The Thunder are one of the most successful small market franchises in the NBA, and it's all due to the excellent work of their front office. However, even Sam Presti is liable to commit an error now and again. Let's take a look at those rare few mis-steps by the Thunder front office during the NBA Draft. Furthermore, we'll explore what the Thunder could have done differently at the time.
Late 2nd Rounders
DeVon Hardin, Pick #50, 2008. Robert Vaden, Pick #54, 2009. Latavious Williams, Pick #48, 2010. Grant Jerrett, Pick #40, 2013.
These dudes were never expected to go anywhere, and they never did. Such is the life of a late second round draft pick. The most successful of this bunch is Latavious Williams. He plays for UNICS Kazan, a second-tier European club.
Tibor Pleiss, Pick #32, 2010
The Next 3: Dexter Pittman, Hassan Whiteside, Armon Johnson
Alex Abrines, Pick #32, 2013
The Next 3: Carrick Felix, Isaiah Canaan, Glen Rice, Jr.
The jury's still out on Pleiss, who's scheduled to join the Utah Jazz next season. Pleiss had his rights held by the Thunder for five years, before OKC finally dished him to Utah in 2015. Supposedly, Pleiss is an excellent pick and roll big. But the Thunder will never know, because they never bothered to bring him over. It's possible that Pleiss enticed the Jazz to do the Kanter deal, so he may have ended up bringing some value.
Alex Abrines can still technically come to the NBA, but it's unlikely. He hit his developmental ceiling while playing for Barcelona, and seems to be fiercely loyal to that club. So, in essence, the Thunder threw away this pick. At the time of this pick, the Thunder had a relatively full roster, so drafting and stashing seemed like the right decision. And it's not like there were any amazing options within the next 10 picks. Guys like Nate Wolters and Ray McCallum aren't world beaters. But it would have been nice to spend this pick on a guy who actually tried out for the team.
As you can imagine, I'm grouping these two picks because they were both at the same spot in the draft and both ended up getting the same result.
4. Perry Jones III, Pick #28, 2012
The Next 3: Marquis Teague, Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor
There was a ton of hype behind this pick. Despite the fact that the Thunder selected Jones in the very late first round, many considered Jones to be a lottery level talent. The only reason Jones purportedly dropped was a knee issue. One scout said that PJIII's knees would only last 3-4 years. As it turns out, Jones did have the talent to play in the NBA. We all saw it when Jones finally got an opportunity to play extended minutes early in the 2014 season. But Jones' knee issues would periodically keep him out of games. Furthermore, Jones could never quite find a role, and regularly made mental mistakes. The end result of this pick was the Thunder trading away Jones simply to shed salary. It's not like the Thunder had a ton of obvious options besides Jones at the time. But Jae Crowder, Draymond Green, and Kris Middleton were all selected in the next 11 picks.
3. Josh Huestis, Pick #29, 2014
The Next 3: Kyle Anderson, Damien Inglis, K.J. McDaniels
The only reason I'm pinpointing this as a worse pick than the other late first rounders is because Huestis wasn't considered to be an NBA level talent at the time. A lot of people might think it's too early to call Josh Huestis a bust. But with such low point per game totals and shot percentages in the D-League, I'm really not feeling positive about Huestis' future. He will be joining the Thunder next season on a four year contract, so it's likely we'll be seeing Huestis for a long time. Supposedly, Huestis is going to be one of those hard workers that encourages other guys in the locker room. That's all well and good, but I'm having a hard time seeing Huestis making an impact on the floor any time soon. Is "encouragement" really worth such a high pick?
2. B.J. Mullens, Pick #24, 2009
The Next 3: Rodrigue Beaubois, Taj Gibson, DeMarre Carroll
Honestly, it's really nice to have a mid-first rounder as the "second worst" Thunder draft pick of all time. It pretty much shows you how well the Thunder draft in general. Regardless, Mullens was a terrible pick here. B.J. could never get off the bench during his two years in OKC, and was eventually traded to Charlotte for a second round draft pick. Upon being traded to Charlotte, Mullens attempted to make himself into the next Dirk Nowitzki. We all knew that Mullens could pick and pop, and even hit shots with defenders on his back. But what Mullens attempted to do off the dribble while in Charlotte was clearly above his skill level. Currently, B.J. Mullens plays in the D-League.
Obviously, Taj Gibson and DeMarre Carroll would have been superior options at this spot in the draft. (The worst part? We actually selected Beaubois and traded up for Mullens.)
1. Cole Aldrich, Pick #10, 2010
The Next 3: Xavier Henry, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson
On Draft Day 2010, the Thunder traded Eric Bledsoe, Quincy Pondexter, and Craig Brackins for Cole Aldrich. This is, unequivocally, the worst trade in Thunder history. Aldrich ended up very rarely seeing the floor during his stint with the Thunder. He was so bad that the 2011 Thunder saw a need to re-sign 33 year old Nazr Mohammed for backup center duty. Eventually, Aldrich was practically given away in the James Harden trade.
Meanwhile, Eric Bledsoe is one of the league's upper-tier point guards, and Quincy Pondexter is a reliable sniper off of the bench. Had the Thunder held onto both Bledsoe and Pondexter, they could have played in place of Derek Fisher and Caron Butler. It's very possible that this could have led to significantly better playoff results in 2012 and 2013. Sigh.
Who do you think the worst Thunder draft pick of all time was? Drop a comment and let us know!