Welcome to NBA Draft Combine Week! The NBA Draft cycle has fully heated up with the G-League Elite Combine wrapped up, prospects beginning private workouts with teams, and now the NBA Combine beginning! On Tuesday, the league will conduct its annual NBA Draft Lottery to determine the order of the draft and, most importantly, who owns the first overall selection. The rights to the best prospect we have ever seen, Victor Wembanyama. After being knocked out of the NBA Play-In tournament a month ago, the OKC Thunder joined the Lottery Party. Though the chances are slim, what happens if OKC leaps up in the Lottery?
The OKC Thunder have an eight percent chance of leaping into the top four of the NBA Draft, highlighted by a 1.7 percent chance of the team getting the first overall pick. A 1.9 percent chance at landing the 2nd overall pick, a 2.1 percent shot at 3rd, and a 2.4 percent chance of being the fourth overall pick. The Thunder will likely pick at 12 (85.2 percent chance). What would happen to this franchise with extreme luck in Tuesday’s Lottery?
What if the OKC Thunder jump into the top four of the NBA Draft Lottery?
From now until Tuesday at 7 p.m. Central I, like the other Lottery team fanbases, will repeatedly be clicking sim lottery on Tankathon. When that eight percent chance hits, it feels good to sit back and dream about what would happen to the league if that were the case.
What If: The First Overall Pick.
If the Thunder land the first overall pick, pairing Victor Wembanyama with Chet Holmgren would make the OKC Thunder the most-watched team in the league. But how would that duo work? Could anyone score more than 83 points on the Thunder? Then you mix in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a superstar, Josh Giddey’s dazzling passes, and Jalen Williams’s efficient bucket-getting. Does Mark Daigneault’s squad become instant contenders?
You know that video of LeBron James looking back at the scorers’ table to see Kawhi Leonard checking back into the game in that Heat/Spurs Finals? Where James belts out one of the seven words you can not say on Television (or blogs)? That would be the NBA’s reaction to Sam Presti’s smirk when the card was pulled from the envelope and the Thunder nab Victor Wembanyama.
What if: The second overall pick.
While Victor Wembanyama is the prize of this draft, and many speculated the Thunder would all-out tank for Wembanyama before OKC rattled off a 40-win season, Scoot Henderson is one of the best “consolation prizes” we have ever seen.
While I understand the Thunder make such a massive leap in wins, and it feels like the rebuild is over, do not turn your nose up at the idea of drafting Henderson or “Another Guard?!” This rebuild is only in its third draft cycle. Look around this roster without emotion; only four players reach untouchable status. That leaves plenty of minutes and roster spots at every position. Especially for a projected star.
Scoot Henderson continues to work to become a lethal option off-ball offensively; I watched him for an hour before each game in Oklahoma City exclusively work on off-ball offense. The secret is out that he is willing to play alongside other guards, even ball-dominant ones. With Josh Giddey’s positional versatility and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s length, adding Scoot Henderson would be wacky but work.
The bottom line is, despite this encouraging season, the OKC Thunder are not in a position to turn their nose up at a possible star. As Sam Presti put it, “We have to finish our breakfast around here.” continuing to cite that the Thunder finished before a .500 record this season.
What if: The Third overall pick.
If the Thunder land the third overall pick with picks one and two going the way we have expected for a year now, Brandon Miller would be the best and most seamless fit in the draft for the Thunder.
As long as the off-the-court issues check out, Brandon Miller was in the 85th percentile in overall offense points per possession on the floor. An elite spot-up shooter, with great skills running the floor in transition, in the 92nd percentile off handoffs, and an elite pick and roll partner.
On catch-and-shoot chances, Miller shot 40 percent while correcting some of his inside the arc finishing along the way during his freshman year at Alabama. In 37 games, Miller posted 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists, a stela, and a block per game while shooting 43 percent from the floor, 38 percent from beyond the arc, and 86 percent at the line.
According to Synergy, Brandon Miller is an elite 3-and-D player ranking in the 91st percentile in overall defense for Alabama last year.
Many argue that the OKC Thunder specifically should take Miller over Henderson if they leaped to the second overall pick, but I like the gamble on Henderson’s star potential.
What if: The Fourth Overall Pick.
The Oklahoma City Thunder earning the fourth overall pick (or any pick 2-4) would allow Sam Presti to control the cards on this draft and the league’s future.
For the OKC Thunder to leap up in the lottery, a tanking team that sold out for the top talent in this draft would have to slide out. With the fourth overall pick, Sam Presti could elect to trade down, acquiring future assets while delivering a team a player like Amen Thompson. Along with those future assets, Presti would be able to nab a player that is a smoother fit, such as Jarace Walker, Gradey Dick, or Taylor Hendricks with a more down.
Let’s say the Houston Rockets get the second or third overall pick, but the Thunder get the fourth pick after missing out on Victor Wembanyama. Would the Rockets rather have Scoot Henderson/Brandon Miller or the fourth overall pick and control of their picks back? Moving up from four would be challenging, but there is at least a chance. The more likely option is moving down to hold all the leverage on a disappointed tanking team.
If the Thunder stays at four, they would likely take the chance on Amen Thompson. One of the most challenging prospects to evaluate at 6’7 and 20 years old playing high school talent. However, his passing chops, vision, and length on the defensive end to spark transition and ability to score at the rim offer extreme upside, especially if world-renowned shooting coach Chip Engelland can iron out his three-point stroke.