Are the Thunder looking at doing something massively drastic Thursday night? Something seemingly very un-Thunder?
Well, maybe. According to Bradley Beal.
The Florida sharpshooter told ESPN.com that the Thunder have told him they are exploring options to move up in the draft to get him.
Beal told ESPN.com Wednesday that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti told him during an interview in Chicago that he was interested in trying to move up to draft him. The Thunder’s first-round pick isn’t until No. 28.
“He told me he was going to decide what they’re going to do and considered getting up there,” Beal said.
It’s a hunch, but I’m thinking Beal isn’t going to fall to 28. If the Thunder are to land him, it would have to come via a fairly dramatic trade. One most likely involving James Harden. That scenario actually isn’t anything new, as a report from Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com actually mentioned OKC dealing Harden to Charlotte for the No. 2 pick.
Obviously Beal has interest in playing for the Thunder, as he told ESPN.com.
“I’ve heard it a lot,” Beal said of the Thunder scenario. “It’s really interesting. I would love to play with Kevin Durant. (Russell) Westbrook, great point guard. Just the whole team. It’s young; I would love to play with a young team. They play fast. I’d love to get up and down, shoot the ball. Overall, whatever situation I land in I’ll be happy.”
So how serious is this? Consider this part from Andy Katz of ESPN.com:
Still, Presti has seriously considered finding a way to get to Beal. A number of sources said that Presti spent three days in Gainesville during the lockout watching the Gators practice, a fact that Beal confirmed Wednesday.
A source also said that Florida coach Billy Donovan met with Presti in Dallas when he took his two nephews to the Oklahoma City-Dallas first-round playoff series in May. Presti and Donovan have had multiple conversations on the phone about Beal, as well.
A source with direct knowledge of the situation said, “Oklahoma City exhausted every opportunity on campus to find out everything they could find out about Beal. They’ve done everything they can.”
My feeling? It’s all smoke and mirrors. That’s how most of this draft stuff works. And it’s just so hard for me to picture the Thunder moving Harden now, when they’re guaranteed another season with him already. This scenario seems a lot more plausible a year from now, if the Thunder feel there’s no way to keep the entire core together. But why make such a major move now, rather than wait until it’s actually necessary?
By moving up to grab Beal though, the Thunder could essentially solve a lot of those luxury tax questions and open the door to extending the life span of a young core a few years more. But that’s operating under the assumption that Beal is anything close to the player James Harden is, that he’ll fit in between Westbrook and Durant and that he can contribute early. Because the Thunder expect to contend again next season. Trading Harden would signal a step back, unless Beal is a super rookie.
Besides, I’m of the mind that if the Thunder choose between Ibaka and Harden, Ibaka will be the one to go, not Harden.
With Presti and the Thunder though, it’s hard to really ever put a finger on what they’re doing or thinking. Just when it’s all making sense, wham, they change directions. But this move is not one that I’d support and would signal the Thunder franchise isn’t as well equipped to handle a big time roster and maybe we’d hoped. It would essentially say that the luxury tax is a major deterrent for the Thunder and anything even sniffing it means a massive blow up. That’s not a good thing for an organization that wants to build a core that can grow together. It basically says, “Yep, we’re poor.”
But as is with the draft, there’s a lot of talk, a lot of chatter. Bradley Beal isn’t hurting his stock by saying the Thunder are interested. With so much respect for Presti’s drafting ability, just saying OKC is trying to get him might inspire another GM to grab him higher than otherwise thought.
Are the Thunder planning something major? I don’t know and I seriously doubt it, but Thursday night just got a little more interesting in Oklahoma City.