Strictly based on what I have researched thus far, I like Devin Booker with the the Thunder's #14 pick. He is young, but Devin appears to be a natural born long range shooter. For purely sentimental reasons, I also like Jerian Grant. Jerian's dad, Harvey Grant, was my favorite player on the 1988 OU team, and his uncle Horace wasn't a bad player either.
I've been lucky in the past, having guessed GM Sam Presti's picks twice. I liked James Harden in 2009 and Steven Adams in 2013. I'm not feeling lucky this year. Attempting to guess what Presti will do is hard enough under any circumstances, but trying to figure out which direction he will go with the Thunder's #14 pick in the upcoming draft on June 25th is much more difficult because the stakes involved.
High risk, unknown reward
2. The expectation for immediate improvement is higher. Scott Brooks was not only well like by his players, but by many Thunder fans as well. Donovan's results will be scrutinized under the microscope of Brooks' previous success for the foreseeable future.
3. Presti is acutely aware how unpopular trading James Harden was, both fans and many experts. Now he is making a coaching change when Kevin Durant, the NBA's 2014 Most Valuable Player award winner and most visible marketable asset, is a mere 14 months away from unrestricted free agency. I view the coaching change as a necessary move that should have been done after the 2014 season. Replacing Brooks always came with a risk in regard to continuity, but the extra 12 months has made it even more dangerous.
4. The 12 month delay gives new head coach Billy Donovan only 5 months to prepare his team for what some are suggesting is a make or break season. The clock is ticking.
6. Given this prevalence of youth, adding another rookie the current Thunder roster and to Donovan's unseen system may be too much to ask. No matter how talented they are perceived to be or how high they are projected to go, I have yet to find a single draft prospect that is rated 100% NBA ready.
When I put all of that together, I think there is a very high likelihood that Presti trades his first round draft pick along with any number of combinations of player/players on the current roster.
"Every draft pick is viewed as an opportunity, or an option of sorts for the club," said Sam Presti. "Will Dawkins and our amateur scouting department have done a great job this year of planning for various scenarios within the draft. It is up to us to sort through ways that we might be able to use the draft pick to generate the most value for the organization. This could mean picking the best available player, looking to trade the pick, or any other myriad of concepts that we are exploring each day."
It is my opinion that anyone on the Thunder roster NOT named Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Anthony Morrow, Nick Collison, Mitch McGary, or D.J. Augustin is possible trade bait. Anyone... and no, I did not forget Enes Kanter. I cannot deny what he brings to the team on offense, but I strongly believe the $12 to $15 million it may cost to keep him is too much to pay for a player that either can not or will not play defense.
In fact, the money it will cost to keep Kanter would be much better spent on the one thing the Thunder has been missing since the Harden trade: a solid 2 way shooting guard.
I love A-Mo. He is a great shooter, but he struggles on defense and is much better suited for coming off the bench.
I know Jeremy Lamb has talent and I feel it is very likely he will blossom in Donovan's system. IF Presti is unable to secure a better option at the 2 spot, Lamb is my choice to start, but past inconsistencies along with some defensive issues cannot be ignored.
Andre Roberson is Kanter in reverse. The only thing missing is the huge price tag.
If all goes well with Presti's plan, "many moons" shall pass before the Thunder will be in the lottery again. A draft pick this high presents a complext "myriad of concepts."
Hoping the the Thunder's #14 draft position improves with the current weighted lottery system is a pipe dream. It has never happened. The only double digit (10-14) seed to ever improve their draft position under the new lottery rules implemented in October, 1993 were the 1999 Charlotte Hornets when they won the third pick while sitting at lucky #13.
The main reason to tune into the NBA lottery program on May 19th is to see how the lottery changes the order of selection for other teams, and how that order could effect what players are available at #14. It should be fun to watch the tension build with so much at stake.
And still...just because something has never happened under the revamped system, that doesn't mean it will never happen, right? Instant millionaires win lotteries with higher odds than the Thunder are facing every week and like my Granddad used to say, "Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in a while."
In any event, there will be one surprise story that unfolds that will not disappoint.
What will Russ be wearing???