Here we go again.
The Cavaliers have, once again, overcome the odds and won the NBA Draft Lottery. This did not particularly make me happy. It seriously makes me doubt that the Basketball Gods exist because if they did, the Cavaliers would have gotten smacked upside down. They blew their first overall pick last year after defeating the odds by drafting Anthony Bennett. And they failed to piece Kyrie Irving with a player he can work with in Dion Waiters. The Cavs nearly made the playoffs and get yet another chance to form a stellar team. Where is the karma in this?
Even though the shocking night did not effect the Thunder much, I can't help but feel inspired to write about the draft because it excites me. This year's class is deeper than it has been in so long. There are three sure fire stars and numerous, high-ceiling players. What more can you ask from a class filled with freshmen?
The Thunder are left with the 21st pick and the 29th pick in the 1st round so they are left in a good spot for a team fighting for a ring. But before we go over the list of players that would make great fits, let's review the Thunder's needs.
Kendrick Perkins may be amnestied this offseason. If he is, the Thunder will need to fill that void. They need to aim for a more athletic center than Perkins. One who can shoot, rebound, and finish above the rim. Unfortunately, the centers in this draft class are pretty weak in terms of talent. But on the other hand, since there are lots of great players at other positions who will be drafted before the big men, the Thunder may come across one of the top center prospects. One who can rotate and distribute the ball around the perimeter. Or one who sets strong screens and finishes with the smooth roll and layup. Going with a center two years in a row in the first round after Steven Adams worked out well may sound illogical, but they need depth at that position.
Other voids that the Thunder should focus on filling is point guard. Reggie Jackson may want to test free agency when his contract expires to make more money and land a starting job. This means the Thunder need to start breeding a new point guard. This draft is rich in point guards. Maybe the Thunder should look for a solid perimeter shooter to spread the floor. The Caron Butler experiment did not work out so well since he hasn't been such a great consistent shooter. This means the Thunder need a shooter. It is great that the Thunder have two first round picks. They have proved that they draft well. Will they continue this trend?
Shabazz Napier, G, Connecticut
Ricky O'Donnell has the Thunder taking Napier in his mock draft. Derek Fisher's days are coming to a close and Reggie Jackson may want to exercise free agency soon. This leaves an open slot at point guard. Napier is, well, a winner. He was a part of two NCAA championship teams at UConn, one of which he lead himself. Napier has a great IQ and an excellent scoring mind. He can shoot, create off the dribble, and thrives on driving. Napier has the experience to make an instant impact and is a competitive player. While he is not intimidating physically (5'11'' without shoes), he is definitely one of the best talent wise and incredibly smart. Napier would be a great bench contributor.
Adreian Payne, C, Michigan State
Adreian Payne is big...really big.
After 4 years at Michigan State, Payne was a reliable big man in the paint. But what makes Payne so... painful, is his range. He can shoot the three better than any other center in the draft. While he is a slight liability on defense, his offense is lethal. Payne would replace Kendrick Perkins but would spread the floor more and would surpass Perkins athletically. He is a freak athlete and a stellar basketball player. He would fill the center opening and the three point shooting opening.
Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early was the key to Wichita State's perfect regular season. He stands at 6'8'', a respectable size for a small forward. Early's shooting improved as the season progressed, and it was clear that he can get the hot hand as he did against Kentucky in the Tournament. If Early's three point shooting can be tweaked, he can be a weapon off the bench. He is notorious for his offensive versatility and ability to create his shot. If Cleanthony can work on his defense and be able to hit a three and a few shots off the bench, that would be his ticket on a team like the Thunder.
Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
Isaiah Austin may be nearly blind in one eye and skinny as hell, but he is extremely athletic, which is hard to find in a player that is 7'1''. Austin has great offensive versatility. He can hit a three, like Adreian Payne, and also do great work in the paint, thanks to his physical tools and his 7'3'' wing span. This leaves you thinking... why is he not a top pick with all the strengths I just explained?
The answer: his frame. He is extremely thin and needs to hit the gym in order to compete with big time centers. He is not a strong rebounder nor is he strong on defense. Austin can be a liability but if he is played and trained correctly, he can be a huge contribution for the Thunder.
Doug McDermott, F, Creighton (Reach)
Will Dougie McBuckets fall this far down the board? Most likely not. But who thought Johnny Manziel would go 22nd overall in the NFL Draft? Doug McDermott is one of the best to touch an NCAA court. He led all NCAA scorers with 26.9 points per game and has the physical tools to compete on the next level. In the NBA, McDermott has the ability to be a shooter off the bench or even a starter. The upside is endless with McDermott – however, so is the down side. But what can go wrong with McDermott who averaged nearly 30 points in his senior season at Creighton? He can be a huge steal or he can be a huge bust, but he has all the tools to be great.
The Thunder will need to fill their gaps with their two first round picks, which they were blessed with. They have proved to be solid drafters, will they continue this trend? The draft is on June 26 and I guarantee that this class will live up to the hype.