In any discussion about what the Thunder will do with their four draft picks in the upcoming draft, the topic always turns to “trading up.” As it stands, Oklahoma City possesses the 21st, 26th, 32nd, and 51st picks. So, out of the sixty players that will be selected on June 24th, 7% will theoretically belong to our local franchise.
A quick glance at the team roster suggests they do not need that many rookies. There are eleven players with guaranteed contracts, and that is if the team cuts Kyle Weaver (unlikely) and Mustafa Shakur (probable) who have non-guaranteed deals. If they keep both first round picks, using neither to draft a foreign player who can be stashed overseas, Sam Presti is looking at fourteen of the fifteen roster spots taken prior to any decisions on the second rounders, or free agency.
For argument’s sake, let’s say they do use all the picks they possess, they will be replacing the only players older than thirty (Etan Thomas and Kevin Ollie) with even more youngsters with no NBA experience. They will join the list of players with more D-League experience than NBA playing time: D.J. White and B.J. Mullens. Do the Thunder really need to keep stocking the 66ers roster with guys on their payroll?
It doesn’t take a genius like Sam Presti to figure out that the team may be a little too draft pick rich. So what options are there?
1. Keep them
This is the easiest but certainly the least likely outcome.
[pullquote]It doesn’t take a genius like Sam Presti to figure out that the team may be a little too draft pick rich.[/pullquote]The Thunder could draft two more green under the gills players. As has been the strategy all along, the Thunder have been stockpiling young talent with an eye on the future. Presti suggested after the Laker series that this may not have changed just because the team matured into a playoff participant faster than he envisioned.
Of course, keeping the picks doesn’t necessarily mean keeping the picks. One (or both) first rounders could be used on a foreign player who would be “stashed” overseas while the player matures and the Thunder roster situation clears up–much like the front office did with Serge Ibaka.
This option would have some inherent risks. Serge is the exception to the rule. Normally, a player selected late in the first round can theoretically earn more from a team in Europe than they can through the rigid rookie cap the NBA offers. So, unless the player has a dream of playing in the U.S. that trumps their love of money, a player who is actually wanted by an NBA team won’t ever come over. However, if the player never develops as the NBA team hopes and can’t make more than the rookie scale in Euros, the NBA team still has to offer them a contract since they were selected in the first round. So, it’s a double whammy. (For evidence, look at the trouble San Antonio is having in getting Tiago Splitter to cross the Atlantic.)
Even if they go the more traditional route of selecting two American college students, Oklahoma City may not be doing it with the intent of keeping the players. If they need to put together a sign and trade package for, for instance, Chris Bosh, those selected players can either be part of the package or make current players more expendable.
2. Sell the picks
As much as I hate to admit it, this is probably the most likely outcome. First round picks have a market value of $3MM. For a team that really has little use for the picks they possess, it’s a nice way of shucking them out and filling up the coffers at the same time. For teams who need cheap labor to help fill out their roster for cap purposes, are loaded with money, and lack draft picks (I’m looking at you New York), Oklahoma City’s picks would be very appealing.
3. Trade down
Second round picks are extremely low risk. The players are the property of the team that selects them through training camp whether they sign a contract or not. That means the Thunder can select a player, get him on the Summer League team, evaluate him through training camp, and even keep them on a non-guaranteed, very low value contract during the early part of the season before deciding if they want to keep the guy. If they find a diamond in the rough–great. If not–they basically got a practice player during the part of the season when they actually practice.
In a chat on ESPN Tuesday, Chad Ford described the talent pool as lacking in elite players, but very deep in mid-level talent. My translation is that players selected during the late lottery probably won’t be much better than many taken in the first half of the second round. If Oklahoma City facilitated a team moving up into the first round for a second round pick (and money), it might not be a huge downgrade.
They could also attempt to trade a current year pick for a future pick .
4. Trade up
This is probably the ideal solution. While Sports Animal hosts and callers are going to drop the phrase “package the picks to move up” like it’s a formality that some team in the top-3 will jump at the option to get two (TWO!) first rounders in return for their single draft choice, it rarely happens. Even when the objective is just to swap picks to move up a couple of spots, it usually takes quite a bit more sweetener than two choices in the twenties. So, for Presti to get teams selecting in the lottery to even take his calls, he will probably have to be willing to expend proven players, future years picks, and/or take on a bad contract.
Then, the next question is whether there is a player worthy of trading up to get. As I mentioned before, if a team is not drafting in the top-10, there probably won’t be much gain from getting any higher. However, if the Thunder are going to target a certain player–perhaps the big defensive center or dead eye shooter they want is projected to go just before they get on the clock–there may be some teams that would listen to offers.
First, the players who the Thunder might want who are often projected to be off the board when they pick:
Assuming that there are no surprises during the draft lottery, I cannot see the teams with the top seven picks (New Jersey, Minnesota, Sacramento, Washington, Philadelphia, Detroit) trading their pick for any reason. That’s actually fine, because with the exception of DeMarcus Cousins whose talent the Thunder could use, but whose attitude might clash with the team chemistry, there really aren’t players in that range worth giving up the farm to get. In the 8-14 range however, Oklahoma City could get a player that addresses a need.Here are the teams that will, depending on the lottery, possess those picks.#8 — Los Angeles Clippers
Would they trade? Probably not, but maybe
What would they want? They want to make a run at LeBron James, but will probably end up offering a max contract to Rudy Gay. If they sign a max guy, they will have six guys under contract, so they’ll have a good starting line up along with DeAndre Jordan and whoever they draft. They won’t have any exceptions to use, so they will be stuck with nothing but minimum contract players to fill out the roster. For that reason, they may actually value quantity over quality.
What could OKC offer? The two first rounders would be the starting point along with at least one of the second rounders. They would probably have to add a low salary player (to preserve the Clips’ cap space) with potential (Eric Maynor, B.J. Mullens or D.J. White). Maynor and the first rounders might get the job done, but considering he probably wouldn’t be offered, a future first rounder, or at least some options to swap picks, would also be part of the equation.
That would be a lot to give up, but currently, it appears Greg Monroe should be available at this slot. He is probably the Thunder’s best hope of getting a big man who can be a defensive presence and provide offense. Any later than this pick, he’s gone, and OKC is choosing a one demensional player.
#9 — Utah Jazz
Would they trade? Extremely unlikely
What would they want? Butted up against the salary tax again, and still hoping to contend, they won’t want to give up the pick unless it both addresses their payroll problem and makes them immediately better.
What could OKC offer? I doubt it matters. If anybody in Jazz management answers calls with a 405 area code after the Maynor swindling, they are idiots.
#10 — Indiana Pacers
Would they trade? Yes
What would they want? Indiana wants a point guard, but none would make sense in the late lottery.
What could OKC offer? Eric Maynor and the #26 pick (which Indiana would use for Willie Warren) for the #10 pick and T.J. Ford ($8.5MM expiring contract) gets it done, then the Thunder can sell the other first rounder. However, such a deal takes the Thunder out of contention for Chris Bosh–assuming Presti is going to make him an offer.
Indiana might be willing to swap the #10 for the two first rounders and a future first, but if any other teams are in the bidding, that is not going to be enough.
#11 — New Orleans Hornets
Would they trade? Probably
What would they want? With the cap shrinking and so much of their cap space tied up into a few players, the Hornets more than anyone are in need of the cheap labor provided by rookies. Also, they really don’t have much young talent.
What could OKC offer? They could take Mo Peterson’s $6.6MM contract, and send the #21 & #26 pick and probably make it happen. Without offering to take Peterson, D.J. White and/or Byron Mullens would have to be included.
#12 — Memphis Grizzlies
Would they trade? Probably not
What would they want? The only way they trade away a pick is if it makes it economically more feasible for them to match what the Clippers, Nets, or Knicks overpay to Rudy Gay.
What could OKC offer? Not sure.
#13 — Toronto Raptors
Would they trade? Maybe
What would they want? It depends on how well they understand their reality. Chris Bosh is gone, but if they think they have a shot at keeping him, they probably aren’t listening to offers and look to draft a true center here to make Bosh happy. If they realize Bosh is outtie 5000, they could look to parlay this pick into helping with the rebuilding process. Draft picks and young players are, as Sam Presti can tell them, the right path.
What could OKC offer? Both first rounders and a player that helps them fill the void (depth and talent wise) in their front court. Mullens would probably be first (behind the absurd request for Serge that they will make) on their list, but D.J. White might also interest them.
#14 — Houston Rockets
Would they trade? Doubtful
What would they want? Truthfully, they need to get younger, but they also need to start competing immediately because no one knows how much longer Yao can play. So, their GM Daryl Morey will want someone whose PER helps them improve on their (insert obscure stat here).
What could OKC offer? No idea.
Anyway, after that, the Thunder could potentially trade with the Timberwolves (#16), Heat (#18), Celtics (#19), or Spurs (#20) if a player they really like slides. However with the exception of Minnesota, there should be no reason to offer more than the packaged picks. If that isn’t enough, then those teams are being unreasonable. Minnesota, though, is also too pick rich, so OKC would probably have to give them player or a future pick.