Every NBA draft is important, it’s the lifeblood of the league, but for Oklahoma City, with no second round pick this season and next season’s first round pick going to Utah, this year’s draft is pivotal. Hit a home run like 2013 and pick up key contributors like Steven Adams and Andre Roberson and the road back to contention is off to a great start. Lay an egg like 2014 and go with a player that can’t cut the mustard and the trek becomes extremely treacherous.
The Thunder’s cap woes are well chronicled. Not only do they leave GM Sam Presti little room to peruse the free agent market list, but key elements of the 2016/17 playoff squad like Taj Gibson, Andre Roberson, and Enes Kanter are in jeopardy of being left off next years roster. Robes was without doubt the Thunder’s best defender and Gibson’s addition in February was like a shot in the arm for a team that was starting to flounder. Kanter’s defensive issues is making him more and more unplayable and rumor has it that the Thunder have been shopping him for months. Enes has his fans, but the simple fact that teams haven’t jumped on the offensively gifted yet defensively challenged big man speaks volumes about his true value in this league.
Not walking away from his value was the argument for signing Kanter 2 summers ago even though I disagreed...
We must not forget that the NBA is not some glorified game of H.O.R.S.E. Defense and championships go hand and hand, so my conclusion is, no, Kanter's offense does not trump his horrific defense.
.... and when the Charlotte Hornets went shopping for a big they opted to pay an aging (31 years old), injury-prone (missed 60 games in last 3 seasons), over-priced Dwight Howard $23.5 M vs taking on the 6-year younger Kanter’s $18M deal. Why? Because Howard can still play defense. Maybe not as well as when he was Kanter’s age, but in 13 seasons Howard has never finished a season a negative net.
Failure to move Kanter’s contract will likely cost the Thunder Gibson and Roberson, thus putting just that much more pressure on making the right pick Thursday night.
Everyone is aware of the dramatic double-digit drop in production when Russell Westbrook sits but I question whether the answer to that issue is resolvable in the draft. All the top PG’s are at the top of the heap and the Thunder don’t pick until #21. Oklahoma State product, Jawun Evans got some love from WTLC writer Robert Mitchell on June 18th, but something has happened and Draft Express dropped Evans to #41 and the new PG hanging around Evans old late first round stomping grounds is Colorado senior Derrick White at #28.
My personal favorite, TJ Leaf, is back at DE’s #21 spot for the Thunder and considering the Thunder either stand to lose Kanter or Gibson soon, a PF with a 46.6% 3-point stroke makes pretty good sense for a team that finished dead last in that category last season. Additionally, Leaf’s UCLA ties will make him an instant favorite of Russell Westbrook.
But when you get right down to it, it probably won’t be that simple. Pick a guy and call it a night. Presti made it very clear in his end-of-season press conference that he is open to just about any option this summer for making his team better and as the true master of the last second surprise, anything might happen on draft night.
Because the evening is so critical to the Thunder’s future, Welcome to Loud City is staging a LIVE Roundtable Thursday night. The plan is to broadcast on both the Welcome to Loud City Facebook page and here starting at 7 pm eastern time, 6 pm central Thursday evening. Feel free to join us on FB or here on this post (we will be monitoring both) with questions and comments.
Joining me will be contributing writer Robert Mitchell. Unfortunately, J.A. Sherman had to go out-of-town on business and can’t participate, but I’m going hard after another guest as I write. Mark Bruty will be adding his thoughts along with yours in the comment section. If you have any opinions you would like to add, put them in the comments and don’t forget to vote in the “Who is Your Favorite Pick for the Thunder” poll below. (remember, if you opt for a player projected under 21, comment below how you trade up... and if your man is projected in the second round, why you think they are so undervalued or what you would give up to add the 2nd round pick)
Who is Your Favorite #21 Pick for the Thunder
This poll is closed
Semi Ojeleye SF/PF, SMU, #24
Juwan Evans PG, Oklahoma State, #41 Atlanta
Johnathan Motley PF/C, Baylor, #42 Utah
Justin Jackson SF, North Carolina, #14 Miami
TJ Leaf PF, UCLA, #21
Donovan Mitchell SG, Louisville, #11 Charlotte
Harry Giles C, Duke, #26
Other (tell us who in the comments)
See you HERE on Thursday.