Three options as I see it for the Thunder with the 12th pick that they earned last night:
1) Trade up: The Thunder have three picks in this draft (two first, one second), plus a couple future ones (their own, the protected Dallas pick). They also have intriguing young talent in Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III and Reggie Jackson. The pieces are there to cobble together an intriguing trade package and with a lot of executives not sold on the top tier talent in this draft, if the Thunder wanted to move up, it seems the opportunity could be there.
There’s growing buzz that the Thunder are going to explore trading up. My guess as to what they’re after would be a player like Ben McLemore, a Bradley Beal-ish smooth shooting guard. The Thunder of course were enthralled with Beal last season, reportedly twice trying to get him. A lot of mocks have Beal going as high as No. 1 overall and as low as No. 4 overall , with most settling at No. 2 to Orlando. That’s quite a leap, especially since the Magic are likely going to be excited about McLemore, a player that fills a need in a lot of ways.
The only other player I see OKC having enough interest in to move up would be Victor Oladipo. Thabo Sefolosha’s deal expires after next season and Oladipo is kind of the perfect Thunder prospect. Intelligent, tough, hard working and has lots of room to improve. He’s a heady, gritty defender that has a knack for making plays. His offensive game needs some work, but he’s the kind of player that seems poised to blossom.
Maybe they like seven-footer Alex Len, who has risen into the top eight in a lot of projections. Really, those are the only three I can see, unless they feel like Nerlens Noel could slip past No. 1.
But again, if the Thunder are moving in to the top six, they’re going to likely have to part ways with Lamb. And probably Jones. Hypothetical scenario, and I realize the Magic probably say no to this deal: OKC deals Lamb (and Jones, maybe), the No. 12 pick and the No. 29 pick to move up for McLemore. They sign Kevin Martin (or J.J. Redick) to a one-year deal for however much money, basically replaying last season but swapping McLemore for Lamb, sending him to Tulsa and developing him on the end of the bench. Sound good?
One issue I have with that, though: I kind of think Jeremy Lamb could be really good and dealing him feels a little scary to me.
2) Trade out: It really doesn’t make much sense for the Thunder to trade down, so I’m ruling that option out. But they could trade out completely of the first round. Whether it’s for a potentially lottery pick next season or a quality veteran, the Thunder could move their pick. Maybe in a sign-and-trade situation. I don’t get the sense this scenario is very likely, though.
3) Use it. Of course you have to canvas the league and see what possibilities are out there and if there’s something that makes sense, you go for it. But to move up, you have to give things up. And while the Thunder really don’t need that 29th overall pick or that 32nd overall pick, again, in order to jump a few spots they’d probably have to include a young asset like Lamb, Jones or Jackson. Not worth it to me. But that’s mainly because I think Lamb has a whole bunch of offensive upside and I’d almost place Jackson on the untouchable list. (I think he’s that good.)
I kind of look at it this way: If the Thunder are thinking big, and there’s a player in the 12-16 range they like — like possibly Gorgui Dieng or Rudy Gobert — then there’s not a lot of reason to trade up. There’s one apparent big elite talent in Nerlens Noel. After that, there’s not really a top tier big man in this draft that couldn’t potentially fall to 12 anyway.
So like I said, it’s either going for a home run Harden replacement in McLemore or Oladipo (or Shabazz Muhammad, if you’re feeling crazy), or you stand pat and take your favorite available big guy at No. 12. Let’s say the latter happens, which I think is the most likely scenario. Who do the mocks and big boards have available in the 12-20 range?
Draft Express: Kelly Olynyk, Michael Carter-Williams, Dennis Schroder, Sergey Karasev, Steven Adams, Mason Plumlee, Jamaal Franklin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Gorgui Dieng
CBSSports.com: Kelly Olynyk, Shabazz Muhammad, Shane Larkin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rudy Gobert, Jamal Franklin, Mason Plumlee, Giannis Adetokundo, Allen Crabbe,
SI.com: Dario Saric, Michael Carter-Williams, Jamaal Franklin, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee, Dennis Schroeder, Tony Mitchell, Steven Adams
ESPN.com: Steven Adams, Dario Saric, Shabazz Muhammad, Allen Crabbe, Dennis Schroeder, Mason Plumlee, Jamaal Franklin, Rudy Gobert, Gorgui Dieng
NBADraft.net: Dennis Schroeder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Carter-Williams, Steven Adams, Shabazz Muhammad, Mason Plumlee, Lucas Nogueira, Tony Snell, Giannis Adetokundo
NBA.com: Kelly Olynyk, C.J. McCollum, Dennis Schroeder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rudy Gobert, Dario Saric, Gorgui Dieng, Sergey Karasev, Jeff Withey
Sporting News: Rudy Gobert, Michael Carter-Williams, Dennis Schroeder, Shabazz Muhammad, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Jamaal Franklin
SB Nation: Gorgui Dieng, Dennis Schroeder, C.J. McCollum, Sergey Karasev, Tony Mitchell, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee, Reggie Bullock, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The consensus in that range seems to be: Olynyk, Carter-Williams, Caldwell-Pope, Steven Adams, Mason Plumlee and Dennis Schroeder. But again, my feeling is if the Thunder keep their pick, they’re taking a big. So it’s more Olynyk, Adams, Plumlee, Dieng, and Gobert. And maybe possibly Cody Zeller.
The Thunder’s big man situation isn’t as deep as it might seem on paper (not to mention very good). The Thunder don’t have a great history with drafting bigs (hello, Cole Aldrich) and there’s always the unknown of Tibor Pleiss who is performing well in Spain currently. Or there’s the fact the league is moving a bit more towards smallball and speed, so Serge Ibaka may end up being OKC’s starting center of the future. But still, finding a capable big on a rookie scale deal is priceless in the NBA. And picking at 12 is an open invitation to take a young big man and let him develop. For instance, Gorgui Dieng, who early on, I’m pretty intrigued by.
(Aside: It’s funny how everyone is totally cool with “development” right now. But I promise you next season when OKC’s pick is sent down to Tulsa, people are going to be griping and calling the player a bust. It’s a guarantee. You wait.)
What Presti has right now is flexibility and options. Which is really all he ever wanted with that Harden trade. The 12th pick isn’t as high as I think he hoped it would be, but with assets and young talent, the Thunder at least have an opportunity to explore a bit. Will they move around, do they already have someone in mind at 12? More than a month to speculate and talk about it before we find out. Oh boy.