Thunder: Exploring the Thunder’s options in next month’s NBA Draft
Sam Presti can’t trade the Thunder’s pick in next month’s NBA Draft until after he’s selected a player. Whether he keeps the rookie or deals him, there are multiple options available to the Thunder general manager. [PHOTO BY CHRIS LANDSBERGER, THE OKLAHOMAN]
For Sam Presti, the NBA Draft is all about opportunity.
Can the Thunder general manager find a fit? Can he draft a rookie contributor? Can he deal out of one position and into another or acquire veteran help by shipping a pick?
Next month, Presti has the 21st pick on draft night. In what’s viewed as a strong draft deep with future rotation players, he figures to have a number of opportunities.
“I think there will be a good player there, and if there’s someone there that fits what we’re looking for, we’ll take him,” Presti said. “Otherwise, we can move it.”
Late Wednesday night, the NCAA deadline passed for college underclassmen to withdraw from the draft. Though foreign draft candidates have until June 12 to back out, the college deadline paints a strong picture of who’s in and who’s out.
Here’s a look at some of the options Presti will have to seize on a draft opportunity:
Draft (and keep) a rookie
This is the simplest option on the table.
The Thunder could look for a shooter like Duke’s Luke Kennard. It could grab a scoring wing like Terrance Ferguson, an American high school star a year ago who spent the past season in Australia. It could take a versatile frontcourt athlete like Oregon’s Jordan Bell.
Perhaps a player like Duke’s Harry Giles or Indiana’s OG Anunoby — both top-15 caliber prospects — slides due to injury concerns, giving the Thunder a crack at a high-potential draftee.
“There’s probably going to be a good player available” at 21, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said.
The Thunder was the youngest team to make this year’s NBA Playoffs, and as Russell Westbrook approaches his 29th birthday in the fall, it’s fair to question whether OKC really needs a rookie on its roster.
With no pick in next year’s first round, the Thunder can’t trade its pick this season. But it can draft a player for another team and complete a trade after the pick is made.
Even in a deep draft, the 20s are a crapshoot, and the 21st pick is unlikely to land a quality, established NBA player in return. But there’s always the option of packaging it with another piece in the hope of bolstering the rotation.
Trade for another pick
If there’s a player the Thunder covets higher in the draft, it could try to make a move up, dangling its 21st pick and something to sweeten the deal.
It also could explore trades with teams that have multiple picks in the 20s — Brooklyn and Utah each pick twice after OKC’s selection — who might want to move up.
Or OKC could seek trades to get into next year’s first round or this season’s second. It currently has no picks in either.
Potential role players like Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans, Colorado guard Derrick White or Oregon forward Chis Boucher might be available in this year’s second round, and there could be picks to snag.
The Hawks, Suns, Magic, Jazz, Rockets, Knicks and Nuggets have two second-round picks each. The Celtics have three, the 76ers four.
It’s likely Presti will explore every option. Last summer, without a first-round pick and coming off a Western Conference Finals appearance, the Thunder used a draft-night trade to secure Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to remake its roster.
“We’ll always look to get better,” Presti said.
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