The OKC Thunder are still riding the high of Tuesday’s 2022 NBA Draft Lottery which saw them leap up two spots and be awarded the second selection in June’s NBA Draft. The OKC Thunder organization controls the 2nd, 12th, 30th, and 34th picks in the 2022 NBA Draft. The team controls the draft in multiple ways with potential selections at the top, middle, and end of the first round along with a very valuable second-round pick.
The rumors will come fast and furious over the next 32 days ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft as the Thunder are in a prime position to trade up in the draft from picks 12, 30, and/or 34 not to mention reports that the Sacramento Kings might try to leap up from the fourth pick to the second selection. Plus, “educated theories” at the NBA combine prove the Thunder’s second overall pick will not be solidified until Adam Silver walks across that stage in New York.
Starting this week, big names will begin their private workout process with teams, until this point teams mainly brought in their second-round or even undrafted targets. This is par for the course as first-rounders on solid footing do not make their predraft tours until after the combine in Chicago. The Thunder will touch base with nearly every prospect in the draft pool, but that will not stop speculation from running wild with each workout.
The OKC Thunder have plenty of options with the second pick in the 2022 NBA Draft
While there is no Cade Cunningham or Zion Williamson level lock this year for the first overall pick, the 2022 NBA Draft class features three big names in Jabari Smith Jr, Paolo Banchero, and Chet Holmgren all separated by a razor-thin edge. That is why heading into Tuesday’s lottery tanking teams were just hoping for a top-three pick allowing even the Rockets to breathe a sigh of relief after netting the third pick.
Jabari Smith Jr seems to be the front runner for the first overall pick owned by the Orlando Magic, though you can not rule out Chet Holmgren from the conversation. As much as Thunder General Manager Sam Presti and Bench Boss Mark Daigneault love lengthy playmakers that is the same mold Magic GM John Hammond seeks. From pushing for the Bucks to draft Giannis Antetekoumpo before departing to Toronto, to selecting Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba with Orlando.
Though, early returns still point to Jabari Smith Jr being the guy. He is a much easier sell to team ownership groups and traditional basketball fans. Smith is a 6’10 220-pound forward that plays elite defense and shoots the trey ball at a 45-percent clip.
Jabari Smith Jr, 6’10, Auburn
Smith Jr ranks in the 85th percentile in overall offense according to Synergy, producing 1.014 points per possession. His spot-up jumper was in the 94th percentile shooting 45-percent from the floor and producing 1.2 points per possession. On top of his electric scoring from the perimeter as a pick and roll man, he ranks in the 92nd percentile posting 1.3 points per possession.
As a defender, Jabari Smith Jr is in the 95th percentile limiting his match up to 0.616 points per possession, 25-percent shooting from the floor, and a 12.5-percent turnover percentage. He Locked down jump shots, held his match up to just 32-percent around the rim, and when his man tried to post him up he shot just 27-percent.
Chet Holmgren, 7’0, Gonzaga
The 7’0 center hopes to be a 50/40/90 club member in his NBA career and the college ranks as an awkward fit in the Gonzaga system Chet Holmgren made the most of it ranking in the 98th percentile in overall offense. Holmgren was fantastic around the rim shooting 80-percent in non-post-up attempts at the cup. Holmgren was in the 93rd percentile in transition offense, the 90th percentile in cutting, and the 96th percentile in isolation.
You will not find many seven-footers with the ball-handling, playmaking, or shooting skills as Holmgren mix that with his incredible shot-blocking ability to defend the perimeter without being exposed, fantastic drop coverage in pick and roll scenarios, and while placed in man defense holding his matchup to 34-percent shooting, and you can see why Chet Holmgren is a very enticing prospect for the OKC Thunder if he is available with the second pick.
Paolo Banchero, 6’10, Duke
Paolo Banchero might have the best NBA body of the three potential top picks, at 6’10 he is a lean 250-pounds and offers offensive creation the other two do not. This has led many to believe he has the best star potential in the NBA Draft.
The big concern with Banchero is his defense, ranking in the 65th percentile which still was good enough to hold matchups to 36-percent shooting and just 0.8 points per possession. Though, Banchero falls asleep often defensively, struggles to make the proper rotation, and just flat out does not try on that end of the floor. Now, will that correct itself in the NBA? Possibly. It is a lot easier to lock in against the Celtics in the TD Garden on a Tuesday than on the road against the Maryland Terps.
Offensively Banchero was excellent at creating his shot, a great scorer when he touched the paint, and dominated in the mid-range as well as in cutting opportunities. Banchero also shoots the worst of the three from beyond the arc going for just 32-percent from three in college.
Trading back from the number two selection
I know, I know this is the least fun option. What was all that tanking for if after winning the lottery you are just going to trade down? Why shut down young developmental players if your main target was a player that would be available at pick 4, 5, or 6 and easily available via trade if your worst-case scenario panned out on draft lottery night? When you lay it out like that it does not make a ton of sense.
Trading back for Jaden Ivey or, more likely in my opinion, Shaedon Sharpe would only be an option if that player was number one on Sam Presti’s draft board and he can pick up additional assets from the Sacramento Kings in the process of getting his number one guy.
Though, if that scenario were to pan out it raises more questions than answers on a lot of fronts. This is by far the least likely scenario for the OKC Thunder, but it is worth noting after the reports surfaced over the weekend that the Kings are looking to move up.
The only avenue this makes sense is getting an unprotected 2023 first-round pick, in an admittedly loaded 2023 class. However, it is not as though that helps you much in the chase for the prized jewel of the draft Victor Wembanyama, the only value it adds is the percentage points at the top overall pick. Which, with the Kings’ motivation to simply be a play-in team it likely has the same percentages as this year’s Clippers pick did.
No organization is trading Victor Wembanyama for a mountain of draft picks or even proven talent. You would not pass up nine years of control over what many projects to be a generational talent for future draft picks that no one knows how good (or bad) their classes will be, or even proven NBA talent that has less team control.