Editor’s note: This is the start 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.
Welcome to our Tankathon lottery sim series, which will run (approximately) weekly until the draft lottery on June 22.
In this first scenario, OKC was fortunate enough to land the No. 4 overall pick. However, Houston slotted in at No. 3 overall so OKC’s other pick in the first round is sitting at No. 18 (via Miami).
Here’s a screenshot of this week’s results:
With that in mind, let’s get started…
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Cade Cunningham, PG, Oklahoma State
The obvious, no-brainer pick for just about every team in the draft. He’s a 6-foot-8 point guard who can defend up the lineup and really shoot it. He fits on every basketball roster on planet earth, so there shouldn’t be any funny business here.
- New Orleans Pelicans: Jalen Green, SG, G-League Ignite
I thought about giving Evan Mobley to the Pelicans here, and that’s probably what they should do. But the chance to pair a perimeter scorer with Zion was too alluring. Plus, New Orleans has already committed a lot of resources to Jaxson Hayes and Steven Adams at the center position. However, I’d completely understand it if they picked Mobley in this spot.
- Houston Rockets: Evan Mobley, C, USC
Mobley will be No. 2 on most big boards heading into the draft, so this is good value for Houston. Thought about taking Jalen Suggs, but now Houston can safely trade Christian Wood for more assets to help in their rebuild this summer.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Jalen Suggs, PG, Gonzaga
Jonathan Kuminga is a temptation here, but a Jalen Suggs-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back court could be special. Suggs showed off elite shot-making, play-making and leadership during his lone season at Gonzaga. It might be a bit of an awkward fit after SGA took over point guard duties last season, but he also played a ton of minutes with Theo Maledon (and with Chris Paul the year before). I think they’d find a way to make it work.
With that being said, this all comes down to Sam Presti’s belief in Kuminga’s jump shot. If the Thunder believes he can shoot it at a league-average rate (or better), they’ll take Kuminga here. He’s a better positional fit for OKC’s current core, projects as a potentially elite defender (eventually, not right away) and is an awesome passer for his size.
- Detroit Pistons: Jonathan Kuminga, F, G-League Ignite
Kuminga is the best player on the board, full stop. The Pistons could use a bigger wing to pair with Saddiq Bey as well.
- Orlando Magic: Moses Moody, G, Arkansas
This is where the draft really begins. It’s anyone’s guess as to who ends up in the No. 6 spot. For Orlando, Moody makes the most sense.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Scottie Barnes, F, Florida State
Barnes is sort of a clunky fit next to Isaac Okoro, but the Cavs need someone who can move the ball and really defend. Barnes fits that mold very well.
- Toronto Raptors: Josh Giddey, G, International
I have no clue what Toronto is going to do this offseason. Will Kyle Lowry return? Will they hit the reset button completely? In any case, Giddey fits for Toronto as someone who can contribute right away and has a relatively high ceiling.
- Orlando Magic: Alperen Segun, C, International
This is probably a bit of a reach, but Segun has a very interesting skillset and the Magic have a need at center after trading away Nikola Vucevic.
- Sacramento Kings: Davion Mitchell, G, Baylor
Mitchell is on the older side, but he potentially raises Sacramento’s floor (which is what they want as De’Aaron Fox grows into a star player). Also allows the Kings to trade Buddy Hield this offseason and not miss his floor spacing.
- Charlotte Hornets: Kai Jones, C, Texas
Kai Jones is not a sure thing, but he does have a high ceiling as an athletic center. If he pans out, that’s a perfect fit for the Hornets.
- San Antonio Spurs: Keon Johnson, G/F, Tennessee
It was something of a mixed bag for Johnson at Tennessee this year, but he has some upside — which is something the Spurs’ roster currently lacks.
- Indiana Pacers: James Bouknight, G, UConn
The Pacers could use another scoring guard, and Bouknight has some upside as well.
- Golden State Warriors: Jaden Springer, G, Tennessee
I’m pretty high on Springer, and may end up sending him to OKC in the 6-8 range in future Tankathon sims. But in this scenario, he slides to Golden State at the end of the lottery. The Warriors could use him to replace Kelly Oubre if they opt to let him walk in free agency and as injury insurance for Klay Thompson.
- Washington Wizards: Chris Duarte, G, Oregon
The Wizards are at a bit of a crossroads, but could easily take Duarte here as he’s probably the most talented player left on the board. He’d give Washington a third guard to have faith in behind Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal.
- Boston Celtics: Corey Kispert, F, Gonzaga
The Celtics need to keep building around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Kispert is experienced, NBA-ready and could provide elite floor spacing for the Celtics’ young stars from Day one.
- Memphis Grizzlies: Franz Wagner, F, Michigan
Wagner is something of a home run swing here, but he also fits alongside the Grizzlies’ young core of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Wagner is a good shooter and play-maker for his size at 6-foot-9.
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Jackson, C, Kentucky
There are other interesting names on the board, namely Stanford wing Ziarie Williams and international center Usman Garuba. But Jackson excelled late in the season at Kentucky, and profiles as a shot blocker on defense and a lob threat on offense. He’s not a 3-point shooter at the moment, but he did shoot 70 percent from the free throw line for the Wildcats so his outside jumper might have a chance eventually.
It doesn’t have to be with the No. 18 overall pick, but I do think it’s important for OKC to come away with at least one center prospect from this draft — be it here, Evan Mobley in the top five or an intriguing second round flier.
Moses Brown, Isaiah Roby and Tony Bradley were fun last season, but it’s unlikely any of them will stick around in OKC longterm. It’s time for players like Shai and Poku to start developing meaningful on-court chemistry with a potential longterm starting center.
Just missed out: Ziaire Williams, Usman Garuba, Day’Ron Sharpe, Tre Mann, Sharife Cooper, Ayo Dosunmu and Cam Thomas.