This was insanely hard. You’d be shocked at how many times I moved a name up or down. Well, you probably wouldn’t be shocked but you get the point.
We’ve got four sections of players. One where OKC would have to move up, another with players that might be available at 21, another with players that should hover around pick 26 or 32, and then the last one of all late second round sleepers. Not included in Tier 1 are players like Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward and Luke Babbitt. The Thunder aren’t losing assets to move up to get one of those guys. And we already know John Wall, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors are pretty much going one, two and three.
What you’re drafting at 21 is a role player. You likely won’t nail down a star. So OKC is looking for someone to fill a very specific need and role. Whether that player pans out and actually does will have to be determined at a later time.
So this is top 30 players in the draft, in accordance with the Thunder’s needs. Obviously there will be disagreement, but hey, that’s what comments are for.
(Keep in mind, this is based only off of the Thunder’s needs, not the overall best available players. So a very good player like Xavier Henry was left off because there’s just not a need for another slashing two-guard.Just because a player wasn’t listed doesn’t mean he’s not good. It’s just that it’s a “fit” issue. And also keep in mind that there’s about a five percent chance the Thunder actually moves up anyway. )
Tier 1: Going to have to move up to get him
1. Greg Monroe – 6’11, 240, PF/C, Georgetown – video highlights
If you’re running down a checklist of what the Thunder would like in a big man, Monroe would get a mark for most every category. Size? Check. Strength? Check. Back-to-the-basket ability? Check. Passing out of the post? Check. Post defense? Check.
The main issue with Monroe is that he’s a power forward, though some are trying to sell him as a center. He’s not an elite rebounder and his ceiling is unclear. But I’m fairly confident that if Sam Presti were trying to move up for a player and he had his choice (assuming he couldn’t get Favors), he’d go for Monroe. His personality fits, plus he’s a gifted basketball player.
2. DeMarcus Cousins – 6’11, 270, PF/C, Kentucky – video highlights
Cousins is probably the most talented big in the draft. Everybody knows this. He’s huge, has a great wingspan, has an extremely mature post game, can defend and has unique skills for a guy his size. There’s nothing to really dislike about Cousins’ game. He’s the total package.
It’s his head people are worried about. He’s had off the court issues in college. He’s skipped meetings and practices. Some have wondered if he’s truly all there. Some question his desire to be great. And with him checking in at around 300 pounds, some wonder if he’s on the verge of exploding, in a fatness sense. For whoever takes him, that team is banking on it’s just some immaturity issues with Cousins and not that he’s a weirdo. I tend to lean towards immaturity. But hand a 20-year-old millions of dollars and that’s when we really see.
Cousins is a guy that you’d like to think would flourish in the structured, high character environment in OKC. Bring him in to be around guys like KD, Westbrook, Harden and Jeff Green and he’ll keep his head on straight. But there’s also the potential that he flares up and has issues. Presti is a guy that likes his locker room chemistry a lot and wants a team that can grow together. Hard to say if Cousins could fit into that. Talent wise, yes. Head wise, eh.
3. Ekpe Udoh – 6’10, 240, PF, Baylor – video highlights
Udoh is a well rounded talent that can defend, score in the post and passes well. A lot to like, right? Right. He’s more developed than a lot of his big men counterparts and could possibly contribute immediately. However, he’s a little older (23 when the draft happens). And some wonder what his ceiling really is and if he’s scraping it already. He’s got good instincts on the offensive glass and as he showed in Baylor’s surprising NCAA tourney run last year, he can be a force defensively. Foul trouble has been an issue for him, but that’s mainly because he gets lazy on the defensive end at times. He has the looks of a solid, but not likely great player. Which might fit OKC just perfectly.
4. Cole Aldrich – 6’11, 250, C, Kansas – video highlights
If OKC were to grab Aldrich, it’s pretty obvious this is a defense first pick. Aldrich is extremely light on the offensive end. At times, it looked like he had no idea what to do. He scores most his points off offensive rebounds and good setups from his guards. He has a little jumper that extends out to around the free throw line, however it looks like a trebuchet winding up. He’s got great size and a big wingspan and should be able to rebound and defend the post well. But can he hang with the big time athletes? And does OKC want a guy that might not ever be able to effectively score on the block? The answer is maybe, IF his defense and rebounding are really that good.
Tier 2: Possibly available at 21
5. Daniel Orton – 6’10, 260, PF/C, Kentucky – video highlight
I really think Orton is the biggest enigma in this draft. One place you read he’s rocketing up the boards. Another you read he’s had bad workouts and it dropping like an anvil. A lot of folks look at him as a good fit for Oklahoma City because he’s a guy with size, talent and high character. He’s drawn some comparisons to Kendrick Perkins, which is exactly the kind of guy OKC could use. But is Orton that guy? It’s hard to look past the 3 ppg and 3 rpg he averaged at Kentucky. It’s hard not to think about he really hasn’t played real basketball minutes in three years (didn’t play much last year, was hurt most of his senior season at Bishop McGuinness).
The luxury the Thunder have in this draft is that they can afford to bring a guy along slowly. And they can afford to miss on a pick. They’ll survive if they don’t land a future contributor with the 21st pick. The roster as is, is fine. So if Presti determines Orton could be a valuable low post banger, and he’s available at 21, he’s probably the guy. Orton is an extremely talented big man. He just got put in a tight spot at Kentucky playing behind Cousins and Patrick Patterson. It would have been wise for Orton to return for a sophomore season, but as it stands now, if he’s there at 21, I think OKC takes him. He’s not worth moving up for and like I said, he’s only in play because OKC can afford to miss on this pick.
6. Soloman Alabi – 7’1, 250, C, Florida State – video highlights
Take away injury concerns and Alabi might be a lottery guy. He’s huge (7’1, 250 lbs), has great hands and decent feet. He’s still raw in regards to scoring on the block and likely won’t ever be a huge back-to-the-basket presence. But he’s got size, athleticism and the ability to hang tough with other elite big men in a playoff series. He’d likely be a rebounding, shot blocking kind of center, with a limited offensive game. But he’s the kind of guy that’s really a blank canvas. If he’s willing to put in the extra time, he can absolutely be a quality post player. He has a little range on a jumper to the elbow, so add a post-up game and you’ve got a good big man. Again, injury concerns hang over Alabi, but with the size, the wingspan, the abilities and the potential, he’s worth a look.
7. Larry Sanders – 6’10, 220, PF, VCU – video highlights
Sanders is a freakish athlete with a massive wingspan and a solid work ethic. He arrived on campus at VCU as a project and is leaving as a probable first round draft pick. No one can really determine what his offensive upside is, but it’s pretty clear that he should be a good shot blocking rim protector in the NBA. He’s quicker and more athletic players his size, but he’s not all that coordinated and may struggle nailing down an effective post-up game. His footwork needs work but he’s shown the ability to improve dramatically, so nothing says he can’t some more.
8. Hassan Whiteside – 7’0, 235, C, Marshall – video highlights
As a freshman, he led Division I in blocked shots. That’s pretty good.
However, some negatives: He’s underdeveloped and needs to add weight and strength. This leads to a lack of ability to muscle someone on the block for position and also means he doesn’t play great man-to-man post defense. But he’s so good crashing from the weakside and rotating off to help. He’s a physical talent, not a prepared, ready to impact basketball player. He doesn’t pass well out of the post, doesn’t posses a high basketball IQ at all, has character issues and his fundamentals are extremely raw. He’s another project and one that might have to be guided along a bit. But you can’t ignore his measureables. A 7’7 wingspan? That’s insane. Is he worth it? If you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, yes. But players like this bust far more often than bloom.
9. Patrick Patterson – 6’8, 225, PF, Kentucky – video highlights
I like Patterson a lot. He’s skilled, mature and spent four years in school. I like that. He should be higher than ninth on this draft board. He’s definitely better than Daniel Orton. He’s the kind of guy ready to play right now in the NBA. He’s got range to the 3-point line, can post down low and is a high-character, non-stop motor kind of player.
However, he’s not overly athletic, isn’t that big and isn’t a great rebounder. Maybe that’s because of his size, maybe it’s a fundamental thing that can be corrected. Whatever the reason, OKC doesn’t need another offensively minded stretch four. The Thunder need a guy to push on the likes of Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol and Nene. Patterson is going to be a good player for someone and will likely be off the board well before No. 21. But even at 21, I’m not 100 percent sure he would be the right fit. In terms of a value pick, yes, but in terms of fit and need, I’m not so sure.
10. James Anderson – 6’6, 195, SG, Oklahoma State – video highlights
Anderson is a rare case. A prolific scorer in a major conference and a first-team All-American, yet wildly undervalued in the draft. Projections have him going anywhere from 10 to 25. Some question his athletic ability. Some question if he can defend in the league. Some wonder if he’ll be able to do anything other than shoot. And honestly, if the Thunder were to grab him, I don’t know if he’d even have to.
Now I’m a huge believer in James Harden. I think Harden can be the scorer OKC needs to supplement Durant, can be the dead-eye shooter from outside and also a creator to set up teammates. But Anderson could give a nice punch off the bench. Come in, rain from deep, as well as provide an Eddie House-style instant offense quality.
11. Ed Davis – 6’9, 205, PF, North Carolina – video highlights
I could very well be wrong, but Davis stinks of bust to me. He was supposed to be a leader on a young Carolina team and he underachieved. He often didn’t play well against regular opponents, but against the big time ones, he often disappeared. He was injured for the end of last season with a fractured wrist, but in eight conference games he averaged just 10 and 8. He’s left hand heavy, doesn’t possess a lot of refined skills offensively and relies on athleticism to get by.
But boy, he’s got some athleticism. Someone is going to take Davis, likely in the lottery, just because of it. He’s 6’9, can run the floor, has a giant wingspan, jumps through the roof and has the look of a big time shot blocker. But he also has the scent of bust. He’s skinny. He needs strength. His offensive game is limited. Does he really want this? Davis is probably going in the top 10. But he’s definitely not worth trying to trade up for. If he falls, you’d love him. But to give up something to get him isn’t wise.
12. Paul George – 6’9, 215, SG/SF, Fresno State – video highlights
One of the few non-big men that could drop into OKC’s lap that the Thunder might look at. George is brash. He talks about how good he’s going to be. And he was very good as Fresno. A terrific scorer and finisher, he averaged almost 17 ppg. Plus, he has the looks of a potential long-armed, lock down defender. As it stands right now, OKC doesn’t have anyone playing specifically behind Kevin Durant. Typically, either Jeff Green slides down or Thabo moves up to fill the three. I don’t know if OKC really wants an actual backup, but if George were still there at 21 or 26, I have to think he’d garner strong consideration. OKC had a quality bench last year and with another year, Harden should be the scorer everyone hopes he will be. But George could add even more pop off the bench, especially since he can potentially run at three positions.
13. Kevin Seraphin – 6’9, 260, PF/C, France – video highlights
If Presti is going to draft to stash, this could be the first option. Seraphin is a bit undersized to play center, but he’s long and athletic. He’s got a developing post game, excellent footwork and handles the ball fairly well for his size. The big issue is that he’s 20 and only started playing basketball at 15. So in five years he’s going to go from not playing, to playing against the best of the best?
That’s why Seraphin is a European project. That system worked well for Serge Ibaka to develop a bit more and Seraphin is a player in a similar mold. He’s a good defensive player that’s good at rotating off to help on the weakside. But he’s not a great man-to-man defender and it’ll take some time for him to learn those principles and to not try and block everything. He’s got a penchant for foul trouble because he bites on darn near every pump thrown at him. If he’s there at 21, it’ll be a tough choice, especially if some others are still on the board. OKC loves to develop young talent, but it seems the Thunder want to use this draft to potentially improve now. But they also have the luxury of waiting and playing another year as is while someone comes along. I think at least one of these first rounders will be an international player, but I’m not sure Seraphin will be there at 26.
14. Stanley Robinson – 6’9, 225, SF/PF, UCONN – video highlights
Robinson is one of those players that when you watch him, you wonder why he’s not one of the five best players in the draft. He’s got insane athleticism. He can handle the ball. He’s got a decent jumper. Yet, he’s hovering around the end of the first round. What gives?
At times, Robinson was either indifferent or out of control. He’d either try and take over, or fade away. But when he’s on, he’s dynamite. The issue with him for OKC is that he’s truly a combo forward. He can play some power forward, but really is suited for the three. And currently, the Thunder’s already filling that position with another Big East product. But Robinson could add some depth, defensive chops and a little mean streak off the bench. He can score, plus he might make for a perfect versatile bench player that can fill in anywhere.
15. Devin Ebanks – 6’9, 205, SG/PF, West Virginia – video highlights
A similar player to Robinson, Ebanks is a guy that came into college with hype and didn’t live up to it. He’s gifted, but never completely harnessed it. He’s probably more comfortable at the three, though he could certainly slide over and play power forward in stretches. He’d just be a depth piece, that could give starters more of an extended rest. Players like Ebanks, George and Robinson aren’t integral parts so much, but more just filling out a complete roster.
But Ebanks has talent. He’s got a jumper, can handle and can score at the rim. He’s a head-scratcher though in the sense that he has the talent to be a serious scorer. Potentially, he could be a sleeper I think. But this late, you never, ever know.
(We’re running hot at around 2,700 words, so instead of writing you War and Peace: Draft Edition, I’m going to break this into a part two tomorrow.)