The NBA draft is this Thursday, June 26 and the Oklahoma City Thunder are in a rare position. They’re a championship quality team with a lot of good assets, including two first round picks in the upcoming draft. Even though picks #21 and #29 don’t sound like much, in a deep draft such as this years’ and with teams posturing for free agency, the two first round picks are valuable currency.
Sam Presti is heralded as one of the best minds in the NBA and he’s got a lot of options come Thursday. Not only could the two first round picks come into play, but let’s not forget that OKC has Kevin Martin‘s $6.6 million trade exception that expires in less than a month and Reggie Jackson, whose future is in question following his “I want to be a starter” comment in his exit interview and the fact that he’s due a big raise after this season.
OKC could be busy on Thursday and here are a look at their options:
Keep Both Picks
Maybe not the “big splash” that fans want on Thursday, but, once again, this is a deep draft and using both picks might not be such a bad thing. It would allow OKC to draft a third point guard to replace Derek Fisher and potentially groom as Jackson’s replacement along with a depth guard or big man. There isn’t much consensus on who OKC could target at #21 and #29, but our own Eli J. Friedman likes Clint Capela at #21, while others, such as Chad Ford (ESPN) and Chris Mannix (Sports Illustrated) agree that Jordan Adams is a good pick at #29. Other options include P.J. Hairston, T.J. Warren, Cleanthony Early, and C.J. Wilcox. For what it’s worth, DraftExpress.com has OKC taking Adreian Payne at #21 and K.J. McDaniels at #29. These guys might not excite fans right away, but OKC already has a strong “star core”. And when it comes down to it, every championship team needs a strong bench. OKC could end up getting some valuable bench help with both picks.
Trade Pick Plus Use Trade Exception For Roster Player
Oklahoma City Thunder tried to trade pick #29 for New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert at the trade deadline, but the Knicks declined. Shumpert is still in the middle of trade rumors, and it’s possible that OKC ups the pot by giving the Knicks pick #21 instead of #29. The Knicks, who have no first round pick, are desperate to get into the first round, and Phil Jackson will likely shake up the Knicks roster before next season. Shumpert makes sense for OKC, as he’s a strong defender who can knockdown the three. He’s only 23 years old and even though his numbers have dipped since his rookie season, part of that can be attributed to just being on the Knicks. Other trade options include Gerald Henderson of the Charlotte Hornets, and Mike Dunleavy of the Chicago Bulls.
Package Both Picks To Move Up
Maybe OKC really likes a player between #10-#15, and knows they won’t fall to #21. It’s possible that, depending on the team, OKC would package both picks in order to move up. The Philadelphia 76ers have the #3 and #10 pick, and assuming they don’t trade both to get the #1 pick, maybe they trade #10 for #21 and #29. The 76ers need plenty of help, and having the #3 pick, plus #21 and #29 could benefit them more than just having #3 and #10. The Magic, another team that needs plenty of help, could be another option for OKC, as they have the #12 pick along with the #4 pick. If you’re an OKC fan, at this point the question becomes do you prefer a guy like Elfrid Payton or Gary Harris in the middle of the draft, or the two picks at the back end?
Package Reggie Jackson And Both Picks To Move Up
Everyone can hype up just how good they think Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Dante Exum are. However, here’s the reality of the game: Coaches and general managers get fired because potential doesn’t always equal reality. Here’s what we do know: Reggie Jackson is really good. He’s a starting point guard caliber player, and if he’s allowed to run a team, there’s no telling how high his ceiling might be. Would Jackson and both first-round picks be enough to pry #3 for the 76ers or #4 from the Magic? Who knows? But they’d have to entertain the thought, wouldn’t they? Obviously OKC would have to pay the #3 or #4 pick more than they’re currently paying Jackson and what they would pay #21 and #29 combined, but it would only be in the $4-5 million range. With the departures of Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, and Hasheem Thabeet, rest assured they’ll have the money to spend.
I think Presti makes some type of deal on draft day, with my head telling me that it’ll be a pick and the Martin trade exception for a roster player. When it comes to Sam Presti, you just never know what he has up his sleeve though. He might pull off a three-team trade that no one sees coming in order to bolster the OKC roster, or he might keep both picks and then make a splash once free agency starts. Let the speculation begin.