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By now, every tankathon obsessed Thunder fan is well acquainted with the crème de la top five crème of the 2021 NBA Draft.
And while OKC has a better than 75% chance of landing at least one pick in the blue chip tier of the upcoming class, the one in four possibility of the nightmare scenario remains that the Thunder’s best pick will be either #6 or #7.
So outside of Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga, who is the top talent the Thunder should select if the ping pong balls end up being a bunch of bouncy baddies?
Here’s the best of the rest of the 2021 NBA Draft:
Scottie Barnes. Close to a consensus #6 pick, the 19 year old from Florida State is an elite athlete, an elite defender and a highly regarded playmaker. Barnes is a GM’s dream come true as a 6’9” forward who boasts a 7’2” wingspan, which along with his competitiveness and fiery play style gives him the ability of playing 3 through 5. He’s been compared to Draymond Green, but without the Kiwi crotch kicks. Unfortunately, Barnes also shoots like Draymond. The lack of a jumper is his only weakness and with the new Sam Presti model of player, maybe the only reason OKC passes on him. Ironic given Barnes is the prototypical Thunder draft pick circa 2014.
Moses Moody. The complete opposite of Barnes, Moses is a good shooter and scorer but lacks explosion, strength and playmaking skills. Still, he’s a positive defender and projects to have the floor of a solid 3&D player. But as one of the draft’s best pure scoring wings and with ideal size and length, Moody is one of the best bets outside of the top five to reach star status. Moody instantly becomes the Thunder’s best Moses.
Jalen Johnson. The biggest mystery, risk/reward, boom/bust in the draft. In some mocks, Johnson is taken with the #6 overall pick. In others, he is drafted in the mid 20’s. The good: he is almost as talented as the other two much more highly touted Jalen’s in his class. The bad: he ditched Duke and Coach K midway through his freshman season. Johnson’s motor and commitment to basketball is a big question mark. The former five star recruit’s NBA ready size, athleticism and skill are not.
Davion Mitchell. The star of this year’s March Madness tournament, Mitchell was an absolute terror on both sides of the ball as he led Baylor on a surprise national championship run. If you watched the title game against Gonzaga, you’d assume that Davion, not Suggs, was the consensus top five pick in that matchup. Davion defends like a dinky Dort. And D. Mitchell scores like, well, D. Mitchell. He’s a tenacious, fiery leader with a high basketball IQ who makes his teammates better. Mitchell’s only drawbacks are his size and his age. It’s hard to imagine Presti picking a 6’2” 22 year old since that goes against everything he believes in, but it’s hard not to be a believer in little old man Mitchell.
Keon Johnson. I just don’t see any way the Thunder select Keon Johnson and his 27.1% shooting from 3 despite his prowess as a defender and potential as a two way player. If OKC drafts a high level defender with offensive upside in the top 10, it’ll be Kuminga or Barnes. But I’m begrudgingly including Keon here because he’s consistently mocked in the first 8 picks, which just so happens to be the lowest OKC’s own pick can possibly drop.
Josh Giddey. My favorite non-top 5 prospect in the draft. The 18 year old has become the Russell Westbrook of Australia, notching triple doubles on the regular. A ridiculous 6’8” point guard with flashy passing skills and prodigious court vision, Giddey is dominating the same league soon to be Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball crushed last season. While he’s just a borderline top 10 pick at this point, his unicorn size and skill mashup has Josh flying up draft boards. Giddey checks all the boxes of the new era of OKC hoops prototypical draftee: youth, size, smarts, length, shooting, playmaking, ball handling, can play multiple positions. Thunder fans would go giddy for Giddey.
The dream jackpot scenario is that OKC ends up with two top 5 picks. And the good news is, the odds say it’s as likely that happens as the nightmare darkest timeline of zero top 5 picks. But even if the Thunder miss out on a supposed can’t miss top talent, all the players listed above are a great worst-case scenario.