J.A. Sherman will be at tonight's draft and we'll be covering draft day happenings as much as possible, so be sure to check back throughout the day!
Here's a cheat sheet showing you everything you need to know about the Thunder heading into the 2012 NBA Draft. We'll start it off with a quick FAQ about the team's general roster situation, and then move into evaluating rumors heading into draft day. We'll end it with info on some of the strongest candidates for the Thunder to pick at #28, backed up by lots of mock drafts I looked through and analysis from the blogs that covered them.
Who's going to be on the Thunder roster next season?
Barring any trades or cuts, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Daequan Cook, Eric Maynor, Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson, and Lazar Hayward will be returning next season.
So, who isn't guaranteed to return?
Nazr Mohammed, Derek Fisher, and Royal Ivey are all unrestricted free agents, and may sign with whatever team they please.
Wait, I thought there was a contract situation with Serge Ibaka and James Harden?
There will be, next year. In that year, both of them come off of their rookie contracts. They will be restricted free agents. That is, they may sign an offer with whatever team they please, but the Thunder have the right to match the offer and force them to stay in OKC. The big fear is that both will sign for huge contracts, and Oklahoma City could only afford to match one.
What's the Thunder's cap situation this year?
Including Cap Holds (explanation here), the Thunder have $62,225,788 tied up in their salary cap. In other words, they will probably be over the maximum salary cap of around $58 Million.
What does that mean?
In layemen's terms, it means they can't sign free agents as they please, but their salary isn't high enough to warrant them being worried about the Luxury Tax. The Luxury Tax doesn't affect their ability to sign players, but it does affect Clay Bennett's pocket book, so it's something the Thunder will try to avoid.
So, who can the Thunder sign?
They can re-sign the three players I mentioned above, sign their draft pick, offer a minimum contract to a free agent, or offer a mid-level exception (of $5 Million) to a free agent.
How does this affect the draft?
Basically, the Thunder aren't in danger of going near the Luxury Tax right now, and most of the players who's salaries the Thunder might want to get rid of (like Daequan Cook, Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward. and Cole Aldrich) will be expiring next season, when we need to sign Harden and Ibaka. So I wouldn't expect any cap-shaving moves as such this year. There is the possibility of the Thunder trading up though, since they have some room to work with this year.
Is there a chance the Thunder trade their pick?
Yes. More than a large chance, in fact. The Thunder have expressed strong interest in Russian big man Andrey Vorontsevich, who is eligible to be signed since he went undrafted after declaring in 2009. This fills up one of the untaken roster spots, leaving the Thunder only able to sign two of the trio of Mohammed, Fisher, and Ivey. With the pick, it leaves the Thunder able to re-sign only one of them, not even counting the possibility of another free agency signing. So the Thunder might want to trade the pick, or pick another foreign prospect who they can stash away for when more roster spots are free down the line.
Why? As I said before, the Thunder are in a hard situation, since they aren't able to sign both Serge Ibaka and James Harden to max contracts in 2013 without hitting the luxury tax. If they could swing Harden or Ibaka for a guy like Beal, it would avoid the potential loss of a great player for nothing. It would also buy them time before they had to deal with a luxury tax-type situation again, since nobody else on the Thunder will likely command that kind of money until Beal hits his fifth year.
How Likely Is It To Happen? 5%. Honestly, with the Thunder having a potentially NBA Finals winning roster right now, I just don't see them trading away one of their best players and potentially becoming the new Mavericks. Harden and Ibaka flopped in the Finals, but they're only three years into their careers, and have long roads ahead of them.
What Would a Potential Trade Be? Something like Harden/Ibaka to the Bobcats or Wizards for the pick and a 2-3 million dollar contract guy, like a Reggie Williams or B.J. Mullens from the Bobcats, or a Booker/Crawford combo from the Wizards.
How Good Is Beal, Really?
"Beal will likely go down as the most talented player Donovan has ever had the privilege of coaching: he's got marvelous instincts as a slasher and scorer, great size for his position, tremendous rebounding acumen for a guard, an above-average shot, and the sort of desire and fire in the belly — showcased late in Florida's season, when he scored 16.5 points per game, sank 46 percent of his threes, and averaged eight rebounds and nearly four assists per game in six games of postseason play — that makes him a future go-to option for an NBA team."
Why? The Thunder will potentially have four point guards on their roster next season: Westbrook, Fisher, Maynor, and Jackson. With Westbrook not missing a game in his entire NBA career and Harden getting minutes at the point, the position is looking especially cluttered. The Thunder might want to keep Fisher's veteran experience for one more year while fostering Jackson to be his replacement when the time comes. Maynor will want playing time once he's back from injury, so trading him for a future asset might make sense.
How Likely Is It To Happen? Considering all factors, I'd say 25%. I have no doubt in the Thunder's willingness to trade Maynor to go up in the draft. They haven't given any big asset to move up since the Sonics days (Aldrich was basically gotten because we took on Morris Peterson's salary), but I just don't see a taker for this deal. Most teams in Nicholson's range are playoff teams, and I don't think they'd pass up on the chance to get a scoring big man just so they can get a late pick and a PG coming off of injury. Maybe if Maynor was coming off of a full season, but I just don't think his stock is that high right now.
Will he fall to #28? Possibly. Coming out of a small college, he's somewhat of an unknown amungst NBA scouts, so he's prone to drop. Steve Alexander of Rotoworld thinks he'll fall. So does David Aldridge of NBA.com, College Hoops Update, Christopher Reina of RealGM, Scott Shirley of RoundballChat.com, and Ball-O-Holics.
How Good Is Nicholson, Really?
"With a 6-foot-10, 234-pound frame, as measured at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Nicholson has the size of a prototypical NBA power forward, and could even shift to center if needed. As Derek Bodner of DraftExpress writes, Nicholson "differentiates himself" from other big-man prospects in the 2012 Draft with his play on the perimeter. "While not an exceptional athlete at the NBA level," says Bodner, "Nicholson is a fluid and mobile big man with a long first step and an intriguing skill-level that gives him the ability to make very impressive plays at times." Nicholson is able to face up and take opposing bigs off the dribble, finishing at the rim with length, Bodner says."
Potential Picks at 28:
Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Likelihood of Selection: Somewhat high. He's right around the Thunder's draft position, and he's a guy who would fit in well on the Thunder's fast break, and potentially produce immediately, given his four years of college. Still, I could imagine a team like Memphis, Indiana, or Miami taking him early because they need someone to fill in at SF.
"While Jeff has seen a modest rise in his overall counting statistics, he has been a much better player overall and more importantly, a much more consistent player than he was in any of the previous seasons. The truth is that a lot of this improvement has been masked by a career low effort to this point from the FT line – he is shooting nearly 10 points below his career average (established in almost 500 attempts through his junior season), which has offset a tremendous improvement in his three point accuracy and his consistency in finishing around the rim.
His improvement has also partially been masked by a newfound willingness to take lower percentage mid-range jumpers that helps open up his drives as well as his looks from behind the arc. It appears that his defense has also improved, as with four steals tonight he is just 5 off of his career best effort. Furthermore, he has cut down on his fouling tremendously, which has kept him from fouling out of any contest thus far, and really hasn’t been in any real foul trouble the entire season.
It is now very possible that we are about to witness a finish to Jeff’s senior season that will evoke memories of Derrick Byars, but with
NBA levelmore athleticism."
Evan Fournier, SG, France
Who Thinks So? John Rohde: The Oklahoman, Ryan McNeill: Hoops Addict, MyNBADraft.com, NBA-Draft.com, The Hoops Report, Yannis Koutroupis and Alex Raskin: HoopsWorld, Ben Watanabe: NESN, SportSmasher, Tony Meija:Pro Basketball News, ME
Likelihood of Selection: Somewhat high. Though I don't think the Thunder have shown specific interest in him, he does fit the bill of a guy the Thunder would want. Long arms, good defensive positioning and basketball IQ, has experience leading his French domestic team. Plus, he can play overseas a couple of years before joining the Thunder. Also, whenever he scores that elusive-four point play, it will be cool to hear Brian Davis make some ridiculous pun about it.
"This season, he proved most effective attacking the basket, making 52% of his two-point-field-goals and 75% of his four free-throws per game. Strong ball-handling, combined with his size, allowed him to convert 63% at the basket this season according to Synergy (via draftexpress). This June, at the annual Adidas Eurocamp for NBA draft prospects, he made the first-team, thanks to 26 points in 57 minutes on 68% effective field goal shooting. According to reports I have seen; he clearly played at a higher level than others, scoring inside & out and looking strong & fast in transition. Downsides include average athleticism, as his test results look similar to William Buford and Khris Middleton of other 2012 draftees, and inconsistent shooting, where he knocked down only 28% of the shorter European threes in 2011 – 2012."
-Kevin Hetrick, Cavs: the blog
Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
Likelihood of Selection: It's possible. He's kinda like Ryan Reid, except he was the leader of his NCAA Tournament worthy team. So basically, if he hit the NBA, he'd be something like a Nick Collison, contributing a little bit here and there but never doing enough to make a huge impact. The Thunder might see something in that, but I'd think they'd wait until the second round to reach on that kind of talent, unless they were out of options.
Along with Ware, there isn’t a player in the country that is more man crush-friendly. I just can’t imagine any circumstance in which someone could ever watch Green play a game of basketball and not walk away loving absolutely everything he does on and off the court. Day-Day is the clear physical and emotional leader of a No. 1 seed that has as good a chance as anyone else of winning a national championship. He will always take the big shot and somehow, he will always be involved in the biggest defensive stop of the game. He knows how to expose opponents’ weaknesses. It’s a cliché, but he is one of the purest players at the collegiate level, a guy who just has a sixth sense of where to be at all times. He is a player that can sense before anyone else how a play is developing on both sides of the court. He is as wholesome a leader as there is in the sport. Whatever you do, just don’t let him touch the ball on a Spartan final possession.
Orlando Johnson, SG, UC Santa-Barbara
Who Thinks So? Sean Deveney, Sporting News
Likelihood of Selection:
Analysis: It's possible. This pick is just so wacky, the Thunder might take it. Orlando Johnson is outright off some draft boards, but it's mostly because he's an unknown from a small college. He's got some nice attributes that the thunder admire in guards, like knowledge of where to be on the floor, good defense, and good rebounding. Still, I'm not too high on it happening, because it's a total reach to draft him here.
"Strengths: Johnson is consistently praised for his jumping ability and floor presence. He isn't afraid to pass out of the double team, and his shot selection has gotten better with each season. Johnson also posts a 7-foot wingspan which adds to his ability to rebound as a guard, and cause trouble on defense. He also gets credit for his three-point shooting ability, and he finished just outside the top 100 nationally in 3-point percentage.
Weaknesses/Concerns: There are concerns that Johnson's level of competition was not the best in the Big West, but Johnson has also turned it on in big games, such as the two NCAA Tournament appearances by the Gauchos where he scored 20 points against Ohio State in 2010, and 21 against Florida in 2011. His free throw shooting can be erratic, possibly because of issues with his form at the line. Johnson has the tendency to turn the ball over, but if he scores at the rate he did in college, it shouldn't become an issue at the next level. There are also concerns about his ability to match up defensively against shooting guards in the NBA. It will be important for him to showcase some speed and defense at workouts over the next month to allay these fears."
Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Likelihood of Selection: It's possible. He could be the next Serge Ibaka, blocking shots and grabbing offensive boards. But the other aspects of his game are so undeveloped that it's hard to see the Thunder reaching for him that high on the board. But who knows, Sam Presti has fooled us before.
"So what does Ezeli bring to the NBA? He's got a big, muscled frame and he's developed the skills to use his strength as a weapon on both ends of the court. He's an above-average athlete who, when healthy, has the timing and jumping ability to erase shots defensively. His rebounding numbers weren't huge at Vandy, but that was because the team's defensive sets counted on Ezeli to be the pivot point of the help defense, drawing him out of the paint to block shots and leaving him out of position for rebounds. He was, however, a solid offensive rebounder who can be an asset in the paint not only for grabbing missed shots, but for keeping defenders away from wings who are driving into the lane.
Offensively, he's still raw after only six years of true basketball experience. He's shown the ability to grow in leaps and bounds, but he's also going to be 23 years old when the NBA season starts. He developed a few reliable post moves, including a tricky up-and-under and a hook shot that was streaky but unstoppable when he was feeling it. His highlight reel will attest to his ability to finish at the rim. Ezeli goes hard and treats the basket like it slapped his mother. Whoever drafts him will ensure that their fans get their money's worth in summer league games thanks to Ezeli's quest to bend rims into metal boomerangs."
Will Barton, SG, Memphis
Who Thinks So? Joel Brigham: HoopsWorld
Likelihood of Selection: It's possible. He's the type of wing who can play point guard and shooting guard without too much of a struggle. And while I could see the Thunder going for this type of guy as James Harden insurance, I just think that there will be better options out there when their pick is on the board.
"Strengths: Barton has the energy to succeed in the NBA, and getting his body type to succeed in the league is going to take all of the energy he can muster. Plus he is a scorer, and no matter his size, that is going to be a draw for teams. His speed and length will come in handy when he ends up as a shooting guard at the pro level, and his ability to control the ball and limit turnovers should be an asset.
Weaknesses/Concerns: Barton was only a sophomore, and hadn't really grown into his longer frame. He is lacking in some of the strength he is going to need to contend with bigger guards and forwards in the league, and he is going to get hammered when he tries to go inside. His energy level is a plus, but right now he is a star on a good team. When he is coming off the bench in the pros, will the energy level still be there, especially if he ends up on a poor team, as is likely with his high second round projections right now. While Barton has the range to hit from 3, he also isn't very efficient shooting from behind the arc. Some have questioned his shot selection from deep."
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
Likelihood of Selection: Pretty Low. I could see the Thunder going to a guy like Lamb, since they've gone with alright-looking college scorers like Reggie Jackson before. But honestly, I just don't think the Thunder are looking for another undersized scoring guard right now. No matter how awesome his haircut is.
"Offensively, Lamb can hurt you in so many ways that he is often overlooked. He almost never tries the impossible pass, or the spectacular spin move. Lamb plays the game, "old school," which is to say he makes the simple play that is available, not the breathtaking play that has a 10-1 against chance of success. That's an underrated skill at any level of the game, and knowing how to play to his strength is what makes Lamb so effective.
Another part of his offensive game that is overlooked is his passing ability. Lamb's assist/turnover ratio is an excellent 2.3/1, and would be the envy of many point guards in America, particularly those playing at the highest level of basketball. Lamb can either play the point or off the ball and be effective, although he clearly prefers the 2 spot. But even there, Lamb is comfortable with the ball in his hands, and almost never gets stripped by even the quickest of defenders.
The biggest weakness in Lamb's game these last two years has been his defense, although that is improving game by game. Lamb is one of those players who is still learning to take pride in his defense, and that is something that he'll have to shore up even more before moving on to the next level."
Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
Likelihood of Selection: Pretty Low. He could be a diamond in the rough, a guy who was underestimated because of his injuries. But I just don't see the Thunder jumping at a guy who would essentially be like Jeff Green. There isn't room for more than one 6'10" Small Forward on this roster.
"Quincy Miller came into this year with enough hype that, assuming he showed that he had recovered from the ACL injury, he was expected to be a lottery pick in this year's draft. However, one of the main reasons why Quincy finds his draft stock sliding is that he didn't have enough performances where he showed what he is capable of, both athletically and in terms of filling up the box score. Interviews with Quincy suggest that even though he felt much better as the season went along, he just didn't seem to be fully confident in being back at 100% health. Given the nature of ACL injuries and their usual recovery period, this isn't particularly surprising. However, this would have provided a great reason to come back to Baylor for another year. Eliminate any doubts regarding the injury from his own mind and in the minds of scouts and he would be much more likely to jump back into the lottery."
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Who Thinks So? Scott Howard-Cooper: NBA.com
Likelihood of Selection: Very Low. Again, I just don't see the Thunder drafting a Point Guard, much less a under-sized Russell Westbrook 2.0.
Freshman Marquis Teague is the only true point guard on the team, at least for the first half of the season. Teague is not John Wall, nor Brandon Knight, nor Derrick Rose. He has traits in common with all of them, though. Teague is a big-strong player for a point guard at 6'2", 189#. He is more of distributor and a rim-attacker than a perimeter guard like Brandon Knight was. Teague is probably not as fast as either Knight or Wall, but he is probably more athletic overall than Knight was, and more powerful than any of the four except Rose. He is a good, but not great, shooter from the perimeter. What sets him apart his ability to get past his defender and get to the rim.
Teague should be a capable defender at this level.
Royce White, SF, Iowa St.
Who Thinks So? Jonathan Givony: Draft Express (In an Old Mock)
Likelihood of Selection: Very Low. Royce White has been promised a pick by the Celtics, who own picks #21 and #22. Besides, the Thunder are notorious for not taking players who have been in trouble with the law.
"During the 2010-2011 transfer year, Royce became the unofficial leader of the transfer players. He spoke openly about the mistakes he had made in the past, and how it shouldn't tarnish the reputations of the other transfer players. He also spoke internally to Allen, Babb and Booker about how they needed to stay out of trouble, that people might be watching them more closely than other players on the team due to their reputations. Yeah, this reputation was unwarranted, but people really did look at the four transfers as misfits. People thought they must have fucked up badly at their previous schools, necessitating their transfers to transfer to Iowa State."
From an exclusively basketball standpoint, White is a great NBA prospect. His ball-handling is exceptional for his size. He often runs the floor himself after grabbing defensive rebounds, and has been described by coach Hoiberg as a "freight train" driving to the hoop. With a big, thick frame, he still keeps the ball close to his body and has an effective crossover. Scouts like his passing ability (especially out of the high post) and the many ways he can fit into an offense, being such a unique talent. He is very active in the paint, and he knows how to use his size to finish a bucket or grab a rebound.
- Alex Conover, Timberwolves.com
What do you think the Thunder will do in the 2012 NBA Draft? Vote in the Poll, Post a Comment!