Thunder Journal: The Thunder’s Top-5

Thunder Journal: The Thunder’s Top-5

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The Thunder have lost 13 games in a row, and as most every OKC fan knows, taking all these lumps is for a greater good. And that greater good comes in the form of teaming budding All Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with another franchise cornerstone, blue chip talent from the top five of the 2021 NBA Draft. 

Whereas most drafts have one or two prospects considered elite, can’t miss talents who can turn the tide on a rebuilding team, this year’s crop of rookies boasts five such players. Almost every analysis of the Thunder this season is tagged with the notion of landing one (or two, c’mon Rockets coin flip!) of these supposed stars. Since we’ve heard the names ad nauseam, let’s actually get to know these guys and find out how they would pair with OKC’s in-house future superstar.

Cade Cunningham

Age: 19
Position: Point guard/shooting guard
College: Oklahoma State
Height: 6’8”
Weight: 220 pounds
Wingspan: 7’0”
Strengths: Shooting. Passing. IQ. Unselfish. Great size and length. Defends multiple positions. Driving and finishing. Good athlete.
Weaknesses: Ummm. I got nothing. And that is why he’s the consensus #1 overall pick. 

The idea of a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Cade Cunningham pairing is positively mouth-watering for Thunder fans. It’s the dream combo of combo guards with 7 foot wingspans possessing high hoops smarts and unselfish playstyles who can handle, shoot, pass, drive and switch 1-3 both offensively and defensively. If OKC were somehow charmed enough to cop Cade, the Thunder very possibly would have two young future All Star guards going into season two of the rebuild. The lottery draft would make for a 100% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes season one finale.

Evan Mobley

Age: 19
Position: Center
College: Southern California
Height: 7’0”
Weight: 215 pounds
Wingspan: 7’4”
Strengths: Elite defense, both on ball and as a help defender. Elite post scoring. IQ. Passing. Handles. Potential to shoot from mid-range and from 3. Rare true two-way center.
Weaknesses: At the moment, his body looks less like Steven Aquaman and more like Aleksej Pokuman.

While Shai and Cade is the dream duo, an SGA and Mobley tandem would be a nightmare… for opposing teams. The Thunder could bookend the starting five by pairing positions 1 and 5 with potentially elite young stars. We’ve never seen SGA play with a big with the athleticism and scoring versatility of someone like Mobley, and the two may unlock powers nobody knew they had in them. Centers have less value than ever in the NBA, unless you’re a Jokic, Embiid, KAT or Davis. And the Mobley mob is convinced the Trojan is the best big man prospect since those All Stars entered the league.

Jalen Suggs

Age: 19
Position: Point guard/shooting guard
College: Gonzaga
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 205 pounds
Wingspan: 6’5.5”
Strengths: Athleticism. Playmaking. Defense. Handle. IQ. Fiery leader. Finishing at the rim. Fearless. Feel for the game. Potentially elite two-way player.
Weaknesses: Streaky shooter. But hitting 35.4% from long distance is like answering “I’m a perfectionist” as your weakness in a job interview.

While most draft analysts have Cunningham and Mobley as the clear cut top two prospects, Suggs has emerged as the definite third man. Some experts’ mock drafts have him leapfrogging Mobley. If his 3-point shot were more consistent, he’d stand toe to toe with Cade. Shai and Suggs could be an ideal backcourt because of the incoming rookie’s ability as a high level defender. Jalen could lock down the best opposing guard while being a top notch offensive Robin to SGA’s high scoring Batman. Suggs’ height might have seemed to make a three headed SGA-Suggs-Dort lineup a bad fit, but last year’s best-in-the-NBA SGA-CP3-Schroder lineup suggests otherwise.

Jalen Green

Age: 19
Position: Shooting guard
NBA G League Ignite
Height: 6’6”
Weight: 178 pounds
Wingspan: 6’7.5”
Strengths: Shooting. Scoring. Athleticism. Size and length. Human highlight reel. 
Weaknesses: Needs to improve as a passer. Thin frame. Handle could be tighter. Relies on speed and athleticism.

Jalen Green may be more raw overall than anyone else in the top five, but he’s still a walking bucket. He’s flashy, exciting and will be a fixture on Sportscenter with his high flying dunks and ability to score from anywhere on the court. An SGA and Green twosome has the potential to be the most high scoring backcourt east of Dame and west of Why Not. Shai is the cool, calm and smooth criminal and Green would be the razzle dazzle Loud City has missed since Russell Westbrook roamed The Peake’s hardwood.

Jonathan Kuminga

Age: 18
Position: Small forward/power forward
NBA G League Ignite
Height: 6’8”
Weight: 210 pounds
Wingspan: 6’11”
Strengths: NBA ready body. Explosive athleticism. Ballhandling. Passing. Elite defensive potential. Rebounding. Finishing at the rim. 
Weaknesses: 3-point shooting. Shot selection. 

Thunder fans have a bit of PTSD when it comes to long, athletic defenders who can’t shoot. So Kuminga is likely last on most of the OKC faithful’s wish list of top five selections. But Kuminga could be special in nearly every other area of the game. From day one, he will be a physical, versatile defender and surprise with his handle and passing. He would add an element of toughness and fight to SGA’s finesse and laid back demeanor. And while his shooting is an issue, he’s shown more potential there than the numbers would lead you to believe. He just takes too many contested shots on high volume that affect his overall percentage. He’s the easy last pick of an elite top five, but he may actually have the most room for improvement and potential as a two-way star.


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