Top 15 NBA Draft picks in OKC Thunder franchise history

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OKC Thunder NBA Draft

EDMOND, OK – OCTOBER 1: Serge Ibaka

The top 15 NBA Draft picks of All-Time for the OKC Thunder reflect luck, talent and superstars.

NBA Draft week is finally here with the big night scheduled for Thursday, June 21. It’s common during this week to reflect back on the draft picks through history and gauge how those individuals effected the franchise’s direction.

For the Thunder this also means looking at the former franchise who owned the team prior to moving to Oklahoma City. In retrospect, several of the players who had the greatest impact were technically drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics.

Notably this past season marked the OKC Thunder’s first decade in the Association. Sam Presti began his tenure as General Manager in Seattle on June 7, 2007. Presti is responsible for 26 picks including the 2007 and 2008 season when the team still officially resided n Seattle. Of the 26 NBA draft picks 17 were made under the OKC Thunder umbrella. Therefore, arriving at a top 15 NBA draft picks in history has to pay homage to the Sonics as well.

Luck, Risk and Whiffs:

Luck prevailed on more than one occasion for OKC delivering an a-typical start for a new franchise. Case in point, Kevin Durant left open for the then Sonics second pick due to the Blazers being enamored with Greg Oden.

One season later Derrick Rose was an understandable top draft pick for Chicago. Yet, Sam Presti was fortunate once more as the Heat and Wolves selected Michael Beasley and O. J. Mayo ahead of Russell Westbrook. The trilogy of luck continued in 2009 when the Clippers made Blake Griffin the top draft pick and the Grizzlies inconceivably selected Hasheem Thabeet leaving James Harden open for the OKC Thunder to nab with the third pick.

With these propitious draft picks there is also evidence of monumental oversights. In 2010 the OKC Thunder traded away Eric Bledsoe as well as Quincy Pondexter (and Craig Brackins) for the 11th pick Cole Aldrich.  Still, this wasn’t irrational given the guard depth on OKC’s roster. Rather, it was more a failure based on the return.

2014 Disaster:

Still the 2014 Draft stands out as arguably Sam Presti’s worst performance ever on Draft Day. Long noted as a GM with the ability to recognize untapped talent (Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams), Presti missed the mark. In particular his selection of Mitch McGary at 21 (as well as Josh Huestis at 29) is one of his most criticized picks.  What makes the selections so egregious is the talent he failed to recognize.  Still on the board when Presti picked 21st?

Credit to the organizations who developed each of the above prospects into serviceable players. Still, each would have been preferable to McGary.

The Top 15 NBA Draft picks:

With that let’s dive in to the top 15 NBA draft picks of All-Time for the OKC Thunder. As with any list of this nature personal opinion plays a factor.

Parameters: To get to a top 15 it was essential to assign certain caveats. Specifically, extra credence was given to players who:

  • played primarily for the OKC Thunder
  • won a title(s)
  • won award(s) or made All-NBA teams
  • led to the team landing a contributing talent
  • delivered off the court via philanthropy or community contributions
  • potential – rewarded for early career production with view to long term potential

Given the SuperSonics franchise ran from 1967 to 2008 this exercise would be far easier to complete focused entirely on Seattle. Instead, the list prioritizes Thunder players with a few key Sonics who deserve to make the list. In another decade this list will likely look much different, but for now let’s celebrate the 15 All-Time NBA Draft picks.

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