After the initial reactions to the NBA Draft Lottery, many Thunder fans immediately jumped on ideas to try and get their squad picking in the top five of the 2021 draft. With the promise of having possibly two top five selections and not landing one, this reaction from the fan base was probably warranted.
But now that the dust has settled, I think the the most realistic approach for the Thunder in the upcoming draft is trading their two mid first round picks (No. 16 and No. 18) for another pick inside the top twelve. Sure, it’s still disappointing that Oklahoma City couldn’t score a top five pick, but by no means is the sky falling with two top twelve picks in a loaded draft class.
It wouldn’t shock me at all to see pick nine, ten or eleven end up in the hands of Sam Presti. The Kings, Pelicans and Hornets are all teams that either have their young core set in place, or could use two assets instead of one. I also think there isn’t a huge gap of disparity between pick eleven and pick sixteen. This is a loaded draft class and general managers value every first round pick here pretty highly. With that being said, let’s take a look at prospects that could be available in the 9-12 range in this year’s draft.
Giddey is a 6’8 floor general that already has professional experience playing in Australia. He is a willing passer and makes a ton of highlight plays. Giddey fits the Thunder’s mold of long, athletic players that are extremely young and still developing. Giddey would be a prototype of the “new” NBA point guard and would have time to develop his jump shot and offensive game. Watching him reminds me of LaMelo Ball’s passing skills and flare on the court. He’s also a great transition player as well.
Johnson is one of the most, if not the most, athletic players in this years draft. He had the highest vertical leap in draft history. At Tennessee, Johnson showed off his ability to make highlight dunks and defend at a high level. He plays incredibly fast and has a high motor. He could be a fanatic three-and-D guy but he lacks polish on the offensive end. He needs to improve his shooting ability, but the potential is there.
Sengun’s draft stock is a bit of a mystery. I’ve seen people having him at 7 or 8 and I’ve also seen him falling to the 20’s on some boards. He seems like a prototypical Thunder pick. He had high production playing overseas and is still young with room to improve. He won the Turkish league MVP at only 18. He’s a fantastic low-post scorer and has the make and build-up of a traditional center, but he also has the skill and potential to develop into a play-making big which is huge in the modern NBA.
Williams was a top prospect after high school before his one year at Stanford. At this point, some may consider a top twelve pick a reach for Williams. But there is no doubt that the talent and potential is there. He struggled at Stanford this season, causing his draft stock to spiral. He’s still a 6’8 forward that can handle the ball and create his own shot, which is enough to get people excited. He can become a dominant forward in the NBA, but it will take time, patience and the right developmental staff.
I love the idea of this pick for OKC. Bouknight was a fantastic scorer on a team that couldn’t score in college at UConn. He was tasked with the offensive load and faced double teams every game. Bouknight has an incredibly smooth game and has a lethal midrange jumper. He is also someone that can handle the ball and run the offense too. Bouknight could be pick outside the top ten that proves to be a fantastic scorer and playmaking guard like Donovan Mitchell.
The last prospect on my list is the 6’8 forward from Real Madrid. Garuba has been labelled as one of the best defenders in this years draft and is a shot-blocking machine. Garuba is a high-energy hustle guy and he always seems to be making plays. He didn’t get a ton of playing time, so joining a team like the Thunder could be a great situation for him. Garuba is extremely young, too, with plenty of room to grow his game. He has great technique and feel for the game.
While all of Oklahoma City was hoping for two top five picks, two top twelve picks would be a nice consolation prize. In a draft class like this, two top twelve picks could prove to be two great players someday.