"It doesn’t make sense, Seattle will look back on this and realize they made a big, big mistake."
Wrong Dickie V! Russ is a PTP! A prime time player, baby! This diaper dandy turned "elevator man" set the NBA on fire this season when he put up numbers that evoked memories of the Big O! Oscar Robertson, baby!
NBA analyst Mark Jackson on the Westbrook pick:
"They might have some explaining to do."
Now, to be perfectly fair, a few of "Sam's Surprises" haven't turned out as planned. Presti's swapping around in 2010 to land Cole Aldrich pretty much stunk up the joint and I think, even though the final verdict hasn't been delivered, we now know why Perry Jones dropped into the Thunder's lap at #28 in 2012.
So there have been some Presti hiccups in the past, but Steven Adams, the Thunder's #12 choice in 2013 that supposedly made James Harden snicker, (a charge Harden denies), is starting in his second season and getting better every day.
Then in the 2014 draft, despite missing the last 29 games of his sophomore season at Michigan and the NBA Draft Combine with a back injury, Presti penciled in Mitch McGary for OKC's #21 spot. McGary's Thunder debut was delayed when he fractured the 2nd metatarsal in his left foot in an exibition game followed by an inflammation in his tibia, but when he finally got his first meaningful minutes this February, McGary notched back to back double doubles against the Clippers and Nuggets.
Which brings us to the June 25th, 2015 NBA Rookie Draft.
My guess is Presti will try to package the Thunder's #14 pick with some excess baggage on the current roster and make a move for a veteran player that can step in and make an immediate impact. Unfortunately, that can be a very tenuous process that is made all the more challenging when you factor in salary cap limitations and Presti's desire to maintain his "continuing success" formula.
Could there be a surprise in store for Thunder fans if Presti is unable to make a trade for that immediate impact player? How about the next best thing? A rookie that could make an impact, perhaps?
A task easier said than done, even in a draft that is considered above average in quality and depth.
The jump in competition level from college to pro basketball is without a doubt the largest challenge of any player's career. An NBA season consists of twice the number of games, against bigger and faster opponents at nearly twice the speed for a longer period of time per game than college. To put that into perspective, Jahlil Okafor, a projected #1 pick in the upcoming draft, played a total of 1143 minutes at Duke this season. Lebron James logged that much time by Christmas.
In other words, for a college player to step into this Thunder roster effectively, he will need more than just talent. He must also be a superior athlete with exceptional strength and endurance. He will have to be smart, dedicated, team oriented, and versatile. To get a coach like Billy Donovan's attention, he will have to possess a defense-first mentality and be committed to improving every day.
Holy smokes! That is a very tall order to fill. Will such a player exist in this draft at #14? I think he might and I'm almost positive he will be available when the Thunder's number comes up on June 25th.
Many among the Thunder faithful are partial to Kentucky sharp shooter Devin Booker, who appears to be a natural fit for the 3-point happy NBA. Unfortunately, Booker's exceptional prowess beyond the arc is moving him up many mock draft boards and he may be gone before the Thunder get a shot at him.... not important, he isn't who I am talking about.
Presti has been trying to replace Thabo Sefolosha's elite defense skills using his secondary first round picks the past two years . Hidden behind the Steven Adams and Mitch McGary picks, Presti chose Andre Roberson in 2013 and Josh Huestis in 2014. Both played forward in college, both are athletic, both were labeled defensive specialists, and both have the same offensive deficiencies. That was the same complaint many Thunder fans had about Thabo, and explains why he wasn't a starter for the Atlanta Hawks this season. My guy doesn't have that problem either.
The player in the upcoming draft that fits all the requirements of athleticism, shot making ability
, versatility, dedication and availability at #14 is .... Virginia's Justin Anderson.
If Presti has to pick a player for the future, why not take a shot at a future that is sooner rather than later? At 6'6", 230 lbs, Justin Anderson is a beast of an athlete with a bonus that he can shoot the rock. With a simple adjustment to his mechanics, Anderson's 3 point percentage sky rocketed from 29.4% to 45.2% in his junior season at Virginia. Anderson is drawing attention with his athleticism at this year's combine with his 38" standing vertical and second best max vertical of 43", but he is also showing scouts that the improvements seen in his shooting last season were not a fluke. Justin's star is on the rise.
Anderson's strengths from nbadraft.net:
Smart player with a good basketball IQ ... Physical specimen (6-foot-6, 225-pound frame) ... NBA-ready body and good size ... Possesses elite athleticism and has good length (6’11 wingspan) ... Outstanding leaper ... Skilled and explosive wing player ... Does a little bit of everything ... Is tireless, a hard worker and has a high motor ... Versatile and well-rounded player (could play either SG or SF at the next level) ... Strong and powerful ... A slasher ... Capable of scoring the ball from the 3-point line, mid-range, and in the paint ... Improved drastically from the 3-point line this past season (29 percent as a sophomore and 45 percent as a junior) ... Scored very well in a low scoring offense ... Good catch and shooter ... Can space the floor ... Improving mid-range jumper ... Has good mechanics and elevation on his jumper ... Smooth and fluid release ... Generates most of his offensive opportunities within the flow of offense ... Has shown the ability to muscle his way to the rim and finish strong ... Absorbs body contact from defenders in the paint ... Can play above the rim ... More of a straight line drive and finisher ... Has a quick first step that allows him to effectively attack closeouts ... Can knock down clutch shots ... Strong with the ball in transition and can finish ... Runs well on fast breaks ... Unselfish teammate who is willing to pass ... Above average passer ... Best at passing when he finds teammates in transition by drawing defenders into the paint and passing the ball to open players at the basket ... He can pass the ball effectively around the perimeter, dish to teammates of the dribble, and make post-entry passes ... Stout defensive player who gives great effort ... Versatile defender ... Can guard multiple positions ... Has the strength to defend bigger players in the post ... Has the foot speed and quickness to defend quicker players on the perimeter ... Great lateral quickness ... Impressive shot blocker for his size (really good at chasing down blocks on the break) ... Upper body strength allows him to run through screens ... He can secure rebounds in traffic ... Can play the passing lanes effectively with his length ... Frequently rises above the rim for putback dunks ... Does not shy away from contact ... Can body up big men inside and outside the paint ...
Justin also has the type of character Presti likes to cultivate into his team:
Anderson is considered a Jack of all trades, master of none. Some may consider that a weakness, but I believe it is actually a plus. In fact, if you remember James Harden during his first two years in the league, he was levied with the same Jack of all trades critique. And Harden wasn't really good at anything until...he was. (Aside- if you want to read an absolutely blistering #hottake on James Harden back in 2010, check out this transcript from an old BS Report. This is something Simmons would be thrilled if everyone forgot, so please, never forget. - Sherman)
Presti loves versatility, and while Anderson does need to improve his ball handling skills, he is projected to be a player that can step in and defend multiple positions immediatly. Combine that with a shooter's touch, and Presti has found the true 3 and D player he has been looking for.
I see Justin Anderson as that diamond in the rough player that seems to come out of every draft and is remembered for years to come. However, this diamond isn't that rough. SURPRISE!