him to Rajon Rondo. Someone who isn’t a great shooter, but can get to any spot he wants on the floor. If you want a point guard than can get into the paint and create havoc from there, Payton is that guy. Chances of this happening: 10%
Moving Up Into the 11-15 Range
Moving up into this range may be a bit easier and may not necessarily require one of the Thunder young players. Picks 21 and 29 may be enough for someone looking to pick up draft picks later in the draft (with lesser financial implications). Here are 3 players the Thunder may be looking at in this range:
1. Nik Stauskas – SG / Michigan /6’6″ /207 lbs /So. – Stauskas had an extremely successful sophomore year at Michigan and is probably one of the best sharpshooters in the draft. In a league where 3-point shooting is extremely valued, I could see the Thunder trying to move up to take Stauskas. Chances of this happening: 15%
2. Doug McDermott – SF / Creighton /6’7″ /220 lbs /Sr. – McDermott just finished a career in which he ended up in the top 5 of the NCAA career scoring list with 3,150 career points. He is a great shooter and great at creating a shot for himself. His athleticism, or lack there of, may be what limits him professionally. Oklahoma City is rumored to have had McDermott in for a workout. If he slips, he may definitely be a target for the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 25%
3. Gary Harris – SG / Michigan State /6’4″ /205 lbs /So. – With Thabo Sefolosha’s expected departure, the Thunder may be in the market for a SG that can play both ends of the floor. Though Harris may not be a great shooter, he has the tools to be a great defender. He may be someone that the Thunder targets if he falls. Chances of this happening: 20%
Moving Up To The 16-20 Range or Staying Put at 21
There are about 10 players that could be selected in the 16-21 range. You won’t need too many assets to move up from 21 here, but this range is where the $6.6 million dollar TPE may come into play. Chicago has two picks in this range (16 and 19) and are vying for the services of free agent Carmelo Anthony. They need to get rid of salary and may also be willing to part with one or both of their picks. There also the possibility that the player may fall to the Thunder at 21 anyway. Here are 5 players the Thunder may be targeting at this range:
1. Adreian Payne – PF / Michigan State /6’10” /240 lbs /Sr. – Payne built his game up throughout his tenure at Michigan State, turning himself into a consistent outside shooter, with the ability to also play a little inside. With Nick Collison get older, Payne may prove to be a good replacement for the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 30%
2. TJ Warren – SF / NC State /6’7″ /220 lbs /So. – One of the things missing off the Thunder’s bench was scoring. Lamb looked great at the beginning of the season, but tailed off at the end, hurting the Thunder’s bench production. Warren is the type of player that can score in a variety of ways. He was one of the best scorers in the NCAA (24 ppg) and his game should translate as a bench player. Chances of this happening: 40%
3. Glenn Robinson III – SG/SF / Michigan /6’6″ /211 lbs /So. – Robinson failed to live up to the expectations set for him at the beginning of the season. But the skill set is there to be a great role player. He has solid size for a wing (6’6″) with a 6’9″ wingspan. He does a lot of things good, but nothing great. He could be a decent option to replace Sefolosha in a season or two. Chances of this happening: 40%
4. James Young – SG /Kentucky /6’6″ /215 lbs /Fr. – One of the needs for the Thunder is shooting from the wing position. Young can give you that and can grow into a consistent bench role for the Thunder this season. With Jackson and Lamb’s play making ability, there may be plenty of opportunities for Young to showcase his main skill. Though he may be a liability defensively, he does have the tools to be a good defender. Chances of this happening: 35%
5. Zach Lavine – SG / UCLA /6’6″ /180 lbs /Fr. – A freak athlete in the Gerald Green/Russell Westbrook mold, Lavine may take some time to develop, but may also have too much potential to ignore. If put through the Thunder development plan, Lavine may be a great pick 2 seasons from now. But if the Thunder are looking for immediate dividends, then Lavine may not be the man for this pick. Chances of this happening: 25%
Ultimately, if the Thunder stay within this range, they may be looking for someone who can pay dividends this season, and not a developmental project. They’ll definitely be looking for someone that can either provide scoring from the perimeter or someone to complement the bench.
Picking In The 22-30 Range
This is kind of where it gets interesting. The Thunder can get a player of value in this range (Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones) if they play their cards right. Also, as seen last year, if the Thunder like a player, they aren’t opposed to trade up for a pick by using cash. Here are 3 players the Thunder may be looking at in this range:
1. Clint Capela – PF/C / Switzerland /6’11” /222 lbs – At this point in his career, Capela is a poor man’s Ibaka. He has great athleticisim, but lacks the experience and IQ to put it all together. He’s a project, but he’s also a workable project. He has the tools in place to be very similar to Ibaka defensively. Offensively, though, it’s a different story. It would probably be good if Capela stayed in Europe one more season to further his development before joining the Thunder. Chances of this happening: 50%
2. CJ Wilcox – SG /Washington /6’5″ /201 lbs /Sr. – Wilcox is a great shooter and someone who would benefit playing next to a chaos starter like Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are looking for shooting and if Wilcox is available, they may snatch him up. Chances of this happening: 25%
3. KJ McDaniels – SG/SF /Clemson /6’6″ /196 lbs /Jr. – If the Thunder don’t draft a wing player at 21, look for them to take someone like McDaniels. The 2013-14 ACC Defensive Player of the Year led the ACC in blocks (as a SG/SF) and is probably the best one on one defender in the draft at the wing position. The Thunder may have drafted their wing stopper last season in Andre Roberson, but if they like what they see from McDaniels, I think they may also draft him. Chances of this happening: 45%
Trading Down (Or Buying) Into The 2nd Round
The Thunder may also either trade down into the 2nd round or buy a 2nd rounder like they did last season. Here are 3 players the Thunder may look at in the 2nd round.
1. Spencer Dinwiddie – PG/SG /Colorado /6’6″ /205 lbs /Jr. – Before tearing his ACL, Dinwiddie was one of the more diverse wings in the NCAA. He could score, shoot, and play-make. The Thunder may take a chance on Dinwiddie as a Tulsa stash to see how he fairs in his recovery. Chances of this happening: 40%
2. Mitch McGary – PF/C /Michigan /6’10” /266 lbs /So. – Before his back injury last season, McGary was seen as a lottery pick after his freshman season. But with him preventing the NBA docs from performing a physical on him, many have begun to label him as damaged goods. But as a project, McGary may be worth the risk. Chances of this happening: 15%
3. Damien Inglis – SF/PF /France /6’9″ /240 lbs – An athletic specimen, Inglis has a 7’3″ wingspan and a very muscular build. His shooting is his biggest flaw, but at only 19 years of age, this is something that can be developed as he ages. He has the potential to be a Boris Diaw type player with his ability to handle the ball and play-make. Chances of this happening: 45%
The Thunder have a ton of options in this draft. With a little bit of chaos swirling around with the impending free agency of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, many teams are trying to set themselves up to have the ability to sign one or both of these free agents. Armed with their assets, the Thunder will look to come out of this draft with a much stronger team than they had before the draft. Whether it’s with their draft picks or with veterans they’ve acquired, the Thunder should head into the 2014-15 season with a more complete team than the one that got ousted in the Western Conference Finals.