And now, we turn to the next thing.
With the Thunder holding the 28th pick in the draft, it’s obviously not exactly something to get all excited about. But as Sam Presti said Sunday, “The draft is like a board game where you pass go and you get a free chance to improve.”
The draft is coming quickly, in holy crap just three days. I guess that’s what happens when you’re one of the last two teams playing. The season gets dragged out. And it also means you’re picking most scraps at the end of the pile.
But don’t completely dismiss the late first round picks. In fact, here are your last 20 28th overall picks in the NBA draft: Norris Cole (2011), Greivis Vasquez (2010), Wayne Ellington (2009), Donte Green (2008), Tiago Splitter (2007), Maurice Ager (2006), Ian Mahinmi (2005), Beno Udrih (2004), Leandro Barbosa (2003), Dan Dickau (2002), Tony Parker (2001), Erick Barkley (2000), Scott Padget (1999), Corey Benjamin (1998), Keith Booth (1997), Priest Lauderdale (1996), Greg Ostertag (1995), Deon Thomas (1994), Lucious Harris (1993) and Marion Maxey (1992).
That’s right, Tony Parker was landed at No. 28. (But so was Erick Barkley.) Point is, pickings are a little slim at the back end of the first round, but with a keen eye for talent, a worthwhile player can be added. Here are five early, but actually late, thoughts on OKC’s pick.
1. Leaning stretch 4 or versatile big. What became painfully obvious this postseason is that while the Thunder are one of the most versatile teams in the league and can matchup almost anywhere, they lacked versatile size inside. If the Thunder wanted to play big, they had to play big. If they wanted to go small, they had to go small. There was no in between player on the roster. Against the Spurs, the Thunder needed a stretch 4 at times and against the Heat, is was especially clear a ball-handling big that could shoot and pass would’ve been extremely valuable.
Ironically, the Thunder once had this guy, and traded him (Jeff Green). He could’ve been very valuable at times in different spots for the Thunder in going small but staying big at the same time. There’s a lot of depth in this draft, especially in bigger forwards late in the first and early in the second round.
2. You can never go wrong with a shooter. The Thunder are already paying Daequan Cook to be a specialist, but he’s only signed through next season and putting a guy on a rookie contract to fill that spot could work well.
And clearly, Cook doesn’t possess the qualities that Scott Brooks was looking for where he would’ve used him in big spots in the postseason. For another season, Cook is an excellent player to have on the team. He’s streaky, but can knock down two or three big shots a game and swing momentum off the bench. But he’s only got one more year and a cheap replacement is always good.
3. Upperclassman. I find myself asking, “What would the Spurs do?” in these situations and what strikes me is that they target a guy that could have a potential impact sooner than later. The fact is, essentially one to ten, the Thunder have a roster and rotation basically filled out. But as Presti said, this is a chance to improve, so why not look for a guy that’s ready physically and mentally to do something on the floor.
I think we could all agree that despite being three wins from a championship, there are some holes in the team. And they aren’t likely getting filled in free agency. So look to an older player. The Thunder don’t need another project. They don’t need another guy to wear a uniform and draw a check. They don’t need another guy locked on the Turner Turnpike bouncing between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
4. Trade it? OKC has assets out the butt already. Latavious Williams, Tibor Pleiss. Cole Aldrich. Potentially this Vorentsevich dude. Paying another guaranteed contract may not really sound all that great to Presti, so he might deal out of the first round for something in the future and look to stockpile more future assets and picks.
Drafting a player in the first round means more money you’re adding on the cap for the next few years, and another roster spot taken. Thing is though, picking 28th is a really a blessing for the Thunder because the 28th slot only makes a little over a million dollars a season. In terms of finding cheap labor that keeps the Thunder further away from the tax while also filling out the team, it’s hard to find something much better.
But it really depends on if the team feels there’s a player with value to be added that would be worth having over Royal Ivey, Nazr Mohammed or another veteran.
5. Stash it? Nobody likes to play the draft and stash game quite like the Thunder. There are some quality international players on the board and taking one with the intention of waiting two or three years isn’t a bad plan. The Thunder are already playing the game with Tibor Pleiss, who is said to be developing nicely. In three or four years, he could be a high quality piece to add. And he was taken 31st overall. So there should be another opportunity to grab an international prospect and plan to wait on him at 28.
And consider this factor: Depending on what happens with James Harden or Serge Ibaka, the Thunder might really need this player at some point. I’m close to convinced that won’t be the case and that OKC will get most of the roster questions solved this summer, but you never know how things will shake out and if there’s a scoring shooting guard out there or a quality big, the Thunder have to take advantage.
Tomorrow: 10 fits for the Thunder at No. 28