With an opportunity to re-draft, the 2017 season the OKC Thunder selects a hidden gem who resembles a current member of the roster.
Without live games to sate our starving sports palates, FanSided decided to revisit the 2017 Draft. This draft class has ample hidden gems and with the OKC Thunder selecting 21st it required digging in to consider who would best suit the current iteration of the club.
At first, the prospect of getting a second chance at this class had us downright giddy. The problem, of course, is 20 other selections were made prior to the Thunder’s turn.
Although Terrance Ferguson has committed to his role and bought into the Thunder way his regression this season is concerning. Subsequently, we didn’t elect to replicate the original selection and he did fall down the re-draft board.
Reflecting back, it’s likely Sam Presti would’ve made a different choice. There’s no use discussing a top talent like Jayson Tatum although you have to wonder if Presti had a crystal ball whether he would’ve tried to buy up to the 13th or 14th picks which netted the Jazz Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo for the Heat.
With that same crystal ball, however, we’re certain the Thunder GM would’ve taken at least five prospects ahead of Ferguson. For example:
- OG Anunoby (even back in 2017 the fact Anunoby was still on the board is a sore spot. Imagine having his ability to defend all positions and connect on 38.1 percent from the perimeter on 3.4 attempts per game on this Thunder squad. Okay, mini-rant over).
- Dillon Brooks
- Derrick White
- Kyle Kuzma
- Josh Hart
Each of the above players came off the board awaiting our turn and in the end, we elected to select an undrafted hidden gem — Chris Boucher.
In a re-draft, there are two considerations:
- What was the status of the team entering draft night? Specifically, where the roster gaps (or lack of depth) existed and which players were about to enter free agency?
- In the years since the draft, how has the newly selected prospect performed, how high is their ceiling, and at the time how did they fit the Thunder 2017 roster or what was the projections for their growth into a fit in the near future?
The answer to question one is highly relevant given it was Russell Westbrook‘s MVP season and first-year since Kevin Durant‘s departure. The 2017 draft night began with Sam Presti shocking the NBA world by trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers for Paul George.
Andre Roberson was among the top five defensive guard-forwards in the league and healthy (his horrific injury knee injury occurred the following season).
Taj Gibson was a free agent, Enes Kanter had just immortalized Billy Donovan with his “can’t play Kanter” meme and neither Patrick Patterson or Nerlens Noel was part of the team yet since free agency was still weeks away.
Therefore, the prudent choice for the Thunder would’ve been to draft a frontcourt player to help ease the lost depth. With so much salary committed to Westbrook and George (and later Carmelo Anthony) adding an economical big man with upside who could complement Adams’ stay at home tendency was a natural choice.
Although Chris Boucher didn’t get drafted as we’re learning teams who do their homework are finding talents who can blossom into contributors at the pro level. Fred VanVleet (another Raptors player who went undrafted) played pivotal minutes in the championship and even received an MVP vote from Hubie Brown.
Others like Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson of the Heat, Terence Davis of the Raptors, and the Thunder two-way surprise Luguentz Dort are showcasing how important scouting has become to finding talent.
Boucher spent his first professional season in the league as a two-way contracted player for Golden State. Although he appeared in one varsity game the majority of his time was spent with the Dubs G-League Affiliate. In 20 games with Santa Cruz, the Oregon alum averaged 11.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game.
In 2018-19 he signed another two-way deal this time with Toronto and the Raptors 905. The 6’9 big man made his jump in this second assignment ascending under the vaunted Raptors development system.
He started 28 games averaging a double-double of 27.2 points and 11.4 rebounds while filling up the stat sheet with 1.1 assists, 1.3 steals, an incredulous 4.1 blocks, and improved his perimeter shot to 32 percent on 6.9 attempts per game. He also appeared in 28 varsity games and played in two playoff matches.
Although he collected one of those massive rings the Raptors handed out to the members of the championship squad, arguably the greater honor was achieved with the 905. Boucher became the first player ever to win both the Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year G-League awards.
His performance earned him a one-year minimum deal this season with the Raptors varsity. With Toronto’s core all missing at least 10 games and Marc Gasol missing two lengthy stints Boucher has been given a chance to shine.
He’s appeared in 55 games this season and was part of the largest comeback in Raptors history playing with three other reserves and Kyle Lowry as they erased a 30 point deficit versus the Mavericks.
This game is was a perfect example of Boucher’s two-way capabilities as he scored 21 points grabbed seven rebounds, collected two steals, and had four blocks including two from the perimeter. At times his own perimeter shot looks fundamentally scary but he shows no fear and improves each year from that range.
If he had an NBA doppelganger it might be Nerlens Noel given his skinny frame and shot-blocking ability. The fact he can shoot from range and is aggressive on both ends makes him a cost-effective big man who would fulfill a need upfront. And since he’s spent time on the floor with both Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol his ability to offer versatility upfront for the Thunder is enticing.
The Canadian is coachable and loves to be challenged, has a high motor and extremely sound work ethic.
While the re-draft is simply a fun exercise by the NBA FanSided group don’t forget about Boucher as he’ll enter the offseason as a free agent and should be someone Sam Presti keeps in mind.
For those interested in how the entire first round went down visit FanSided’s article showcasing all 30 picks. Videos accompany each selection including one from T.I.’s Shontelle Matano.