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Thunder playoff hopes: pursue 8th seed or pursue a draft pick?

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How do the Thunder play out these remaining 4 games of the regular season?

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As the Thunder’s first tumultuous season since their first seasons in OKC comes to a close, the only real question is if they’ll delay the inevitable finale for a couple weeks. The Thunder are currently sitting right outside the playoff picture, tied for 8th place with 4 games to go. There’s good news and bad news for playoff coveting Thunder fans. The good news is that OKC has a relatively easy last 4 games and should win at least 3. The bad news is that New Orleans holds the tiebreaker by virtue of winning the head-to-head matchup (on this shot, no less). Here’s how their last four games match up against each other.

Oklahoma City (42-36)

vs Kings

@ Pacers

vs Trail Blazers

@ Timberwolves

New Orleans (42-36)

vs Suns

@ Rockets

@ Timberwolves

vs Spurs

In the tough but not impossible scenario that Oklahoma City wins out, they need at least one loss from the Pelicans to make the playoffs. The Kings game should be an easy win for Westbrook and Co., especially since Sacramento will likely rest DeMarcus Cousins down the stretch.

The Thunder’s season will likely come down to the middle two games of the home stretch. Oklahoma City needs to avoid going 0-2 against Indiana (with Paul George) and Portland at all costs. If they can’t, it’s probable that their season will end mercifully before the inevitable Golden State slaughter in the 1st round.

According to NumberFire, it's a close race:

With only 4 games left in the fight for the final playoff spot in the West, it is an extremely close race. The Pelicans hold a slight edge with a 55.6% chance to make the playoffs, while the Thunder hold a 44.4% chance to make it. Both of these teams would play the Golden State Warriors in the first round in the event they make it.

The primary debate at this point is whether OKC should actually want to make the playoffs. Why would you want to? Right now, the odds are better that you either a) Win the lottery, or b) sustain an injury against Golden State, while getting beat like a drum. Not only that, by stepping down you give the entire roster another two weeks to rest, and Russell Westbrook another reason to hate the world and everyone in it next season.

For argument's sake, let’s say that Oklahoma City misses the playoffs. The odds are about 1.8% that they’re not picking 14th in the draft, so we’ll say they are. What now? Who would they get? Let's run down the potential list to balance out the upside and downside of winning and losing:

The Candidates

1) Kris Dunn - PG

Height: 6’4

Age: 21

College: Providence

DraftExpress: 14th

If Sam Presti decides to go point guard in June, expect Kris Dunn. Dunn is a big, athletic point guard with a 6’8 wingspan. The more I watch him, play, the more I think of Russell Westbrook. He’s an uber athletic point guard with good vision and plays out of control sometimes. Could definitely be picked before OKC, though.

NBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook

2) Kelly Oubre- SF

Height: 6’7

Age: 19

College: Kansas

DraftExpress: 13th

Oubre would be a nice fit in OKC. He has some problems handling the ball at times but the Thunder could develop him into a 3-and-D guy. Oubre has a nice outside jump shot and can finish in transition. He failed to live up to the hype given to him at Kansas, causing his draft stock to drop Playing off of two offensive superstars like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could be the best thing to happen to Oubre.

NBA Comparison: Rudy Gay

3) Devin Booker - SG

Height: 6’6

Age: 18

College: Kentucky

DraftExpress:17th

Devin Booker was a big reason in Kentucky going 38-0 before losing to Wisconsin. Booker provided a ton of space for Towns and Cauley-Stein just being out there. He’s an absolute knockdown shooter. Coming off the bench for Kentucky didn’t do him many favors for his draft stock, but that could play right into Sam Presti’s hands.

NBA Comparison: Klay Thompson

4) Caris LeVert - PG/SG

Height: 6’7

Age: 20

College: Michigan

DraftExpress: 25th

Honestly, the only reason LeVert is this low is because of injury concerns. He missed the second half of last season with a broken left foot, which he also broke over the summer. Other than that, the only holes in his game is his pull up jumper, and he’s a little skinny. LeVert can play good defense, is a 38% three point shooter, can pass, can finish, and is uber athletic. Sounds like a Sam Presti lottery pick to me.If Jamal Crawford played defense, and was two inches taller, he’d be Caris LeVert

NBA Comparison: Jamal Crawford

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What do you think? Go for the playoffs or pursue one of these players? Chime in below!