The Oklahoma City Thunder selected three players late (both in the draft and in the night- this reporter had to stay up well past his bedtime to catch it all) in the second round of the NBA draft last night, despite entering the draft with only two picks, numbers 53 and 57.
With those selections the Thunder grabbed guard Devin Hall from Virginia with the 53rd pick and forward Kevin Hervey of UT Arlington with the 57th pick. Both are older guys (by NBA draft standards) who played four years in college.
Hall was an excellent 3 point shooter at school, and also has the ability to defend multiple positions despite not having amazing athleticism or wingspan, and is competent handling the ball and passing. The Thunder are probably hoping he turns into something like fellow Cavalier Malcolm Brogdon- a 3 and D player who makes things easier for your stars by limiting mistakes, hitting 3’s and doing the little things. You can never have too many of those players.
Hervey is a little more of a wild card- he’s got great size and is a decent shooter, but has some issues with shot selection, and has torn both ACLs in the past. Both of these guys have a limited upside, being old for rookies and either lacking elite athleticism or having high injury risk. On the other hand, 4 years of college means more experience and an NBA ready body, and with how expensive OKC’s roster is about to be next year, the Thunder might actually be hoping to get minutes out of one or both of these guys in the regular season. If either one of them turns into anything at all, even for a season or two, the Thunder will have beaten the odds.
The real big new of OKC’s draft night, and the guy fans can get excited about, is Hamidou Diallo.
Diallo was drafted number 45 by the Charlotte Hornets, but OKC then traded for him before the draft was even over. Diallo might be the most stereotypical Sam Presti draft pick of all time. He’s a shooting guard who can’t shoot all that well- he hit 33% of his 3’s in his lone season at Kentucky, and more worryingly shot 61% from the foul line, which tends to be the better predictor of 3 point shooting ability. The appeal of Diallo lies in his defense and tantalizing athleticism- he 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan, he’s strong, and he profiles as a good defender. Sam Presti loves this kind of player. Andre Roberson, PJ Dozier and Jerami Grant (via trade) are all guys he’s targeted in recent years who were limited as ballhandlers, shooters, and finishers but had undeniable athleticism, great size and could defend across multiple positions.
As long as Sam Presti is the General Manager, that’s the kind of team OKC will be- long, athletic, switchable on defense, with outside shooting and a polished offensive games as an afterthought. Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook profiled as this kind of player when they were drafted That’s led to OKC consistently finishing in the bottom 10 teams in the league in 3 point attempts for the last 5 years, in a league that increasingly favors the 3. The upside is that OKC has consistently been one of the better defensive teams in the league during that same time span.
There’s a logic to Presti targeting these kind of guys beyond valuing defense over offense- a great 3 point shooter or crafty finisher at the rim who lacks the physical tools to succeed on defense is unlikely to suddenly grow a taller body or longer arms. But a freak athlete without a lot of skill to his game might develop that skill and feel as time goes on. Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo were those kind of physical monsters who added more touch to their offensive game as they developed, and now they’re both top 10 players in the league. Of course, for every guy like Kawhi, there’s a lot more like Stanley Johnson - ridiculous athletes who never add the shooting or feel for the game.
Diallo isn’t going to become Kawhi or Giannis. But we’re talking about a pick in the late second round here. As I noted last week, it’s very, very hard to find talent at the end of the draft. Moving up to grab a guy like Diallo, who was very highly touted coming out of high school, is still only 19 and has great physical gifts, is the kind of swing for the fences pick you like to see in the second round. Diallo becoming even a rotation player would be a win with this pick. And if he flames out, it’s not a big deal- it wasn’t immediately clear what OKC gave up to make this trade happen, but it’s either a future second round pick (probably with some protections) or, even better, “cash considerations.” OKC will lose nothing but a little bit of money or, at worst, a future second round pick that will likely be a shot in the dark.
OKC’s cap situation and lack of first round pick left them without a lot of clear ways to upgrade the roster. The second round tends to be a desert devoid of real NBA talent, but by grabbing an extra second round pick, Presti increased his odds of finding a diamond in the rough ever so slightly. If any of these three players become even a rotation player, this draft will go down as at least a small win for the Thunder