The Thunder might be trying to magically turn James Harden into this year’s No. 1 overall pick.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, the Thunder are among a couple of teams that are being “proactive” about trying to move into the top slot.
The Cavs continue to mull their options at No. 1.
They are engaged in trade talks with a number of teams. Sources say the Thunder, Timberwolves and Blazers have been the most proactive in trying to get the No. 1 pick — but so far neither team has persuaded the Cavs to move out of the top pick.
The Cavs have narrowed down their list of prospects, according to sources, and it looks like it may ultimately come down to a battle between Kentucky’s Noel and Maryland’s Alex Len. I’m still persuaded, though not convinced, that it will be Noel.
The Cavs are said to have been actively shopping the top pick and are looking to trade back in exchange for some veteran help. So there are two questions: 1) What can the Thunder give and 2) who could the Thunder be targeting?
With Ford reporting the Magic would target Noel at No. 2, it would seem OKC has its eyes on the Kentucky big man. If it’s Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo the Thunder are after, rising all the way to No. 1 doesn’t seem all that necessary as either one could be available at No. 3, 4 or 5.
There’s another chance it could be Alex Len, the seven-footer from Maryland. The Cavs have been said to be interested in him, but again, if it’s him OKC wants, there could be a chance to take him a little further down the line. Noel really appears to be the only prospect the No. 1 pick is absolutely necessary for.
All indications I’ve received is that the Thunder are most interested in drafting a big man and with the pool of bigs at No. 12 seeming to be a bit of a crapshoot between Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Cody Zeller and others, both Len and especially Noel have been set apart from the rest. So if the Thunder want to go big, they’re trying to get the best big available, especially considering the talent down the line is less than exciting. It only makes sense to try and move up.
So, what would it take to move to No. 1? First, the No. 12 and No. 29 picks, clearly. But with that, likely one of either Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones or maybe even Reggie Jackson. The Cavs spent a top five pick on Dion Waiters last year, so it’s hard to see why they’d want Lamb. They have Kyrie Irving, so Jackson wouldn’t be anything more than a sixth man. Jones would be a very good fit to boost their athleticism up front, but he’s not exactly the most valuable asset in the world.
The Cavs understand it’s unlikely they’re going to draft a starter for their current roster. Tristan Thompson is set to be their future 4, Anderson Varejao is an elite 5 (when healthy) and really the only hole they have is at shooting guard. So if they’re drafting bench help with the top pick, can they do better taking Otto Porter or McLemore or someone else over Lamb, Jones or Jackson?
With this draft being called average to weak by most, ask yourself this: Where would Jeremy Lamb go if he had gone back to college one more season and was in this draft? He was taken No. 12 last year in what was assumed to be a quality draft, so with his talent, it’s safe to say he’d probably have been a top eight pick. So he has serious value, at least when being shopped against other prospects.
Don’t get your hopes up, though. Teams holding the No. 1 pick always “shop” it around but almost always end up using it themselves. It’s hard to deal the top pick and feel like you got acceptable value in return. The Cavs notoriously have been active the past few years around draft time, but how many deals have they gotten done? Pre-draft rumors are almost all smoke and mirrors. And with three days to go until names start getting called by David Stern, we’re at our most smoky and reflective times.
Still: Thursday just got a little more interesting in OKC.