8 min read

And the Thunder Select… in 2021

And the Thunder Select… in 2021

In just a week’s time, Thunder GM Sam Presti completely overhauled the Thunder’s roster with goals of building a future championship caliber team. The Thunder are wheeling and dealing players left and right, and while the roster is overstuffed and murky (20 mostly unproven players are on the team for training camp), this team will almost certainly be one of the worst in the league this season. This upcoming draft, Oklahoma City is looking more and more likely to add a cornerstone piece to the franchise with a top-five pick. A lot of OKC fans may be more into the draft than most years due to this opportunity, and I have a list of some players who will probably end up in the Thunder’s range.

Cade Cunningham – G, Oklahoma State

The crown jewel of this upcoming class, Cade Cunningham is a Zion/Luka level prospect with franchise changing upside. Cunningham is a 6’8″, 220 pound lead ball handler with some of the best passing ability in recent memory. There may only be a handful of passers at his size as good as he is right now, with that list consisting of Luka Doncic and LeBron James. He dominated the EYBL on his way to winning MVP, averaging 25.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists, and flashed major talent during the U19 World Cup as well. Cunningham has outlier size and strength for the position, and shows up on the defensive end of the floor, where he’s easily switchable and has shown good instincts. Cunningham has shown a reliable three-point shot despite his struggles on the U19 team, but I believe he’ll be at least a league average shooter at the next level due to his high level flashes of pull up shooting and smooth mechanics. Cade will be playing in-state at OSU, providing Presti and the Thunder front office a prime opportunity to scout him and fully evaluate him as a player. If the tank works out, the ideal situation is that the Thunder walk away with Cade Cunningham first overall in the 2021 NBA Draft, where ESPN currently has him being selected.

Usman Garuba – F/C, Real Madrid

Continuing the Thunder’s love for international players in the 2020 draft, Usman Garuba could be next up in 2021. Garuba became the youngest starter on Real Madrid’s senior team in 2019, surpassing Luka Doncic for that achievement. At 6’8″, he isn’t the prototypically sized big man you think of for an elite rim protector, but Garuba is in the mold of a Draymond Green. A versatile defender with elite rim protection ability due to his high IQ and 7’2″ wingspan, he can likely take the responsibility of guarding jumbo initiators in the NBA like LeBron and Giannis. On offense, Garuba is more of a mixed bag. He’s a very explosive vertical athlete who can finish well on put-backs and lobs, but his outside shot is a big question mark as his obvious swing skill. Garuba’s low free-throw percentages in his international career give me skepticism as to whether or not he’ll be defended on the perimeter in the NBA; however, Garuba is a good passer for his size and role. He makes quick decisions and can operate well from the low post and top of the key, giving his offense value beyond his verticality and finishing ability down low. ESPN currently has Garuba going 14th in this upcoming draft.

BJ Boston – G, Kentucky

BJ Boston will be one of the more impressive shot creators in college basketball this season. Boston has a very high-level handle that he constantly put on display at Sierra Canyon and in the EYBL, as he used it to get to the rim almost at will in high school, while also creating open threes for himself. His percentages from the outside have never been eye-popping, but he’s shown enough efficiency from the line and touch at the rim that I believe he has the chance to be a special shot maker down the line. Boston is a very good defender, a much different thing to hear compared to the collection at the top of the 2020 draft (Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball). A wiry wing at 6’7″ 185 pounds, Boston makes up for these strength issues on that end of the floor with high level instincts and awareness, coupled with a good length and size. On offense, his lack of strength has been apparent a few times early this season, and hopefully he packs on a few more pounds of muscle throughout the season. He’ll likely never be a lead guard in the NBA, but BJ can serve as a temporary lead initiator at times and be a special shot maker and creator at the next level. ESPN currently has Boston going third in this upcoming draft.

Moses Moody – G, Arkansas

Moses Moody hasn’t displayed the shooting ability he did alongside Cade Cunningham, Caleb Houstan, and Scottie Barnes at Montverde so far this season, but everything else about his play has translated to the college game. Moody was an elite shooter in high school, so that will eventually come around (he’s made 4 of his last 6 three-point attempts), but his defense has been as advertised. You’ll likely see Moody compared to a player like Devin Vassell, being touted as the next 3-and-D wing. These comparisons are not far off: Moody is a 6’6″ wing with a 7’0″ wingspan who was a terror on the defensive end of the floor in high school and AAU. Granted it’s only been two games, but Moody is averaging 1.8 steals per game and was one of the leaders in steals in the EYBL. In addition to racking up deflections and steals, he has constantly displayed good defensive awareness and effort thus far. Moody is just a smart player on both ends of the floor, and while he may not be a dynamic passer or creator for others, he makes smart reads to open teammates and is a very capable ball mover. Look for Moody to shake off his rough first couple of games from the floor and showcase why he’s one of the best shooters and players in the class. ESPN currently has Moody going 33rd in the upcoming draft.

Evan Mobley – C, USC

Much like Aleksej Pokuševski, Evan Mobley is another very fluid and mobile seven footer who could intrigue the Thunder at the top of this upcoming draft. Mobley was a high RSCI player, coming in 3rd in this class and is the second-best recruit in USC history. Mobley has dominant through three games this season, averaging 17.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 3.0 blocks on 65.4% TS. Mobley is a very skilled big man who has great touch around the basket and a high IQ on the offensive end, which shows up in his high-level passing ability. Mobley’s high IQ translates on the defense as well, where combined with his 7’4″ wingspan, make him a terrific defender and rim protector, despite being physically weaker than most of the other big men he goes up against. His ball skills and movement ability are super impressive for a seven footer, much less a 19 year old, making him a likely top five pick in this upcoming draft. There are not many players who move like Mobley does at his size who possess the valuable skills that he does. He may never be a dynamic scorer (shot is still in a work in progress, can handle spot ups for now) his touch at the basket, passing ability, and ability to be an elite lob threat are all very valuable offensive tools. ESPN currently has Mobley going fourth overall in this upcoming draft.

Jaden Springer – G, Tennessee

One of, if not the best, on-ball defenders in this class, Jaden Springer is a big strong guard who also happens to be one of the younger players in this draft. Springer has had multiple games vs. Montverde and Cade Cunningham and has shined bright in each of them. At Geico Nationals, Springer was one of the best players on the floor with multiple other high-level talents. On defense, Springer is a load. He’s 6’4″ and 204 pounds (I believe he has the chance to grow to 6’5″ and maybe slightly bigger) and shows high level instincts on that end of the floor. Offensively. Springer is more of a mixed bag as he’ll likely end up as a shooting guard (or combo guard) rather than a lead on-ball initiator, but he still brings valuable skills to the table. Springer is a solid playmaker and decision maker and couples that with a nice looking shot despite not having a very diverse skill set in terms of creating space for himself. Tennessee is loaded this season, and with Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson in the fold, expect to see them make a deep run in tourneys. ESPN currently has Springer going 31st overall in this upcoming draft.

Marcus Bagley – F, Arizona State

The younger brother of Marvin Bagley, Marcus Bagley has been out to make a name for himself this season at Arizona State. The 6’8 wing is an impressive shooter for his size, possessing all the qualities of an elite level shooter at the next level. Bagley has already shown ability to shoot off of movement and pulling-up on his own, shooting 10/25 from three in his four game sample this season. He has a very solid frame and is a good athlete; however he tends to fall into a few lapses on the defensive end of the floor and has made some mistakes offensively as well. It’s also worth mentioning that Bagley is 0-3 at the rim so far this year, as he’s been unable to attack the rim like most top prospects. At the end of the day, Bagley’s size and shooting ability off the dribble and movement will carry his draft stock, as he’s certainly been one of the more impressive freshmen thus far, and might eventually leapfrog his freshman teammate Josh Christopher in the eyes of talent evaluators down the line. ESPN does not currently have him being selected in this upcoming draft.

Jalen Suggs – G, Gonzaga

The best freshman in college basketball thus far, Jalen Suggs has been on a tear through his first few games for Gonzaga. An elite athlete (had football offers as a QB from Ohio State, Minnesota, Iowa State), Suggs displays his football background on the court with masterful manipulation of defenses. It helps to play on a stacked team like Gonzaga, but Suggs has almost mastered the mental part of the game. On the defensive end, his anticipation has been outstanding thus far, racking up four steals in two games. Suggs is a very good on-ball player in the pick and roll and has the shooting ability to be an off guard as well. He’s been great in transition so far and really uses his 6’5 205 pound frame and athleticism well in the open floor. Suggs had a very good first game against Kansas and followed it up with another solid performance, and if he keeps up this level of play we could see him climb all the way up to the top five in this upcoming draft. ESPN currently has Suggs going 18th in this upcoming draft.

Truth be told, with the Thunder expecting a high draft pick this season, I could highlight a lot more players such as Jonathan Kuminga, Jalen Green, Keon Johnson, Ziaire Williams, and more. However, I’m leaving most of the other players up for more in-depth breakdowns later in the year, as it helps when we have more footage of the players in the G-League. As for now, these are some of the top prospects in the world and guys I definitely think you should keep your eye on this upcoming draft cycle.