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Thunder Journal: The 12th Pick

Thunder Journal: The 12th Pick

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Thunder fans have known for a little over a week now that Oklahoma City would be picking #2 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. And for a little over a week now, Thunder fans have known that OKC is going to end up with either Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr. or Paolo Banchero.

Sure, there’s whispers about Sam Presti trading down to #4 for Jaden Ivey with the Kings pick, but I’d trust an OKC trade rumor leaked a month before the draft about as much as I trust Jalen Rose’s All-NBA ballot. While the fanbase’s fervor is still fever high after the Draft Lottery results, the mystery of which player OKC will draft at #2 is waning. The buzz is that Orlando will select Smith and OKC will land Holmgren, arguably the crown jewel of the 2022 NBA Draft (DT’s Aidan Elrod makes a compelling case that he is).

But if it’s riddles and enigmas you seek, then pick #12 is just the conundrum for you.

The Thunder have so many options with their second lottery pick, this one courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers. The good news is that the Thunder should come away with two impact players in this draft, as there is still loads of talent available at the 12 spot. Let’s dive into the players OKC will be choosing from when their name is called a second time.

The Risers

Malaki Branham. Check any midseason mock draft and you’ll eventually find Branham hiding in the 20s alongside the likes of Jayhawk guard Christian Braun. Check any current mock draft and you’ll see the efficient, three-level scorer in the late lottery alongside the likes of Jayhawk guard Ochai Agbaji. Check our glowing scouting report of Branham to find why.

Ousmane Dieng. The Poku swing of this year’s draft, Dieng is all physical tools and upside. But Ousmane’s vast improvement the second half of the season–in the highly competitive NBL–has scouts believing his potential is no mirage.

The Fallers

AJ Griffin. Once ranked as high as #5 on many big boards, the elite shooter’s injury history, perceived loss of athleticism and lackluster defense has caused Adrian Griffin’s son to tumble in mock drafts. He could be the biggest steal of the draft…or the biggest bust.

Johnny Davis. While some boards still have the Badger ranked as high as #7, the rise of other prospects and doubts about his efficiency has Davis, previously a top-10 lock, falling to 12-ish territory.

The Defenders

Jeremy Sochan. He can defend positions 1 through 5 even though he’s a 3, but he is also likely to go 1 from 5 from 3.

Tari Eason. An underrated, high-motor defender who possesses an elite free throw rate, a solid 3-point shot, and the biggest hands since Kawhi Leonard. We liked Eason before it was cool to like Eason.

The Bigs

Jalen Duren. Way back when many still believed OKC was destined to have awful lottery luck, Duren was a popular choice for the Thunder’s pick if they fell to #6 or #7. Now there’s a good chance the young, athletic, rim-protecting lob threat may be there at #12.

Mark Williams. After officially measuring at 7’2 in shoes with a 7’6.5 wingspan and 9’9 (!) standing reach, the Duke center has several scouts wondering if he should be selected over Duren, who has consistently been the more hyped prospect.

The We Can Dreamers

Dyson Daniels. My favorite prospect outside the top five was once considered a late lottery pick, but his elite defense, playmaking, athleticism, late season G League performance, and combine results have vaulted him into top eight consideration.

Bennedict Mathurin. Jaden Ivey Lite seemed to be locked into the #7 spot. But the rise of Daniels and Sochan, along with the wildly varying opinions on Griffin, Duren and Davis, could result in a dream drop for OKC.

The Senior Citizen

Ochai Agbaji. I doubt Thunder GM Sam Presti goes the Chris Duarte route, but if he does, he’d be getting a high-floor 3&D plug and play guard. Straight from the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not fact file: Agbaji is two months older than Darius Bazley.

The Trade Up

The most popular pick at #12 amongst most Thunder fans is not picking at #12. Armed with infinity first round picks over the next several years, along with win-now players like Lu Dort (hey, I’m just the messenger) and Vasilije Micic (he could come stateside, for real this time!), Presti has the assets to move up if there’s a player he really likes. The most obvious trade partners are the playoff hopeful Blazers at 7 and Pelicans at 8. If Shaedon Sharpe falls, Presti may pounce. If he likes this year’s fast-rising Australian prodigy (Daniels) as much as last year’s fast-rising Aussie prodigy (Josh Giddey), he could make the leap.

Ultimately, the Thunder are in a position to greatly improve the roster in the 2022 NBA Draft. We know OKC is going to draft a potential star in Holmgren, Smith or Banchero at #2. The fun really starts at at #12 because we know absolutely nothing.