Finish Line Mail Bag, pt. 2
Editors note: If you missed Part 1 of Brandon’s end-of-season mailbag, you can read it here.
There’s more Twitter question in the Daily Thunder mailbag. Let’s open it up!
Q: What draft night trades do you think the Thunder should make if 1) they land two top 5 picks, with one of them no. 5, and 2) if they land only one top 5 pick between 2-5? – Ayush Baheti
A: Probably because I’ve spent more time studying this draft class than I did my entire senior year in high school, but I’m pretty enamored with the top four projected players. And as much as I like Jonathan Kuminga as well, if the Thunder land, say, #2 and #5, I’d deal any one future draft pick and any player not named Shai, Lu or Poku to move up even one spot to secure either Jalen. Or in the jackpot scenario, if OKC lands #1 and #5, I’d give up any non-SGA asset to move up from 5 to 2 and nab Evan Mobley. SGA-Cade-Mobley ends the rebuild in one fell swoop.
Q: SGA’s playmaking and decision making growth under CP3 cannot be understated. What are some realistic veterans that might be great pick ups, not necessarily for a win now mentality but for growth for our young guys? – David Moreno
A: Absolutely Chris Paul’s mentoring Shai has had everlasting effects both on and off the court. Veteran leadership is a tangible thing that Sam Presti values. Al Horford, George Hill and Mike Muscala provided that wise locker room presence this season, but I don’t think OKC will need to go out and pick up a vet this offseason. One, because the roster is already number crunched. Two, because of Kenrich Williams. Mark Daigneault recently said Kenny Hustle is probably the most respected voice in the locker room. And he’s signed for two more seasons at a bargain bin price.
Q: Which role players will be on the team next year and how improved is the Thunder bench? – Khurram Mawani
A: The Thunder roster is riddled with rookie deals, cheap, movable contracts, and restricted free agents, so I doubt Sam Presti even knows exactly which players will return next season. Especially with five picks in the 2021 Draft. Even if OKC doesn’t use all those picks (they won’t), there are only so many roster spots to go around. That’s not even taking into account the thought the Thunder could use their cap space to take on teams’ bad contracts. Unfortunately, there isn’t likely to be a Breakfast Club Part II because some of the guys will likely be traded. But I will confidently predict SGA, Dort, Poku, Jerome, Maledon, Deck, and Kenrich will be back. As far as the bench, considering most of the players will be youngsters, it should be improved by natural growth. Not to mention the possibility a new rookie or Euro player may emerge.
Q: What direction do you think the Thunder will take once they have a solid core and good role players, Considering we have so much draft picks? – LurkingStan
A: What direction? Thunder Up, of course.
Q: Why do people consider Kuminga a better prospect Jalen Johnson? I would take Johnson over Kuminga at 5 every day of the week. – J Dubb
A: The biggest reason is because Jalen Johnson’s early departure from Duke has some questioning his dedication and seriousness with basketball. Well, and Jonathan Kuminga is an athletic beast who checks all the boxes physically and defensively of the modern day wing. I do think Johnson is immensely talented and someone will likely get a steal wherever they pick him because he will be more talented than his draft position. Of course, that’s what all the experts said about Perry Jones.
Q: How about making a list, start off with the one player on the roster you would keep then two players on the roster you would keep etc. all the way till the roster is completed – Rob Shahan
A: 1. Shai 2. Poku 3. Dort 4. Jerome 5. Maledon 6. Kenrich 7. Bazley 8. Deck 9. Svi 10. Hall 11. Roby 12. Bradley 13. Moses 14. Muscala 15. Hoard 16. Horford 17. Charlie Brown Jr.
Q: You have one hour at a table with 6 guests from anyone to do with the Thunder franchise and it’s history. Who you picking and any questions you really might want to ask one of them? – OKC UK
A: I’d invite Eric Maynor, Byron Mullens, Kyle Weaver, DJ White, Daequan Cook, and Scott Brooks and I’d ask Brooks why he played Kendrick Perkins in the 2012 NBA Finals vs the Heat.
Q: Is it likelier for Shai to become A. a 30 ppg scorer B. a top 5 playmaking guard or C. a plus defender at some point in his career? – Kevin Chen
A: I’ll go with B. Honestly, A and C aren’t out of the question, but two of Shai’s hallmark traits are his unselfishness and his intelligence. And he was one of the league leaders in potential assists this season. Once he’s surrounded by more talent, his playmaking numbers should see a huge spike.
Q: If no trade market materializes for Al Horford this off-season do you expect him to be bought out? – Charles Coryell
A: While Sam Presti would rather watch 2016 WCF Game 6 Klay Thompson highlights on a loop than pay a player for not playing or lose a positive player with no asset in return, I think Presti and Horford’s mutual respect and understanding could lead to a situation where Al leaves money on the table. Horford gets to play where he wants, OKC saves money and gets off the contract.
Q: How long will the rebuild take if we get the rockets pick vs no rockets pick? – Noah Shirley
A: I like a lot of the players in the #18 range where OKC would draft with the Heat pick if the Rockets keep their pick. But none of them have the upside or potential of Jonathan Kuminga at #5. But he’s still young and raw, so I’m not sure drafting him moves the needle on the rebuild by more than one season.
Q: Other than Shai, who do you expect on this current Thunder roster to be on the next contender in OKC? – Pokumaniac
A: Given your screenname, you’ll be happy with my answer: Lu Dort and Poku.
Q: Do you think the Thunder will continue stockpiling draft picks and “trust the process” or do you see them getting a solid young core then using some draft picks to bring in talent via a trade to make a championship run? – Dylan Ingram
A: Both. I think the plan at the moment is still stockpiling assets, but SGA’s ascension coupled with the results of the 2021 Draft may speed up trusting the process a bit. Once Shai is paired up with another potential future All Star teammate, Presti will not be shy to pull the trigger on trades or burning some cap space to bring in more talent. Scared money don’t make championships.
Q: When will we be competitive for the playoffs again? – Kremaay
A: My guess: 2022 is another rebuilding season, but not a tanking one. 2023 will be the return to the playoffs.
Q: SGA has already shown exponential growth in his three years in the league. What do you see as his ceiling? – Secretary of Defense
A: His rookie season, SGA exceeded expectations and outplayed his draft position. His sophomore season, SGA exceeded expectations and looked like one of the better young players in the league. His third season, SGA exceeded expectations and should’ve been an All Star at 22. I’ll say his ceiling is a multiple All Star and a Top 10-ish player in the NBA in his prime and expect him to exceed those expectations.