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Grading the Thunder’s draft: What comes after A+?

Grading the Thunder’s draft: What comes after A+?

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Oklahoma City trades No. 21 and 26 for the rights to Cole Aldrich and Morris Peterson

We heard about it for weeks. The Thunder wanted in the lottery. And they got there, getting their man, Kansas product Cole Aldrich.

(Just so you know, this trade won’t be official until July 8 because of a moratorium period that I don’t completely understand. But it’s virtually a done deal.)

What’s weird about this is that Aldrich wasn’t really ever on many radars. We heard a ton about Daniel Orton. We heard a bunch about Solomon Alabi. We wondered if OKC could get high enough to grab Cousins or Monroe. But in the end, it was Cole Aldrich (and Morris Peterson) coming from New Orleans for the 21st and 26th pick.

Basically, if you deduce these events, the Thunder traded the 32nd, 21st and 26th pick for Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Peterson. That’s not bad at all. Before the night started, everyone agreed the Thunder’s needs were inside big man and shooter. Needs: addressed. Well, potentially. Cook is a proven shooter and even Peterson can stroke from outside, depending on where he fits on the roster, but Aldrich isn’t a finished product, at least offensively. And you would hope not, with the guy being 21 years old.

I wasn’t extremely high on Aldrich before the draft. I saw a guy without a big ceiling that had little offensive game that would definitely help defensively. But compared to some other prospects, I didn’t love him. However, consider what the Thunder gave up and where they would’ve been had they not moved up. If OKC had decided to use 18 or 21 on its big man, the options were Trevor Booker, Solomon Alabi, Daniel Orton, Hassan White or Tibor Pleiss. Compare that to what OKC got in Aldrich. I’d say that’s a pretty good upgrade.

I never disliked Aldrich, but never loved him. I had him ranked fourth on my big board behind Greg Monroe, DeMarcus Cousins and Ekpe Udoh. I thought OKC would have to trade up to get him and considering where they got Aldrich, according to the board, he was the best player available. The only thing I don’t love is that Aldrich isn’t much of an offensive player and that’s something the Thunder needs to develop in the post. He is a big time defender that will be able to bang in the paint with the Western bigs. Consider: Aldrich set a KU record last year for blocked shots in a season. So  that’s good, especially considering all the talent that has been there.

Cole Aldrich's College Stats


The thing OKC gets with Aldrich is a player that helps in October and not a project. The Thunder could’ve taken a risk on Solomon Alabi or Daniel Orton and tried to develop them, but they’ve already got the big man project quota fill with Byron Mullens. So while Aldrich definitely has a need to grow, he will be ready to solidify the front line next season. He’s a true center that will rebound and protect the rim. I’m already thinking about an Aldrich-Ibaka front court that’s making me drool a bit.

I don’t love absorbing Morris Peterson’s $6.2 million contract, but it’s up after this season. So this means OKC probably won’t be a big time player in the free agent market this summer, but it definitely doesn’t affect the Thunder’s salary situation long term. Plus, it’s not like Peterson can’t play. He averaged 7.1 ppg last year and shot 36 percent from 3. He is 32, but he’s a career 37 percent 3-point shooter and a potentially consistent veteran scorer to bring off the bench.

This was a scenario I wrote about a few weeks ago, and it’s something you knew the Thunder would have to do to move up. And in the end, Peterson’s contract is better than trading Eric Maynor or something else. Again, No. 21 and 26 for Aldrich and Peterson? I’m completely happy about this.

Grade: A

OKC trades Eric Bledsoe to the Clippers for a future first round pick

When the pick came in, it was a definite “Huh?” moment. And it all made sense as soon as he was dealt to the Clippers. With OKC taking Aldrich, there was no need to try and grab another big man project. Nothing really made a ton of sense, so Presti took a player for the Clips and locked up a future first round pick. And with that being a Los Angeles Clipper pick, it could potentially be a very good pick. If it’s unprotected, this is a home run. (Update: Ken Berger reports this is a “heavily” protected pick.)

Grade: B+

New Jersey trades pick No. 31 to Atlanta who trades Tibor Pleiss (who was picked there) to OKC for cash

To explain: Atlanta got pick 27 and 31 from New Jersey for the 24th pick. I thought Pleiss was a Presti-ish pick all along. A solid big international big man that has a ton of room to improve. I figured Pleiss would slip into the first round but Presti gambled just right and let Pleiss slide to 31. He basically bought the pick from New Jersey and now can stash Pleiss overseas to develop or as Marc Spears reports, the Thunder might keep him here on the roster, which would be interesting.

Grade: A-

Miami trades 48th overall pick Latavious Williams to OKC

(This is a deal according to Sam Amick of FanHouse.) All along it just seemed like Williams would stay within the Thunder franchise. And at first, I was surprised when Miami took him. But the Thunder made a minor deal to acquire his rights. I’m sure they want a good long look at him during summer league and will develop him in Tulsa another year. I think Williams is an upside guy that could definitely work out. For a guy that you don’t give up much, he’s probably worth the price paid.

Grade: B

OKC selects Magnum Rolle at 51

(Update: OKC traded Rolle’s rights to Indiana for Ryan Reid and cash)
Who? Yeah, I said the same thing. Cool name though. Rolle is a 6’11 shotblocker from Louisiana Tech. Honestly, that’s about all I know. He’s thin (225 pounds) and is clearly a shot in the dark prospect. But you never know with these guys. From the highlights I just watched, he looks a little like Marcus Camby. At 51, you’re just taking a swing in the dark, so I guess Rolle is as good a swing as any, though I would’ve rather taken that cut on another shooter. But that’s just me.

Grade: B-

I often feel like I just praise anything Presti does, but honestly, it’s hard not to. What’s not to like about tonight’s draft? OKC addressed immediate needs without compromising the long term vision or financial situation. The Thunder got a player in Aldrich that helps tomorrow, not in three years. Granted, Aldrich needs some work, but he’s the kind of guy ready and willing to put it in.

Presti had a plan for tonight all along and it looks like it was executed to perfection. He got his shooter, he got his big man and he got his project without giving up much at all. I’d call that a success. Presti would call it just another night at the office.

Overall draft grade: A+