After a brief hiatus, I'm back with my 2023 draft guide for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder currently control picks 12 and 50 but have plenty of ammo to potentially move up from either spot, making this another exciting and intriguing draft for the fans.
I will be discussing a rough list of players below who could be available at each spot. I've tried my best to base the players off of industry mock drafts to get a gauge of their draft range, but this stuff is difficult to predict. I'm inevitably going to talk about someone who gets picked way before or way after where I have them listed.
With all of that out of the way, let's hope I manage to circle at least one player the Thunder end up drafting as I have in previous years.
Trade Up Candidates
Taylor Hendricks - Big, UCF
The biggest riser throughout the full draft cycle, Hendricks parlayed his RSCI rank of 84th in the country into becoming a possible top 10 pick in one year. He presents an impressive skillset of effective and versatile defense to go along with three-point shooting, two of the most valued skills in modern basketball. Hendricks shot 41% from three on his C&S opportunities and hit his free throws at a 72% clip. He has the potential to be a rangy defender (Hendricks posted an impressive 6.2% block rate), and I believe he has the ability to slide down as a small ball five in certain lineup constructions. His current flaws include shockingly bad finishing (44.7% on layups, 51% at the rim in the halfcourt) and a lack of juice off the dribble with the ball in his hands. Playing with an offensive creator like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander should make things easier for him early on. The defense, secondary rim protection, shooting, and youth are a great set of skills to build off of but I'm not taking Hendricks in the top six where I'm seeing him mocked in other places. If OKC were to trade up to 8, 9, 10, or 11, I'd be interested.
Gradey Dick - Guard, Kansas
If the mocks end up going the way they look as of this writing, I am hoping OKC can trade up a spot or two to select Gradey Dick. I think his fit on this team would be fantastic and I believe he has more upside than most people tend to believe. Read my in-depth Dick analysis here:
Likely Options at Pick 12
Cason Wallace - Guard, Kentucky
Wallace is a really stout defender with a strong frame and defensive instincts, coming in at 6'4 and 195 at the combine with a near 6'9 wingspan. Wallace has incredible hands, with a 3.7% steal rate this past year and a game against Michigan State where he collected 8 steals. He's a great finisher at the basket despite a lack of ideal size and burst, shooting a fantastic 71.2% at the rim this past season with only 9.6% of those makes being assisted on a poorly spaced Kentucky team. His shooting is a work in progress--75% from the line and 35% from three this past year on 127 attempts--but he did convert an intriguing 41% on all pullup jumpers. Wallace was not a lead guard at Kentucky and won't be so in the NBA, but he's a potential tertiary or maybe secondary ball handler in some lineup constructions. He may never be a star due to his lack of height and on-ball creation, but should fill in as a valuable role player.
Kobe Bufkin - Guard, Michigan
A lanky 6'5 combo guard with a 6'8 wingspan who excels at finishing around the rim, Bufkin enters the draft as a 19-year-old sophomore younger than multiple one-and-dones in this year's class. He really blossomed in his second season at Michigan, shooting an elite 68.8% at the rim this past year on 125 attempts (66.7% in the halfcourt) with only 26.7% of those assisted. Bufkin has a lot of creative finishes at the rim and uses his length effectively at the basket. He possesses intriguing shooting potential; he hit 35.5% of his threes and 85% of his FTs this past year, and also hit 37% on his C&S threes. Bufkin has the ability to play off the ball and can be utilized as a secondary ball handler who can make C&S threes, attack closeouts, and cut to the basket and finish efficiently. A good but not great passer, maybe he becomes a lead guard at the next level but probably not. He can certainly lead some bench units and play alongside a star like Shai, but he might not be the best lead option. A solid defender with an interesting 2.3% steal rate and a 2.1% block rate as a guard, Bufkin uses his length well and is a great havoc creator at that end of the floor. Bufkin is only 187 pounds right now and is fairly weak relative to other NBA players at this stage, but he has plenty of time to bulk up.
Leonard Miller - Big, Ignite
Read my in-depth Miller analysis here:
Bilal Coulibaly - Wing, Mets 92
One of the youngest players in the entire class, Coulibaly won't turn 18 until the end of July. Coulibaly is a fantastic defender with great athleticism and tools, standing at 6'8 with a 7'2 wingspan which he used effectively against grown men in the LNB Pro A league in France on the defensive end. He dominated the U21 French league for the LNB Espoirs before getting called up to the senior team where he played well alongside Victor Wembanyama in a smaller role. After being aggressive in the U21 league Coulibably as a scorer he became an offensive afterthought in the Pro A league, not surprising due to the age and experience gap--still, his overall timidness on offense is a concern. Mostly a play finisher and unreliable C&S guy at this point, Coulibaly's shooting numbers look decent but are generally on low volume and paired with a bad FT percentage. He's one of the higher "upside" picks in this class due to his youth, rapid ascension, physical tools, and already present defensive capabilities.
Dereck Lively II - Big, Duke
The best defender in college basketball and a dominant defensive prospect who stands at 7'1 with a massive 7'6 wingspan, Lively's outstanding block rate of 12.8% ranked 5th among all high-major freshmen since 2008. He would create a fantastic defensive frontcourt with Chet Holmgren, but he is a total zero on offense. Lively's 12.8% usage would be the lowest for a drafted player since at least 2008 and I don't believe in the three-point shooting we are hearing he displayed during his pro day in an open gym. He did shoot them at the EYBL and at the grassroots levels, but he was not efficient has never been a good FT shooter (60% from the line this past year). 54 of his 77 baskets this season at Duke were dunks. Lively ranks 2nd in this class in the DMX Draft Model by @thebigwafe.
Brice Sensabaugh - Guard, Ohio State
Read my in-depth Sensabaugh analysis here:
Out of Left Field at Pick 12
Dariq Whitehead - Wing, Duke
One of the youngest players in the class, Whitehead was a preseason top 7 pick before suffering horrible injury luck (fifth metatarsal bone fracture, lower leg strain, recent cleanup surgery for the fifth metatarsal injury). Despite his injury-plagued season, Dariq managed to shoot 43% from three on 98 attempts and 45% on C&S attempts. He has a good frame at 6'6 and 217 pounds with a 6'10 wingspan but looked like a below average athlete at Duke. It's hard to parse through his recent injuries, but in high school he looked much better with more vertical pop. Whitehead only had four dunk attempts all year in 577 minutes--a really low number--to go along with a bad mark of 53.3% at the rim. You also can't forget the fact he has generally missed a lot of time during the college season, including the entire preseason and eight regular season games. Dariq was one of the best players in the country at Montverde and the hope is that he gets back to his pre-injury form and can get some of his athleticism back, so he could be a high swing selection if OKC is stuck at 12 without other great options.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper- Wing, Marquette
This is an extra, extra bold prediction I'm only making so if it happens I look like a genius.
Options at Pick 50
Seth Lundy - Wing, Penn State
A great shooter who shined at the NBA Draft combine, Lundy is a 6'5 wing with a 6'10 wingspan who hit 40% of his 230 threes this past year at Penn State. He is already 23 years old and struggled to generate shots at the rim, attempting only 81 shots and hitting just 60% of them. Has a comically low career assist rate of 5.6%, a number at his age which is almost certainly a death knell for any potential passing ability. Despite these concerns, his shooting is absolutely legit and he's a low turnover player who could use his frame to body up some wings defensively on ball. Lundy did hit 43.5% of his pullups for the Nittany Lions, possibly indicating he has a little more juice on the ball than people realize. I don't see much upside in Lundy, but great shooting in a wing-sized body is a great baseline to start with.
Jordan Walsh - Wing, Arkansas
A fantastic defensive wing prospect who stands at 6'7 ish with a 7'2 wingspan, Walsh routinely uses his length to smother perimeter players and pairs it with a nonstop motor and great movement skills. He turned in a really solid 2.6% steal rate and 2.0% block rate on the year, and is great at navigating screens and chasing his man in off-ball actions. On offense he is mostly a transition merchant with a touch of connective passing; he's not a great finisher in the halfcourt and shot a terrible 26% on C&S threes. The hope is you can develop his jumper to make him a reliable C&S weapon while his defense carries him from there. Walsh could end up being the best non-Wembanyama defender in the draft class if things break his way. Walsh is the player I am least confident about lasting until this pick, and I would be willing to trade up to snag him earlier.
Adama Sanogo - Big, UConn
Incredible touch around the rim despite being a bit undersized as a big at 6'8. However, Sanogo has fantastic length (7'3 wingspan) and checks in at nearly 260 pounds with great strength and physicality. He's ballooned his FT percentage by nearly 20 percentage points since his freshman year and is now hitting them at 77%. Sanogo has also extended his range out to three recently and can continue to grow from there. His great footwork probably stems from his years growing up playing soccer, as he only started playing basketball in 2014. Sanogo is a pretty poor defender right now, and is a bit of a tweener at the next level who can't protect the rim well, play much drop coverage, and probably doesn't have the quickness to defend more athletic fours. He still has unreal touch and legitimate complementary offensive skills that could help him carve out a niche NBA role.
Jaylen Clark - Guard, UCLA
A 6'5, 205-pound defensive guard with a 6'9 wingspan, Clark was a two-time PAC-12 All-Defense member and won the 2022-23 Defensive Player of the Year after posting a ridiculous 5.1% steal rate. Clark has some pretty nice touch at the basket (67% at the rim) and is a decent athlete going downhill. He possesses lightning quick feet on defense and can mirror his opposition with ease--sometimes even beating them to their spot--paired with very good hands, given the havoc creation we've seen throughout his career. Clark is another player who is basically a transition merchant on offense, although he has improved his shooting from unplayable to potentially passable at the next level (33% from three, 70% from the line). He'll turn 22 in October and he ranked 8th in the country in BPM before going down with a season ending achilles injury.
Jalen Slawson - Big/Wing, Furman
Another fun playmaking big man, Slawson is an older player (turns 24 in October) but was incredible statistically for Furman. He posted a 19-10-4 versus Virginia in the NCAA tourney and averaged 15/7/3 on the year with a 61.5% TS, .499 FTr, 2.9% steal rate, and 5.3% block rate. Despite being another smaller big man who came in around 6'7 at the combine with a 6'11.75 wingspan, Slawson has good vertical pop and had 43 dunks this past season. He probably ends up being a play finisher (71% at the rim last year, great touch) and standstill/transition passer at the next level. If his jumper is real and he is a consistent C&S threat, he could easily return first rounder value.
Tosan Evbuomwan - Big, Princeton
Evbuomwan was a super fun high post hub at Princeton who managed to post back-to-back seasons of 5 assists per game as a 6'7 big man in their offense. He has good length with a nearly 7'2 wingspan and was fantastic at finding cutters with crisp bounce passes. He only took 66 total threes in three seasons at Princeton and is a career 60% FT shooter, so he'll probably be a complete zero scoring wise on offense at the next level because of his lack of size/shooting/athleticism. A fun player who is more likely to end up having a good career overseas.
Mouhamed Gueye - Big, Washington State
Another player like Sanogo who grew up playing soccer, Gueye is a developing 6'11 big with a 7'3 wingspan and a little bit of ball handling in his game who has only been playing basketball for around four years. He shot a solid 67% from the line which was a big uptick from his freshmen year, and he could be on an upward trajectory in that aspect. Gueye needs to get much stronger, as he only weighed in at 212 pounds at the combine which is light for someone his size. A great offensive rebounder who posted a 12.2% offensive rebound rate for the Cougs, Gueye can get some easy putbacks. He's a significant work in progress on the defensive end; despite the physical frame he only averaged 0.8 blocks for a paltry 2.8% block rate.
Nadir Hifi - Guard, Le Portel
One of the only stash options in this class, Nadir Hifi is a small scoring guard who plays an iso-centric style of ball for Le Portel in France. He is listed anywhere from 6'1 to 6'3 and has a quick first step and real shooting ability from three. Hifi made 40% of his C&S threes this past season and shot 85% from the line in all of his competitions. He's a creative ball handler and finisher around the basket and possesses great touch, which he needs given his height and lack of vertical pop. He's a good but not great shooter at this point, not at an ideal height, and a below average defender and playmaker. This makes for potential as a stash option who could maybe become an effective bench shooter if the pick eventually pans out.
Colin Castleton - Big, Florida
A really productive college player for three years now, Colin Castleton is a 6'11, 233-pound center with a 7'3 wingspan and consistent defensive numbers across his career at Florida. In two of the past three seasons, he's had a 9%+ block rate, a good number for college which pairs well with his solid mobility on switches and instincts in the PnR. Castleton shouldered a 28% usage rate for Florida this past season, has good touch around the basket and started taking a few more threes this past year. His passing is intriguing; he posted a really solid 20% assist rate, a number which has increased every year of his career. Castelton is probably a career backup center but could end up being a good one if he can start stretching his shot out to the three-point line more consistently.
Ricky Council IV - Guard/Wing, Arkansas
A fantastic slasher who might have the best touch in the class, Council shot 67% at the rim on 147 attempts with 36(!) made dunks last year for the Razorbacks. He measured in at the combine at around 6'6 with a 6'9 wingspan and has legit bounce off of one leg. Arkansas was a poorly spaced team last year, which only makes his slashing numbers all the more impressive; he's probably a top-5 rim pressure guy in the class. Council is a career 30% three-point shooter on 235 attempts, undoubtedly poor numbers. You hope his combined 82% from the line over his past two years on 324 attempts can slowly develop into a reliable three-point shot. Council had a .505 FTr last season and has a career FTr of .471 across three college seasons, an elite number that pairs well with his slashing ability. He could end up being a legit spark plug off the bench if his outside jumper ever develops. If not, his slashing, solid defense, and so-so playmaking might not be enough to overcome his lack of reliable spacing.