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Thunder Journal: My Final Big Board

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We are officially one week from Thunder fans’ Christmas, otherwise known as the NBA Draft.

To celebrate the upcoming big holiday, I have compiled my final 2022 Big Board. I’ve spent more time researching this year’s draft class over the past few months than Anthony Davis has spent in the gym. This Top 20 ranking, split into definite and distinguishable tiers, is the culmination of countless late nights watching YouTube highlights and scouting report videos, memorizing stats and physical measurements, and basically being a full on draft geek since before the days Zavier Simpson’s hook shot became a staple feature of the Thunder offense.

Before we get to the rankings, a big shout out to GM Sam Presti for trading the #30 pick to the Denver Nuggets for JaMychal Green and a 2027 first rounder. Not only was it a good trade for OKC, but now I can stop pretending like I know diddly squat about the players at the bottom of the first round. I focused all my time on any player the Thunder might possibly pick with the #2 and #12 picks, so I could present to you a well-researched Top 20 instead of a shoddy and misinformed Top 58.

Tier 1: The Stars

1. Chet Holmgren

2. Jabari Smith, Jr.

3. Paolo Banchero

4. Jaden Ivey

Yeah yeah, Chet needs to eat some cheeseburgers. He’s a twig. He looks like the used car inflatable tube man. But that’s pretty much the only argument against him. I can’t help but feel like the Orlando Magic might be doing the Thunder a big favor if they let a 7’1 big with guard skills, a smooth jumper, elite defensive potential and the highest upside in the class fall to #2. If OKC ends up with Jabari or Banchero, though, it’ll be very easy to talk ourselves into either one being the best player in the draft. And despite not necessarily needing another guard, Ivey on the Thunder would bring that Russell Westbrook electricity back to Loud City. I can’t get behind drafting Ivey at #2, but trading down to #4 and picking up the Kings’ 2023 first rounder? I wouldn’t prefer it… but I wouldn’t hang up the phone.

Tier 2: The Trade Up Targets

5. Shaedon Sharpe

6. Dyson Daniels

7. Keegan Murray

8. Bennedict Mathurin

There’s been a lot of buzz about OKC hoping to package pick #12 with a current player and/or future picks to move up over the past few days. If Presti pulls it off, each player in this tier makes sense. Sharpe is the mystery box with the enormous superstar upside and risky no-tape downside, Daniels is an elite defender and skilled playmaker with superb athleticism, Murray is this year’s Franz Wagner and Mathurin is an athletic, jumbo guard scorer.

Tier 3: The “Happy If They Fall to 12 But Don’t Trade Up For Them” Guys

9. AJ Griffin

10. Johnny Davis

11. Jeremy Sochan

12. Jalen Duren

Each of these players have been hyped as Top 10 picks throughout the draft process. Each has definite strengths that would be exciting for Thunder fans, but each also has definite weaknesses that would worry the Oklahoma City faithful. Griffin’s shooting is possibly the best in the draft, but his medical history, reduced athleticism and defense are big red flags. Davis is a legitimate two way player who can get buckets on one end and use his nonstop motor to stop buckets on the other end, but his efficiency and three point shooting give me Dion Waiters vibes. Sochan may be the best and most versatile defender in the class and has true passing skills as a point forward, much like Scottie Barnes last year. But his shooting, both from deep and from the line, are more like Scottie Howard before the moon comes out. Duren is a young, athletic bodybuilder wearing a basketball jersey who will block shots, anchor a defense and catch lobs on a loop from Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But can teams in this era afford to draft traditional non-shooting centers in the lottery?

Tier 4: The “Fine, Meh, Solid Pick At 12” Guys

13. Malaki Branham

14. Ousmane Dieng

15. Tari Eason

16. Jalen Williams

Branham could be one of the best scorers in the class, but he could also be one of the worst defenders. Dieng is the new Presti prototype with tremendous upside, but he’s another raw project swing. Eason’s scoring is underrated and he rivals Sochan as the class’s best big-bodied wing defender. But unlike the Baylor forward, Tari uses more instinct and ferocity than discipline and fundamentals. Williams is the draft’s biggest riser over the last few weeks because his combine showed that the big numbers on a small school may have been no fluke.

Tier 5: The “Ugh, Feels Like a Reach But Presti Has Earned Our Trust” Guys

17. Ochai Agbaji

18. TyTy Washington

19. Mark Williams

20. Jaden Hardy

Just please don’t, Sammy.

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