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OKC landed the #2 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and the Thunder fanbase is the most hyped they’ve been since Russell Westbrook hit that logo game winner versus the Nuggets. But with a great pick comes great responsibility to make the right choice. The Thunder have the chance to land a franchise altering centerpiece and it’s sparked a big debate.
I’ll do my best to answer the most frequently asked Thunder draft questions.
Who should the Thunder draft: Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Jr. or Paolo Banchero?
This is the question on every single Thunder and Magic fan’s mind. The honest answer is that nobody knows. I’ve watched every post-lottery mock draft video and even the likes of Kevin O’Connor, Sam Vecenie, Matt Pennie, Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo go back and forth on each of the three bigs. The one consensus is that Chet, Jabari and Paolo are the three best players in the 2022 Draft and a team can’t go wrong with any of them.
But that’s a fence-straddling answer. Let me try again. If Orlando drafts Holmgren, I think OKC should select Smith. If Orlando drafts Smith, I think OKC should select Holmgren. If Orlando drafts Banchero, I think OKC should pick… ugh this is HARD… fine, Holmgren. Ask me tomorrow and we’ll spin the wheel again.
What are the differences between Jabari, Paolo and Chet?
You’d think there’d be a lot of similarities given the top three prospects are bigs. Nope. The trio couldn’t be more different.
Jabari can shoot from distance and play defense, but he can’t create his own shot nor finish at the rim. Paolo can create his own shot and finish at the rim, but he has questionable shooting from distance and defense. Chet can shoot better than Paolo but not as good as Jabari, he can create his own shot better than Jabari but not as good as Paolo, can finish at the rim much better than Jabari and a bit better than Paolo, and can play better overall defense than both Jabari and Paolo. Chet needs to go on the Steven Adams diet and eat a million calories a day, Jabari needs go on the Brandon college diet to add the freshman 15, and Paolo is rolling in looking like a rookie Rambo.
Is there any chance Oklahoma City doesn’t draft one of the top three consensus players?
Sam Presti mentioned during his pre-Lottery Draft presser that OKC’s board is never consensus-based. That said, we know his favorite player last year was Evan Mobley and that his favorite player the year before was LaMelo Ball. So it’s not like he’s out here about to draft Bennedict Mathurin with the #2 pick. While the Thunder’s board may differ a bit from most, there’s a reason why every mock draft from every draft analyst on the planet has Banchero, Holmgren and Jabari in some order as their top three. And the whole reason OKC is rebuilding is to eventually land a top three pick. This is their chance. The only way I see the Thunder not going with one of those guys is if Presti believes Shaedon Sharpe is actually the best player in the draft, trades down a couple spots, picks up a small fortune in assets and still lands his favorite player.
Who should OKC take at #12?
The popular picks on Thunder social media seem to be Mark Williams, Jeremy Sochan or Ousmane Dieng. Any of those would be a fine selection. Williams is a young, shot-blocking true center with a Reed Richards standing reach, Sochan may be the best defender in the draft and Dieng is a raw, long prospect with huge upside.
None of the above are my personal preference. It may be a pipe dream, but I hope Dyson Daniels falls to 12. He’s an elite, athletic defender and a great playmaker with high IQ and offensive upside. I may still be dreaming, but I think there’s a chance Jalen Duren may be there as well. If neither dream comes true, I’d happily take Tari Eason.
Any chance OKC trades up from #12?
Absolutely. This is Sam Presti with his plethora of picks we’re talking about here, including three in the first round just this year. If there’s a player that falls in that 7-10 range that OKC really wants, the Thunder have the ammo to go get him.
Should OKC make their decision this year based on Victor Wembanyama next year?
Absolutely not. Wemby is the most hyped prospect since… Zion? Anthony Davis? LeBron? OKC would obviously love to land a complete franchise changer like him. But even if the Thunder had the worst record in the NBA next season, they’d only have a 14% chance of landing Wembanyama. And OKC would have to execute the tankiest season of all-time to get a roster with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort and one of Holmgren/Banchero/Jabari to end up with a bottom three record. The Thunder have been rebuilding just for a chance to hopefully end up with a top 2 pick. Presti won’t base his premium pick on a 14% at best shot to land Wembanyama a year from now.