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Thunder Journal: Lottery Scenarios

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We are exactly one week away from the biggest night of the season for OKC fans: the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery.

Next Tuesday’s ten minutes of bouncing ping pong balls will heavily impact the next ten years for the Oklahoma City Thunder. There’s a good chance the Thunder will add a top five blue chip talent next to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. And there is just as good a chance OKC will miss out on one of the unanimous top five star-tier players. There’s a tiny chance OKC could add two top five players to the young core. And there’s an astronomical chance OKC’s own pick ends up two spots lower than last year’s horrid result, and the Clippers’ pick ends up the last spot in the lottery.

So with an unpredictable grab-bag of potential pick results, let’s dive into four Thunder outcomes.

THE DREAM

The result: OKC scores picks #1 and #2

The odds: .28%

The players: Pfft. If the Thunder are selecting two of Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Jr., Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey and Shaedon Sharpe, just close your eyes and pick any couple names from a hat so Sam Presti and the entire Thunder fanbase can start planning the parade. Let’s just say OKC drafts the near-consensus top two projected players, Holmgren and Jabari. That’s the supposedly fictional rebuild acceleration button Presti alluded to a few weeks ago.

THE NIGHTMARE

The result: OKC’s pick falls to #8 and LAC’s pick drops to #14.

The odds: .001%

The players: Maybe Sharpe falls to 6. Maaybe he falls to 7. But it’s hard to fathom the much-buzzed #1 prospect in his high school class falling all the way to 8. With all the star-tier players off the board, OKC will pick the best remaining player of Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin and Jalen Duren. At #14, the Thunder would be lucky if either 6’8 defensive savant with offensive upside–Tari Eason or Dyson Daniels–are available. If they’re gone, Presti is picking between Malaki Branham, Ousmane Dieng, Jeremy Socha, Ochai Agbaji or Mark Williams. Yeah, yeah, the chances are infinitesimal. But Thunder fans have reason not to trust any ping pong balls sticking to the pre-planned percentages. 

THE OPTIMISTIC REALIST

The result: OKC lands one top-5 pick and pick #12.

The odds: 58.4%

The players: It’s fun to fantasize about Ivey and Banchero balling together in Loud City. It’s agonizing to stress about AJ Griffin’s worrisome knees representing OKC’s best pick following a second straight tank season. But this reasonable but still resoundingly successful result gives OKC the chance to pick one of the five rookies with superstar upside, and then another rookie with top ten type talent. Imagine the athleticism of Sharpe or Ivey combined with Duren. Imagine the defense of Holmgren combined with Daniels. Imagine the overall game of Paolo combined with Eason. Imagine the shooting of Jabari combined with Agbaji or Branham. You may say I’m a dreamer, but the odds are better than one-to-one.

THE MOST LIKELY

The result: OKC drafts at #6 and #12.

The odds: 22.76%

The players: When people read that it’s most likely OKC picks at #6 and #12, it’s disheartening. Thankfully, it’s also misleading. This just means of all the combinations, this is the one single outcome with the largest percentage. Yikes. But there’s a 77.24% chance it doesn’t happen. Yay. And hey, OKC ended up with #6 and #18 last year; I don’t think anyone in Bricktown is complaining about Josh Giddey and Tre Mann. The hope here would be that Presti would dip into his arsenal of assets and move up to secure one of those star-tier players. Maybe the team at #5 isn’t sold on Sharpe and he falls, or they’re willing to trade down. Maybe a top three team isn’t sold on any of the bigs and is willing to move down a few spots for the right price. But if OKC stays and neither Sharpe nor Ivey fall, then Murray or Mathurin are the odds-on favorites here. But hey, we were all convinced OKC was selecting Jonathan Kuminga or James Bouknight last year. So let’s be honest: none of us really know anything, and predictions like these are really just a way to waste pass the time until draft day.

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