Thunder Journal: 2018 NBA Draft Redeux: Who Goes at Two?natashapanchal.com

Thunder Journal: 2018 NBA Draft Redeux: Who Goes at Two?

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Where would Shai Gilgeous-Alexander be picked in a reimagining of the 2018 NBA Draft?

The question has been bouncing around my brain the last few days because of the Thunder’s schedule.

OKC just played a Hawks and Nuggets back to back home double header, headlined by Trae Young and co-starring Michael Porter Jr., two of the breakout stars of SGA’s draft class.

OKC’s next game is against the Mavericks on Wednesday night, and of course that game will feature the biggest superzvezdnik of them all, Luka Doncic.

In a three game stretch, the Thunder will face off against three players who join SGA to make up four of of the top five or six players in what was at the time widely regarded as one of the most talented draft classes in recent memory. The past two and a half years has only strengthened the notion of 2018’s strength.

Before I do my best David Kahn impression, let’s review the original 2018 draft lottery results:

  1. Deandre Ayton. Teams have and always will be fascinated by skilled 7 footers. See: Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Aleksej Pokusevski.
  2. Marvin Bagley III. Dealt with so many injuries during his short career, but he does seem top 10 good yet not top 2 good when he does play.
  3. Luka Doncic. The only team dumber than the Suns and Kings for not drafting Luka are the Hawks for drafting Luka… and trading him away.
  4. Jaren Jackson Jr. Looks like he could be a star if he could stay healthy.
  5. Trae Young. I love Trae, you love Trae, everyone loves Trae. And I get why the Hawks traded down two spots to get another 1st rounder. But 30 out of 30 teams would rather have Luka than Trae and Cam Reddish.
  6. Mo Bamba. He wouldn’t sniff #6 in a redraft, and he may end up being a bust, but I still want Sam Presti to throw the Magic Mike (hehe) Muscala and a 2nd rounder to see if they’d bite. If Mark Daigneault can make Kenrich Williams and Isaiah Roby legit rotation players, what can he do with 7 feet and 9 inches of lottery wingspan?
  7. Wendell Carter Jr. There’s a world in which Billy Donovan leaves the Thunder for an opportunity to coach Zach Lavine and SGA.
  8. Collin Sexton. The Netslayer has looked like a rising star this season, a Shai Lite.
  9. Kevin Knox. Oof. Remember all those 2018 Summer League highlights? Remember any highlights since? Hamidou Diallo was drafted 36 spots later and New York would happily include NBA legend Cash Considerations with Knox to make that swap now. Sorry, I shouldn’t knick him when he’s down.
  10. Mikal Bridges. Imagine being a Suns fan and knowing you could have had SGA, who went one spot later. It’d be almost as bad as being a Thunder fan and drafting Cameron Payne one spot after Devin Booker was selected.
  11. SGA. Imagine several of the best scouts in the world spending a year evaluating talent and coming to the conclusion there were 10 better players in this draft than Shai.
  12. Miles Bridges. What are the chances that a Miles Bridges and a Mikal Bridges would be drafted two spots apart in the same NBA Draft? That’s some Three Identical Strangers level craziness. I’ll be honest, I had to google them to remember which Mi. Bridges was which.
  13. Jerome Robinson. Jerome is so happy that Mo and Kevin were in his draft class.
  14. Michael Porter Jr. In hindsight, allowing MPJ to fall this far because of health concerns seems really stupid. At the time, allowing MPJ to fall this far because of health concerns seemed… really stupid.

First off, Luka is first off the board. Doncic is the undisputed, consensus #1 pick even in a Hawks 2018 fantasy draft. While he hasn’t quite lived up to his preseason MVP hype, he’s still a top 10 player in the NBA at 22 years old.

The #2 overall pick is when things get fun for fans of Oklahoma City hoops. With apologies to Ayton, who has undoubtedly been a dominant force and played a key role in the Suns’ shining this season, the silver medal position belongs to either the kid who was born, raised and became a household name in the 405, or the kid who traveled from Canada to Kentucky to Los Angeles and settled down for at least seven years in the 405. We’ll let a Grizzlies or Nuggets blog debate which junior, Jaren Jackson or Michael Porter, rounds out the top five.

Trae vs. Shai, two one’s from the same draft class with OKC ties seem tied at two. Let’s break out the tale of the tape to dismantle the draw.

Young is younger by two months. Gilgeous-Alexander is taller by five inches. Trae has an All Star selection and zero playoff appearances in a weak East. Shai has zero All Star selections and two playoff appearances in a stacked West. The former Sooner has the better supporting cast with John Collins, Clint Capela, Danilo Gallinari, Cam Reddish, and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Yet the former Wildcat has the head to head win and an identical record. Trae puts up more points. Shai scores more efficiently. Trae’s style is flashy and fun. Shai’s style is subtle and smooth. Trae averages more assists to better teammates. Shai averages more rebounds from teammates’ misses.

Trae’s calling card has been his elite 3 point shooting ability. One of the knocks on Shai has been the slow release on his 3 point shot limiting his effectiveness from distance. Shai has been better shooting treys than Trae this season and for their careers.

Shai is an average defender. Trae’s defense makes Shai look like the defensive lovechild of Andre Roberson and Lu Dort.

Trae has regressed from last season despite the Hawks going all in to surround him with a playoff cast of characters. Shai has improved from last season despite the Thunder going all out to surround him with a Cade Cunningham.

Trae is mocked for his locks. Nobody minds Shai’s drip.

It’s not the popular opinion because highlights and spotlights take reputation precedence over efficiency and advanced statistics, but give me Shai over Trae yesterday, tomorrow and today.

The Atlanta Hawks picked third in the 2018 draft, traded down, and still ended up with the third best player.

The Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t have a pick until the second half of the second round but still ended up with the second best player.

Notes:

  • #1 vs #2, Texas vs Oklahoma. It won’t happen in college football anytime soon (lolnghorns) but the 2018 NBA draft edition tips off Wednesday night at 7:30pm.

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