As Draft night 2017 rapidly approaches, and free-agency looms just beyond, this article highlights a pair of possible acquisitions which might benefit the Oklahoma City Thunder next season.
Thanks to our Twitter followers for again sparking insightful and relevant discussion.
Who are the best fits for OKC and should they trade up or down?— Logan_WhitsonOSU (@Loganwhitson_OS) June 17, 2017
With glaring roster holes requiring immediate fixes, it is unlikely Oklahoma City forfeits limited free-agency trade chips for higher draft positioning. Especially, when gambling on an untested draftee could either yield a bust or long-term project.
The safe play, instead, is to preserve these vital resources for the more reliable summer market.
To answer part two of this question, a higher-drafting team may offer a deal for OKC’s choice; although, the #21 slot borders upon uncertain territory. Therefore, it is probable the Thunder stays put.
That stated, never discount Sam Presti’s incalculable draft-night revelations.
Switching gears: As days remain until the 2017 NBA Draft, and with free agency just ahead, this is an ideal forum to discuss which players from each medium could improve Oklahoma City’s main weaknesses.
We will begin with the NBA draft and Semi Ojeleye and then consider a reasonably-priced NBA free-agent backup point guard.
Semi Ojeleye: Junior, SMU Mustangs SF/PF
- College: SMU
- Height: 6’6
- Weight: 242 LBS
- Wingspan: 6’9
- Vertical: 40.5 inches
- Standing reach: 8’6
- Weight: 242 lbs
In a league growing smaller each year, Ojeleye exhibits alluring frontcourt possibilities with his combination of athleticism, strength, and versatility.
Pro’s: Leaving a stellar high school tenure for Mike Krzyzewski’s acclaimed program, while at Duke, Ojeleye sat disillusioned behind future NBA talent. Frustrated, after his sophomore season, Ojeleye transferred to SMU.
This decision proved judicious.
At SMU, the 2017 American Athletic Conference Player of The Year exploded onto the national scene.
Finally unencumbered, Ojeleye averaged 19 PPG, 6 RPG, and 42% accuracy from 3-Point territory, while leading the Mustangs to a 30-5 record which culminated with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
More importantly, possessing agility and raw power, Ojeleye elicited accolades from draft-combine scouts for his NBA-ready frame and rare explosiveness.
Cons: In light of these eye-catching positives, some observers still question if Ojeleye’s flat outside shot trajectory can readily translate to NBA three-point distance.
Also, at 6’6 and with an undersized standing reach, scouts impugn the hybrid-forward’s ability to effectively defend next-level post players.
Finally, concerns exist regarding Ojeleye off the bounce —especially going left. And some GM’s still frown upon his choice to transfer to a lesser conference featuring lesser competition.
DraftExpress.com lists Ojeleye at #25 in their mock draft.
Where he fits with OKC: As a pure physical specimen, blessed with lateral quickness and a strong body, Ojeleye could find immediate minutes at the three or four. Additionally, in fast-break opportunities, sporting a 40-inch vertical, the SMU product would run nicely beside Westbrook while violating the rim.
Ojeleye also shows markers of becoming a solid offensive rebounder and NBA perimeter defender. Ojeleye’s versatility and strength as a combo forward could prove doubly beneficial to Oklahoma City if Roberson, Gibson, or both leave via free-agency.
Though, again, the main question regarding Ojeleye’s fit with OKC is if he can step back, and spread lanes.
If he can, Semi Ojeleye could become the non-lottery steal of the first round.
It is a natural human tendency to be fascinated with the unknown, and say “What if?” Though, this becomes risky when rookie NBA point guards are involved.
Historically, the point guard position has provided the steepest adjustment to professional newcomers.
Therefore, unless in the lottery, I rarely advocate drafting a floor-general; especially if a reasonably priced —and experienced— alternative resides on the free-agency market.
Today’s reasonably priced and experienced free-agent alternative is Shelvin Mack.
Shelvin Mack: Jazz, UFA
- Age: 27
- NBA Service: 7 years
Mack has solidified his NBA niche as a physical, defensive-minded backup who adds just enough offense in select minutes. While a combo-guard of sorts, Mack averaged respectable numbers (7.8 ppg, 2.8 apg, and 0.8 spg) in 55 contests last season for division-rival Utah.
After earning just $2.4 million during the 16-17’ campaign, Mack’s asking price will no doubt rise as the 27-year-old is now established among the league’s better backup PG’s.
If Presti can loosen wiggle room, Mack’s presence in a Thunder uniform would boost the backcourt’s all-around stead and perhaps push a 47-win unit into 50-win territory.