The draft is done, the Thunder have their players. With so much talk of moving up, the excitement built to what seemed to be unrealistic expectations of what OKC could accomplish last night. In the end, they drafted a high potential center, and a project player late in the first round (along with a draft-and-stash in the second).
Was it a successful night? How good were the first round picks? Are the Thunder better next season? Should they have done more to move up?
1. Grade the Steven Adams pick.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: B. I had higher hopes and dreams, because that’s what having a lottery pick is all about. Especially with the information that the Thunder were attempting to move higher. But at the same time, the Thunder fill a future need with the best available big man in the draft, and one that could potentially bloom into a really nice player. Does he help right away? Probably not. But remember: This team won 60 games last season and had a great chance to return to the Finals before Russell Westbrook got hurt. The roster it returns already doesn’t need a whole lot. Adams doesn’t make them better tomorrow, but he certainly could in another year or two. Best case scenario, I think he could be similar to Joakim Noah, an elite pick-and-roll defender that is a high energy rebounder and intelligent, contributing offensive player without actually being good as offense. Worst case scenario, I think he’s a poor man’s Birdman, which really sounds absolutely awful, or maybe better termed, “Robert Swift.”
Michael Kimball, Daily Thunder: B. You can’t really go higher than a B for a guy who is going to spend the year in Tulsa — even if that would apply to just about everyone at this point in the draft. But the Thunder drafted a 7-footer with potential, so you can’t go much lower, either. The pick with perhaps the highest on-court ceiling would have been Shabazz Muhammad, but there’s certainly no harm in taking a guy who has the potential to be a solid center with a little bit of skill. Based on who was available, this was perhaps the most pragmatic pick on the board.
Tyler Parker, Ballerball: Call it a B+. The Western Conference, in its current form with Gasol, Randolph, Howard, etc., is one where you need bangers. Adams is big, has some length, and is already an elite talent defensively. As Chad Ford said, while he is a project, he’s one with upside. In a weak draft, I’ll take that at 13. Also, the guy looks like every dude-bro stereotype you’ve ever seen in any teen “The Biggest Moment Of This Film Will Happen At Prom While A Goo-Goo Dolls Song Plays In The Background” type movie. Like his name’s “Brock” or something and he’s throwing a big rager at his parents’ lake house afterwards. I’m all in on guys that look like they’d throw great great parties.
Young: C-. It’s not my favorite pick and I certainly said “What?” when his name was called. With other names like Jamal Franklin and Allen Crabbe available, it seemed curious the Thunder not only took Roberson, but moved up for him. Advanced stats loved him at Colorado, but he’s a raw project that will most likely spend next season entirely in Tulsa. There’s a lot of griping about this pick too, but late first round picks are crapshoots and you’re often trying to locate that diamond in the rough. A few years ago this franchise took a guy named Serge Ibaka that didn’t even play in the NBA his first season. I have a feeling if the Thunder would’ve picked Ibaka last night at 26, people would be furious. Have some patience and understand that the entire future of the organization doesn’t hinge on 2013.
Kimball: C. Maybe Sam Presti had an indication that Roberson wouldn’t have been available a few slots later where the Thunder were originally picking — at least, you’d think so, or else, why trade up? But this C grade doesn’t indicate I think the Thunder could have really done better based on who was available. In this case, C means average, just like it should. At this point in the draft, it’s a crapshoot. Most guys don’t end up being truly valuable, but some guys do. Roberson has as good a shot as anyone drafted near him to be a rotation player, and as good a shot as anyone drafted near him to be playing in Europe in four years.
Parker: C+. This one was strange. Trading up for it, even three spots, felt weird at the time and still does. He can rebound the ball and guard like crazy, yes, but offensively he’s not anything at all to write home about, and the Thunder are already flush with athletic, offensively limited tweener swingmen (Thabo, Brewer, Liggins). Even still, despite that, he’s a savant on the glass and the guy is athletic. He was the DPOY in the Pac-12 last season, averaged a cool 11 boards a game, and plays with a ton of energy. He did this to some poor kid from Cal, too. Presti, the all knowing omnipotent spectacled one, probably knows something we don’t.
3. True or false: The Thunder improved for next season.
Young: False. And that’s what’s making so many gripe I think. There’s this idea that because the Thunder didn’t move up that they completely threw away their chance at a championship next season, as if there was some player that was the perfect missing link to achieve that. The draft is an opportunity to improve, but not just for next season, but for multiple seasons. What player in this draft would’ve made OKC better right now? I loved Victor Oladipo for OKC, but not because of next season — but because of what I think his future would’ve looked like with the Thunder. There wasn’t a player in this draft that was going to take the Thunder to the next level and Presti knew that. So he stayed sensible and just added a little more talent to the cupboard.
Another thing: I continue to be baffled by this assumption by many that Jeremy Lamb is completely a lost cause simply because he didn’t play last season. I’ve even heard some say the Thunder should’ve taken Shabazz Muhammed at 12 as if he made them instantly the title favorite next season. If they like Lamb and anticipate he’ll play, then where does Muhammad fit exactly?
Kimball: False. But barring anything short of a seismic move by Presti, this was always going to be the case in a draft with few (if any) projected franchise players, and even that could have required a gamble nearly as big as trading James Harden because of what it would have taken to get one of the few instant impact players thought to be available this year. It was never my expectation that anyone taken in this draft would play meaningful minutes in the 2013-14 season. Reggie Jackson is the only post-James Harden player to get significant minutes as a rookie for the Thunder, and that took a torn ACL for Eric Maynor to happen.
Parker: False. I don’t think you can say they improved for next season when, barring injury, none of their picks would appear to be getting any burn in the 405 area code next year. They’ll be in the 918 trying to talk Skylar Diggins into checking out a Drillers game with them for the next year or so, I’d imagine. This is a stand pat and see where we are a couple years from now type of thing.
4. Bonus question: True or false: The Thunder should’ve gone all out to move up for [insert player].
Young: False. But with Oladipo apparently a possibility, I was leaning that way. I’ve attempted to find what offer the Thunder had on the table for No. 1 and haven’t been able to get a straight answer. Some chatter has it being the picks plus Ibaka, other has it being the picks plus Lamb and Jackson. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good enough to get it done. Even entertaining the idea that Oladipo or any player in this draft was worth Ibaka is completely insanity. If there was something sensible that didn’t hemorrhage too much of the roster, absolutely. But to sell out for any one player in this draft just wasn’t smart. And that’s why it didn’t happen.
Kimball: False. Just look at what Philadelphia had to give up to get the No. 6 pick and a free-falling Nerlens Noel — an All-Star point guard in Jrue Holiday. So what would the Thunder have had to give up to take someone like Victor Oladipo? Serge Ibaka? No thanks. If the Thunder could have given up something reasonable in order to get into the top few picks, it would have happened. Clearly, the price was too steep, so Presti was right in staying put.
Parker: True, Victor Oladipo. I’m a sucker for intense, competitive, athletic wing types that can finish strong at the rim and guard their position. Oladipo steps into the league as an elite defender and has the ability, if he improves on his jumper, to become a formidable offensive player as well. Dude’s got upside and he just competes. He could be the heir to Thabo’s defensive masterlock throne, and his robotic dance moves he debuted during the telecast last night were something to behold. Seemed like the type of guy that would’ve fit nicely into the environment the Thunder have established and, if singing is your thing, the guy can wail.