5 min read

Thunder draft recap: Wait and see

All the questions, all the speculation, all the possibilities.

It’s over. The Thunder went bland in the 2013 NBA Draft. But is that a bad thing?

With No. 12 they took Steven Adams, the best remaining big man on the board. With 29, they moved to 26 and took Andre Roberson from Colorado, also known as “Who?” to most everyone, and with the 32nd pick went with Spanish guard Alex Abrines.

So… let’s evaluate all this.

First, you don’t know. You don’t. You might think you do, but you don’t. You don’t know if Steven Adams will excel, or fail. You don’t know if Victor Oladipo is headed for something special. Sam Presti doesn’t know, Scott Brooks doesn’t know, you and I don’t know. The draft is about trying to do your homework, trying to locate and select a player that fits your culture and can develop into something valuable. It’s also about getting lucky.

Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it crashes and burns. Presti has had great success in the draft, but he’s also had some failures. He rolled the dice on Russell Westbrook and looked like a genius. He rolled it again on Byron Mullens and looked silly. If you want to boom, you’ve got to bust sometimes.

What hangs over this draft for the Thunder is James Harden. The No. 12 pick was only in their hands because of that trade so whatever they did was going to be held in comparison to that. But let me say this with emphasis: Judging the Harden trade now, based off of OKC’s selection at No. 12 and Jeremy Lamb is stupid. Will Adams and Lamb end up combining to be the kind of player Harden is? I doubt it. But it’s about wins and losses for the Thunder and if Lamb and Adams aid in that cause, haven’t the Thunder succeeded? So many have rushed to judge the trade based on what they see now, rather than understanding it can’t truly be evaluated until at least next season. We don’t know what Jeremy Lamb is and we certainly don’t know what Adams is or will be.

The Thunder did their due diligence to move up. They had their eye on Oladipo and they tried to get in a position to take him without giving up prized assets like Lamb or Reggie Jackson. The asking price from the Magic was significant and the Cavaliers reportedly wanted as much as Serge Ibaka. Not worth it in any way for the Thunder.

So in the end, the Thunder just sat tight, and took the best available player that fell to them at No. 12. Not sexy, not exciting, not buzzworthy. It was safe, it was sensible, it was smart. A lot of Thunder fans are tired of those things. They want big, they want bold, they want blockbuster. That’s not within the core values of the Thunder. Frustrating? Deal with it. It’s who the Thunder are.

The reactions when Adams’ name was called at 12 cracked me up. Maybe it’s because the wounds of Cole Aldrich are too fresh, but immediately assuming OKC picked a bust is just so unfair. I don’t know what Adams will be. His measurables are off the chart, his athleticism is crazy, his size is terrific and his accent is awesome. He’s raw, he needs time, he needs work. The first time he gets sent to the D-League, fans are going to roll their eyes and declare the pick wasted. News flash here: He’s not going to step in and start 82 games and average a double-double. The Thunder believe patience pays off, and in a lot of ways, they’ve been proven right (Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka are good examples).

You have to give Adams a chance. Past big man failures have nothing to do with him. He’s going to need patience, he’s going to have to be given some time. Most of you probably understand that now. Try and remember that in February when he hasn’t played a minute and you’re calling him a bust.

I was hoping for more. The idea of moving to get Oladipo was exciting and made a ton of sense. But you can’t mortgage the future and get carried away for one piece. The Cavs were asking for far too much, and most likely, so were the Magic. Making that move would’ve been a lot of fun and would’ve certain been exciting. I love Oladipo, especially as a fit in OKC. Apparently, the Thunder felt the same way. In the end, it just couldn’t get done because it was simply too much.

Remember: This Thunder team is always very, very, very, very good. One of four or five teams most likely to win a title next season. They were in the unique position to add to a contender in the lottery instead of trying to build one. They have a luxury that other teams don’t. They can take the long view, the slow route and not hurry the process along.

We also learned a few things tonight. Five things, actually:

1) It seems the Thunder believe in Jeremy Lamb. Was he part of a deal to move to No. 2? From what I understand, the Thunder were extremely resistant to include him in any trade talks. I don’t know if the team is completely sold on him, but his talent is big time. It seems likely that he’ll see real time on the floor this season and by going big in the first round, the Thunder appear to be showing confidence in him.

2) The Thunder will stick to their core values. This is one principled organization. They have their process, and they live by it.

3) Picking Alex Abrines with the 32nd pick means the Thunder are looking for future value without spending any money now, and not using a roster spot either. There were other interesting names on the board there — Allen Crabbe, Jamal Franklin, Glen Rice Jr., among others — but the Thunder clearly didn’t want to have to pay anyone now. So they took Abrines. Not really surprising, considering. It was shocking the freefall of Franklin though and when he was available, it seemed like he made sense. But he fell all the way to 41. Something must be up.

4) The Thunder were willing to move up to take a chance — from 29 to 26. Picking Andre Roberson felt weird, because most boards had him in the 40s, but OKC targeted him. Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com ranked Roberson his No. 1 potential second-round steal. Possibly fearing the Spurs stealing him out from under his feet, Presti moved up to make sure he got his guy. This pick seemed to draw more contention than the Adams one. You do realize this is the 26th overall pick in a watered down draft for a team that won 60 games? Chill, peeps. It’s worth taking a flier.

5) We won’t have an answer on the Harden trade for at least one more year, maybe three. I just don’t see how it’s fair to judge the deal now. Two years from now, or even next season? We’ll have a much better idea. But for now, Harden yielded Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and another late first rounder next season. And remember: It’s not like the Thunder were just trading Harden straight up as a player. His value was diminished because he was headed for restricted free agency. This draft opened old wounds, but really, it has to live on a little longer. You can’t close the book on it yet because we don’t know how good OKC’s return is.

So, what grade does one give the Thunder for this draft? Nothing about it is exciting. Fans love taking chances. Fans love going for the home run move. Instead, the Thunder stayed sensible. They needed frontcourt depth, and they addressed that. How good a pick Adams is will be determined at a later time, which will reveal how good a draft this was for the Thunder. I’m giving the Thunder an I for incomplete. It’s TBD.

You better be good, Steven Adams.