NBA Draft: A Closer Look At Potential Options For The Thunder
With the NBA Finals now in the rearview mirror, it’s now time to move on to the next big event on the basketball calendar: the 2017 NBA Draft.
This year’s draft is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The Oklahoma City Thunder hold the No. 21 pick in the first round, and here’s a quick breakdown of everything you need to know:
Assuming the Thunder stays put and makes its pick in the bottom half of the first round, Sam Presti and the rest of OKC’s decision makers will sort through its remaining options. While the Thunder is in desperate need of a backup point guard and a two-way perimeter player, Presti is known to draft the best player available, regardless of what position they play.
That being said, here’s a look at some guys who could still be around when the Thunder is on the clock:
Justin Jackson, Forward, North Carolina
Jackson opened some eyes this past season as he led the Tar Heels to a National Championship while averaging 18.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Jackson may not be the best pure athlete in this draft, but the Thunder has a handful of athletic freaks on the roster, and Jackson’s savvy scoring ability would be a boost to OKC’s somewhat stagnant offense.
ESPN’s Chad Ford praises his midrange game and his high basketball IQ, but questions Jackson's motor and overall strength. More than a few people have projected Jackson would land with the Thunder, so he’s definitely a name Thunder fans should keep an eye out for.
OG Anunoby, Forward, Indiana
While many mock drafts project Anunoby to be selected towards the end of the lottery, there’s still a chance the super athletic wing could fall due to a knee injury he suffered this past season at Indiana.
Anunoby has the potential to be an elite perimeter defender seeing he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan despite his 6-foot-8 frame, but his offensive skill set still needs a lot of work. Anunoby can jump out of the gym, but could struggle to score at the NBA level.
If he does figure out how to put it all together, Anunoby could end up as one of the best players in this very loaded draft. Seeing the Thunder has taken chances on similar players such as Andre Roberson and Josh Huestis in the past, if Anunoby is still available when the Thunder is up, its hard to imagine Presti not pulling the trigger.
Justin Patton, Center, Creighton
Patton is another guy projected to be selected anywhere from the lottery to late in the first round, but the late bloomer has a ridiculous amount of potential.
Patton only spent one season in Omaha playing for Doug McDermott’s dad, but the 6-foot-11 big managed to average 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds in about 25 minutes per game.
Ford profiles Patton as a super-efficient big man, but questions his rebounding and shot blocking ability. With the Thunder already set at the center position with Steven Adams, Patton would be able to grow and develop in OKC’s system while not being rushed out on the court too soon.
Jawun Evans, Point Guard, Oklahoma State
With Semaj Christon’s struggles as OKC’s backup point guard this past season, many Thunder fans throughout the state are clamoring to see the former Oklahoma State Cowboy in that role.
Evans is one of the best distributors in this draft, and his pick and roll decision making is rivaled by few. Many have compared Evans’ playing style to that of former OKC Hornet, Chris Paul, and that comparison may not be very far off.
Evans would fill an obvious need for the Thunder, but OKC may not reach for the former Poke at No. 21 seeing some mock drafts have him falling into the second round. If Presti does indeed go with Evans, it’ll be a popular pick with Thunder fans.
Another Draft Night Trade?
Whether it was trading for Cole Aldrich in 2010, or shipping off Serge Ibaka in a deal for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis last year, Presti is known to be active with trade calls on draft night.
Seeing this draft is touted as one of the best in the last couple decades, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Presti trade up into the top 10 to acquire one of the bigger names.
With guys like Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams signing contract extensions with the Thunder last offseason, the most moveable player on OKC's roster is big man Enes Kanter.
Kanter is set to make $17.8 million in 2017-18 and $18.6 million the following year, therefore the Thunder could shed a good chunk of salary cap space if they decide to include the Turkish big man in a deal to move up in the draft.
Kanter is loved throughout the OKC community and is one of the better post scorers in the league, but he’s been virtually unplayable in the postseason due to his suspect defense.
With many rumors circulating throughout the basketball world, it’ll be interesting to see if Presti gets in on any of the trade action, or simply makes a minor move such as buying a pick in the second round like he did last season when the Thunder traded for Daniel Hamilton.
When Will We Hear From Presti?
Presti is scheduled to hold a news conference at the conclusion of Thursday night's draft. News 9 will stream the availability on our website and on our Facebook page.