Time for the draft, which means time to over-analyze everything, and assume we all know much, much better than professionals that have poured over hours of tape, pay scouts thousands and have done one-on-one interviews. So fun.
For the Thunder, that means picking 28th, which means there isn’t a whole lot of excitement involved. Oklahoma City only owns that one pick. That said, the Thunder are always contenders to buy a second rounder or two if they like a player.
It might not be all that interesting for OKC, but that’s a good thing. The further down you pick, the better your season probably was. I think that’s science or something. Here are five questions heading the draft.
1. Will the Thunder really do something crazy? And by crazy, I mean deal James Harden for the No. 2 pick and take Bradley Beal. Ever since Beal ran his mouth about that, the Thunder fanbase has been put on crisis alert for the last 24 hours. The mere thought of dealing Harden and his beard have some people locked up in bomb shelters, I think.
I don’t have anything to base this on except for what I think is a pretty good pulse of the organization, but I don’t see any way the Thunder do this. OKC is looking at a championship window that’s wide open and making a drastic move like that could potentially jeopardize it. You don’t know if Beal is a sure thing. You know James Harden is. He fits. He works. He’s really, really good.
Yes, there are questions going forward about the tax and salaries. Worry about those later, because there’s at least one more solid season ahead for this core. The Thunder have invested a whole lot into building this roster as it is now, and I can’t see any way they blow that all up for Bradley Beal.
2. Kostas, um, Kostas… Papanikolaou? According to a report, the Thunder are interested in the 6-8 Greek forward. He’s an ideal draft and stash kind of player. Two years left on his European deal, but an uncomplicated buyout and a lot of potential. He’s 21 years old, big, strong and by most accounts, pretty NBA ready. If the Thunder don’t decide to take him at No. 28, look for them to definitely potentially buy a second rounder to take him.
Also: It’s going to be fun hearing David Stern try to say his name.
3. Need or best available? When you pick 28th, you can’t necessarily get what you want. Players you had your eye on are gone and the pickings get slim. But will the Thunder target a specific need like a versatile stretch big man or a shooter, or just simply take what they feel is the best available player left out there with the most potential?
The Thunder have gone both ways on this. They took Byron Mullens on the thinking of upside, but took Reggie Jackson more based on need.
4. Big or small? I suppose this could also fall into the need or best available category, but what are the Thunder looking at here? Do they want a big man like Fab Melo to possibly open the door for Nazr Mohammed to walk and Cole Aldrich get the backup 5 spot? Do they want a stretch 4? Or do they want a shooter like John Jenkins or Will Barton?
I think the reality we all need to understand is that it’s pretty unlikely whoever OKC takes has an impact next season. But then again, it’s an opportunity to find someone that could. The Spurs have gotten a lot of mileage out of the Danny Green’s and Matt Bonner’s of the world. That kind of guy could be sitting there for OKC to grab.
5. Trade up, down or out? Forgetting the chatter about moving all the way up into the top five, is there a chance the Thunder could try and jump 10 slots or so for a guy? Eric Maynor’s name seems to often come up in these situations because his future is complicated with the Thunder and OKC also has another young backup point man. Or flip that — Reggie Jackson could be dangled out as bait. Would Orlando bite on Jackson and the 28th pick for the 19th pick? For Maynor and the 28th?
Or the Thunder could move down from the first round entirely and just take a non-guaranteed contract in the second round. Or deal out of the draft entirely and look for future assets.
It’s not the most interesting night in terms of what the Thunder have in store, but it’s certainly worth paying attention to. Because as we’ve all learned by now, the Thunder front office could always have something up its sleeve.