Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a new series in which we will take a look at lottery sim results from Tankathon.com, and attempt to map out who the Thunder might select with their pick(s) in the 2021 NBA Draft. For our first lottery sim, click here.
It would be difficult to script a more chaotic lottery result than this one.
In this simulation, Oklahoma City’s own pick drops all the way down to No. 8 overall — something that has just a 2.4 percent chance of happening. But that means Houston’s pick must fall to No. 5, giving the Thunder two picks in the top-8.
Elsewhere in the NBA, all the mediocre teams move up and all the tanking teams move out of the top four. The Pacers, Spurs and Pelicans are rewarded with top-three picks. The Warriors get the No. 4 overall pick from Minnesota (via the De’Angelo Russell trade).
Here’s a screenshot with this week’s results:
Let’s get to it:
- Indiana Pacers: Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State
A no-brainer pick for the Pacers, and gives them someone to build around in addition to Domantas Sabonis.
- San Antonio Spurs: Evan Mobley, C, USC
The Spurs have lots of young, interesting pieces. But none of them look like franchise cornerstones at this point. Mobley would be their first since they drafted Kawhi Leonard in 2011. Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs were considerations, but the Spurs have quality guards already and Mobley is the 2nd best prospect in this class anyways.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Green, SG, G-League Ignite
Green ended up going to New Orleans in our first lottery sim, too. He’s a perfect fit as a perimeter scoring weapon next to Zion Williamson.
- Golden State Warriors: Jonathan Kuminga, F, G-League Ignite
Kuminga’s passing acumen is an excellent fit on the Warriors. He still needs to learn how to be a great defender, but he already has what you can’t teach — an NBA frame. If his jumper works, he could be the bridge from one generation to the next of Warriors basketball.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga
Oklahoma City landing Suggs at No. 5 overall is a steal. He has all the intangibles you’re looking for in a point guard, plus the added bonus of being an explosive athlete and a quality shot maker.
The fit alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would be intriguing, to say the least. I expect Shai would handle most of the lead guard duties, with Suggs incrementally taking more of those responsibilities as he develops. But both players are capable of playing off-ball. Shai proved that during his first two NBA seasons, and Suggs shared the load plenty during his lone collegiate season.
Both players have the size, length and skillset to be an elite back court on both sides of the ball in the NBA. Sam Presti and the Thunder would then be able to turn its attention toward acquiring high-level wing and center talent to build around Shai and Suggs.
Other players considered: None; Suggs is the clear choice in this scenario.
- Detroit Pistons: Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Scottie Barnes has been described as the “perfect” Thunder prospect, referencing Oklahoma City’s obvious draft bias toward long, rangey wings who can’t really shoot. Well, Troy Weaver — who was a key member of the OKC front offices that selected players like Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Darius Bazley — runs the Pistons now. This would put that theory to the test.
- Orlando Magic: Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
Also had Moody going to the Magic in our first sim. He’s a potential starter at guard alongside Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Alperen Sengun, C, International
I waffled here between Sengun and Kai Jones, but ultimately went with the more skilled (and NBA-ready) player. Sengun is a name to get familiar with, if you’re not already. He’s a center who has drawn comparisons to players like Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Jokic for his footwork and passing acumen.
Sengun’s production in one of the best league’s in Europe is excellent. He put up 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in the Turkish Super League this season. He’s not much of a 3-point shooter yet, but his touch suggests he will eventually get there.
Defensively, his role is a little more vague at this point. He’s not going to be a prolific shot-blocker or an elite defensive anchor, but a team like OKC can take time to work through his defensive growing pains for the next couple seasons.
I do think this setup would result in OKC drafting a center — either Sengun or Jones. There’s no need to draft another guard, and there aren’t many wings in this portion of the draft. Tennessee’s Keon Johnson or Michigan’s Franz Wagner could be in the mix, but I think OKC is more likely to take a big man or trade back.
Also considered: Kai Jones, Keon Johnson, Franz Wagner and Jalen Johnson.
I think this outcome would result in OKC making some pretty serious calls to trade up to No. 2 or No. 3 overall.
If they are able to move up to No. 2, I’d expect it to be for Evan Mobley. I think the cost would be somewhere in the neighborhood of No. 5, No. 8 and a future first (potentially from Phoenix or Denver). Perhaps Kenrich Williams is involved here?
The Thunder would get another sure-fire cornerstone piece to put next to SGA, and the Spurs would be able to re-load with a blue-chipper (likely Jalen Suggs) and two additional first round picks. I think this would be a win-win.
If it’s to No. 3 overall for, presumably, Jalen Green, I think the cost would be different. I wonder if OKC would trade No. 5 overall and Denver’s first-rounder (probably the worst future first that OKC has in its possession) for No. 3 overall and Eric Bledsoe’s contract. Denver’s 1st rounder might not even be necessary, depending on how desperate NOLA is to get rid of Bledsoe.
This would give New Orleans some salary relief from Bledsoe and let them draft an immediate replacement (and massive upgrade) in Suggs. Suggs would also allow the Pelicans to keep working on the “Point Zion” experiment while not relying on that strategy full time.
For the Thunder, they’d jump up to take a high-upside scorer and one of the best athletes in this draft. Bledsoe’s contract (which is only lightly-guaranteed beyond next season) wouldn’t be much of a burden. OKC also keeps the No. 8 pick in this scenario.