OKC Thunder Draft: Team May Not Use Their Pick…and That’s Okay


Okay, I feel like I need to preface this entire article with a singular but necessary mantra: trust in Sam Presti.

Unforunately for Thunder fans, I’m going to go over a scenario that most don’t want to read about or really even consider. So while what I’m about to discuss is not necessarily a guarantee, I do think it’s a very real scenario and certainly something that fans may want to brace themselves for:

The Oklahoma City Thunder won’t be taking a contributor in the 2015 NBA Draft.

I know, I know. It’s not what anyone wants to read/hear. After a tough 2014-2015 campaign, the last thing that Oklahoma City fans want to consider is punting away a lottery pick. However, given some roster construction issues and future team-building considerations, the possibility that Presti elects to play this pick close to the vest is certainly one to consider.

The first reason that I’m guessing the team may not draft a player of any consequence – or draft a player at all – is that there is not really any room on the roster to add a rookie.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, Steve Novak, Anthony Morrow, D.J. Augustin, Nick Collison, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams, Mitch McGary, Andre Roberson, and Perry Jones are all already under contract for at least the 2015-2016 season. They alone compose 13 of the 15 available roster sports for next season. Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler have not yet re-signed with the team but based on everything the team has said, both are expected back (particularly Kanter).

That’s all 15 roster spots accounted for.

Now, a more enterprising fan may gesture toward the roster and notice that some of the returnees are largely dead weight. Singler doesn’t really have a role outside of being Kevin Durant’s massively outmatched backup and Lamb and Jones can’t seem to ever find consistent time within the rotation (granted, that may change with Scott Brooks gone). Surely one of those players could be dropped for a young prospect like Jerian Grant or Cameron Payne, right?

Well, in theory, yes. Until one remembers last year’s draft and the clever cap maneuvering the Thunder underwent to acquire Josh Huestis.

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You see, much like this year, the Thunder didn’t really have room or the need for another rookie after they selected McGary. However, the team had two first rounders and with no trade interest for the 29th pick and no Euro-players to stash away, Oklahoma City pulled off a revolutionary deal with Huestis to make him the first domestic “draft and stash” prospect. Huestis and his agent both knew that he would be lucky to be drafted. In an effort to secure his future, Huestis told the Thunder that he would be willing to sign his tender with the local D-league team for a year in exchange for Oklahoma City drafting him in the first round. This allowed OKC to develop their 3-and-D wing of the future (in-house, nonetheless) while delaying his pay day for one more year.

So why does this matter now? Huestis is guaranteed a roster spot now that his stint in the Developmental League is over. The Thunder actually has to move someone to open up the roster spot for Huestis, making it even more difficult to fit a rookie onto the roster. So yes, Singler or Lamb will likely be gone…just not to make room for someone like Devin Booker.

So if the Thunder can’t or won’t make the pick, then what are their options?

I would like to preface by saying that this whole article is null and void if Oklahoma City lucks into a top three pick via the lottery. It’s hard to justify letting Singler walk to make room for someone like Delon Wright, who is largely pegged as a rotation player with upside.  But if you’re looking at Emmanuel Mudiay or Jahlil Okafor? Yea, you go ahead and find a way to fit that future All-Star into your team.

But we have to be real and in every rational universe, Oklahoma City is going to stay at pick number 14. This leaves draft-and-stash or trading out of the pick as the only true options.

Ideally, the team manages to snatch up one of the top Euro players at 14 and stashes them overseas until needed. This works on multiple levels because A.) they don’t have to clear up a roster spot and B.) they don’t have to pay the player until he’s here with the team. So who’s there for the taking?

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  • Unfortunately for the Thunder, they would need some things to really fall their way to luck into one of the top European players. The top two, Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia and Mario Hezonja from Croatia, are virtual locks for the top-10 and it would be seemingly impossible for the Thunder to land them (especially disappointing since Hezonja is 6’8” wing who would fit in perfectly in Billy Donovan’s spread system.)

    So perhaps trading is an option? Given that the team won’t be able to secure one of the top two European players, the Thunder would likely look to drop back into the second round, picking up multiple future assets (read: 2016 first rounders to dangle in front of free-agent Durant) from a team like the Lakers or Jazz who would love to add another first rounder to help return their teams to relevance.

    If the team did drop into the second, European prospects Cedi Osman and Timothe Luwawu are both ripe for the taking in that range. Both players are lanky wings that love to shoot the deep ball and could eventually emerge as contributors for Donovan and the Thunder pending further development. Oklahoma City could even repeat what they did with Huestis and domestically stash another raw prospect such as VCU’s Treveon Graham, keeping the roster flexibility open while still garnering future assets from the 14th pick trade.

    Either way, I think trading back from 14 is the most realistic possibility assuming OKC opts to not take a player.

    However, like I alluded to early in the article, this is far from a guarantee. The roster as it stands was constructed for team’s former head coach. Everything from the abundance of defensive-minded two-guards to the iso-heavy playmakers screams Brooks. Presti may opt to start morphing the roster into something that more caters to Donovan’s style.

    Donovan has always had offensive-minded players at the wing (Bradley Beal and Corey Brewer were two such players). Roberson and Singler aren’t exactly what I would call offensive dynamos. It’s entirely possible that shooters like Grant or Booker are what Donovan needs to get his offense flowing and if that’s the case, Presti will likely pull that string for his new head coach.

    If there’s anything that Thunder fans know, however, it’s that the draft is never predictable. If you told me that you pegged McGary and Huestis as the picks last year, I would have called you a liar. Presti is always working toward a larger end-game so it’s hard to accurately predict exactly what will happen. We can just take solace that with the roster he’s already built, it will be hard to make a wrong decision at the draft…even if that decision is to do nothing at all.

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