I have to tell you, I like this being good and winning thing for a lot of reasons, but in my top 10 reasons for it is definitely because I don’t have to care all that much about the draft.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the draft. It’s fun to talk over the potential future stars of the league and what impact they could have on a team. But when you’re not picking in the top 10, most of that anticipation is lost. Which is a good thing because it means you didn’t suck.
And let’s be real: It’s pretty much all speculation. It’s so hard to know who will pan out, who will bust and who will be average. Especially when you’re not picking in the lottery. Then it’s basically just throwing a dart at a 6-7 dude and hoping maybe it catches the board.
Serge Ibaka? That one nailed the bullseye. Byron Mullens? Eh…
But the Thunder own the 24th overall pick in the draft and will likely be taking someone with it. There a chance the Thunder would trade it, because if they choose to re-sign Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed, a first-round pick would take up the 15th roster spot. Unless of course it’s an international stash pick, which is what I think might be the most likely scenario.
The roster is virtually complete, especially in terms of the vital parts to the team. No draft pick is going to make a big impact on this team. But as Sam Presti would say, the draft is an opportunity to improve your team and one area I think the Thunder could get better is depth, specifically in terms of a scoring swingman.
So here are my top 10 fits for the Thunder at 24:
Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas: It’s very unlikely Hamilton falls to 24 as most projections have him going between 15-20, but there’s a chance. And really, he’s such a nice fit behind Kevin Durant that I think he’s a player maybe worth moving up for as well. (However, is he worth giving up something of value to move up? Don’t know about that.)
A terrific, natural scorer with 3-point range and a smooth mid-range jumper. He’s big at 6-8, and has the potential to be a quality defender with a bit of work. He’s not the best athlete in the world, but in terms of a guy that has good size and scoring ability to fit in behind Durant, Hamilton is a great fit.
Tyler Honeycutt, SF, UCLA: He’s not really an NBA ready impact player right now. He needs some filling out, needs to improve offensively and needs to get stronger. But there’s a lot of talent there and with a system built in Oklahoma City for development that includes patience with young players — something not too many other organizations have — Honeycutt could be a terrific pick at 24.
There’s a lot of people that see the Thunder going the draft-and-stash route (myself included), but OKC could sort of do that with a guy like Honeycutt. Just put him in the D-League. A lot view the D-League as a demotion and somewhere a rookie drafted in the first round should never be, but the Thunder is a franchise that really values it as a developmental tool.
Of course he would count against the 15-man roster while an international player wouldn’t, but there’s no reason the Thunder wouldn’t take a homegrown upside player. Ben Howland’s Bruins have all translated very well to the NBA and Honeycutt could very well be the next.
Nikola Mirotic, SF, Serbia: Most mock drafts have the Thunder leaning the way of the 6-10 Serb. He’s a classic Presti player — high IQ, lottery type talent but someone that needs a little time to develop. Plus, he has a hefty buyout situation that will likely prevent him from coming over for a few years.
He’s a bit of a tweener, but needs to add a little weight to be able to handle playing the 4 in the NBA. But he’s got great touch from the outside, a quality handle and good passing ability. There’s just no way he’s ready to defend in the NBA.
Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia: He’s a lot like Mirotic in that he’s long, lean and very raw, but Bertans has a really good touch from outside already. He’s only 18, so we likely wouldn’t see him for at least two years, probably more. He has a ton of upside, but he’s hit or miss, like so many young international players.
Kyle Singler, SF, Duke: I’m not really a fan on Singler. I’m only including him because so many see him as a good fit for the Thunder. But he lacks athleticism and doesn’t really have a really high quality skill. He’s not a great shooter, doesn’t rebound that well, isn’t a good defender and doesn’t finish that well around the rim. He just sort of gets things done, which in truth, there’s a lot to be said for a guy like that.
He’s a high IQ player and could pan out to be a nice player. He’ll never be anything great. There’s not a lot of upside there. But really, in terms of a comparison, he’s kind of a poor man’s Jeff Green. A tweener with some good basketball ability that can succeed in the right role and situation.
Jimmy Butler, SF, Marquette: Maybe my favorite fit for the Thunder. A really quality defender and a player with terrific work ethic and heart. He improved a bunch just throughout last season at Marquette and has room to go up at the next level.
He’s an efficient scorer that finishes well in transition and can score in traffic. If he were to really max out his talent, he’d add a consistent 3-point shot to his game, which would make him an ideal pick. But his pedigree is there. Defense, smart, hard worker, a gritty player and someone that can settle in to a role and perform well.
Chandler Parsons, SF, Florida: He’s really kind of Kyle Singler-plus. A better shooter, a bit more athletic and a little more skill on the ball. He sort of seemed to drift in some games and doesn’t have a big knack for taking over games where his jumper isn’t falling. I don’t know good of a defender he’ll make, but he can shoot and score the ball well.
Andrew Goudelock, PG, College of Charleston: I don’t love the idea of drafting a future replacement for Eric Maynor now. First off, we don’t know what will happen with Maynor, so it would be a bit speculatory (word?) to make a pick based off of what could happen with Maynor’s contract next summer.
Reality is though, Maynor will probably be gone done the road as he’s a little too good to afford, but not good enough to pay for, if that makes sense. And Goudelock looks like a wonderful replacement. Steady ball handler, smart player, a four-year guy, someone that can score the ball when called on, doesn’t do too much, came from a small school where he learned to be the alpha and also make others the alpha. You know, sort of like Eric Maynor.
(But let’s hope OKC can keep Maynor. If OKC goes point guard, it would be more for insurance than anything else.)
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State: I absolutely love this guy. He could go in the lottery though, though most mocks have him in the 18-22 range. Maybe there’s a chance he’d slipped to OKC at 24 and if he did, no way Presti could pass him over.
I truly believe that if you can do one thing better than any of your peers, you can succeed at the next level. And Faried was the best rebounder in college basketball by far. I see no reason why he can’t bring that same energy and effort to the NBA and be a wonderful defensive energy player off the bench. Finding minutes might be difficult in OKC’s front court, but a little extra depth has never been a bad thing.
DeAndre Liggins, SF, Kentucky: Liggins isn’t a first rounder by most mock experts, but in terms of a solid small forward that could grow into a secondary role, he fits. He’s a good shooter, decent scorer and athletic enough to defend perimeter players in the NBA. He’s a little smaller at just 6-6 and doesn’t have explosive athleticism.
But specific skill is a good thing and Liggins has a knack for scoring the ball and making shots. If a guy is to just find a couple minutes a game spelling the best scorer in basketball, that could be all he needs.