The Oklahoma City Thunder have significantly struggled in the draft over the previous years. Sam Presti made some questionable choices in the form of Cameron Payne and Mitch McGary who have both now flamed out of the league. At present, McGary is a professional bowler and Cameron Payne is being hired by various teams to be a 'Tank Commander'. In Chicago, he was abject, in Cleveland he was better by just being bad. Moreover, over the previous years the Thunder have sought to add a certain type of player. The player in question is a supreme athlete who has great physical attributes but is limited in terms of actually playing basketball. In the case of Josh Huestis, he needed two years in the G-League to develop his skills before he was eventually cut for not being good enough. In the case of Dakar Johnson, he just was not a fit for today's NBA. He had no shooting range, was largely immobile and seemed to lack the defensive instincts required to be a serviceable NBA player.
The last player that the Thunder drafted who actually panned out into being a significant part of the Thunder was Steven Adams and that was six years ago. Adams was picked with the 12th pick of the 2013 draft as part of the assets received in the Harden trade. Steven Adams has developed into a defensive force in terms of interior defence and being superb in terms of rotating on help defence. He has even developed a compact offensive game around the rim with various post-moves such as the flip-hook and a tight 'up-and-under'. However, it can be said that despite all of the intangible assets that Steven is not perfect as a player. He has not displayed the ability to shoot at any range which limits his and the team's effectiveness. Opposing teams will completely sag off Steven in the mid-range which means that the driving becomes clogged and scoring at the rim becomes much more tricky. It will mean that the Thunder only has a few options offensively with their centre being the pick and roll or a post-up.
The last unqualified successful draft pick made by Sam Presti is Eric Bledsoe who was immediately traded to the the Clippers. Bledsoe has rounded out into being a tough-minded point guard who can do a little bit of everything and is an important piece on a very talented Milwaukee Bucks that is beating the brakes off the Boston Celtics. The last home-run draft pick to play for the franchise was James Harden in 2009, ten years ago.
Presti has to get this draft right as the Thunder's window is already closing, Westbrook is diminishing athletically and George's contract has two years remaining with an option for a third year. He cannot take another long, rangy wing who is very athletic but cannot hit the side of a barn door. Another raw wing who cannot immediately contribute does not help Oklahoma City does not move the needle at all. The rookie has to be polished and has to have basketball instincts.
Sam Presti is a talented GM but he has to deviate from his vision of a forest of limbs. It works to some extent defensively but on offence it's trash. The Thunder shot just 34.8% from three-point land as a team which is not good enough in an NBA which now prioritises the three as efficient offence. A team has to be able to make the three consistently at a good clip so that there is space for drives and lay-ups. The other effect of being able to hit the three is that there is more offensive variety, the Thunder is not required to run the same old tired plays that everybody knows and clank a ton of shots. Having more shooters means that the Thunder can run different stuff or just make shots on plays that they consistently run. The drive and kick-out for the Thunder is a staple but neither Jerami Grant or Terrance Ferguson is adept on catch-and-shoot jumpers. It makes a ton of sense to take a shooter in the draft who can shoot the ball in many different situations.
The most valuable type of shooter is one who does not solely require one shot type to be able to score. The majority of the Thunder roster are not comfortable coming off screens to shoot threes and very few have displayed an ability to hit relocation jumpers. The only two players to hit these shots at an efficient clip were Dennis Schroder and Paul George. Westbrook takes those kind of shots but he is abject from range, 29% is terribly inefficient for a play-maker who needs shooting to keep defences honest.
The Thunder also have roster needs that need to be satisfied in the front-court. Patrick Patterson has an option for next season that he likely won't renew due to the fact he has been marginalised by Billy Donovan. Donovan has not played Patterson when it matters and is a part of Patterson's significant regression. It would not be unreasonable for 2Pat to opt out and move on from this frustrating aspect of his career. Nerlens Noel has an option for next season which he likely won't renew as he can get more than the minimum on the open market. Noel can get anywhere from $5-8m per year from a team so it does not make sense for him personally to renew his contract.
Therefore adding another big man could be an option for the Thunder to pursue. The big man would have to be able to space the floor and have strong defensive instincts in terms of knowing how to alter shots around the rim. A lot of rookie big men struggle with defending without fouling and the Thunder already have enough issues in regards to sending teams to the line. They do not need more of the same with an inexperienced centre or power forward.
The first option worth considering fits the shooting criteria and should provide efficiency above all else. Tyler Herro is a freshman out of Kentucky who did really well in a Kentucky team that was a little up and down. Kentucky as a team always integrates a ton of players which makes it hard to evaluate whether players would be a good fit for a specific organisation. That is just the nature of a Calipari-coached team. Herro shot 35.5% on 4.6 3PA which is a solid clip and was an above-average defender in Kentucky. He has the type of shooting form which suggests that he can be effective shooting and being efficient in a multitude of situations. It would be a good 3&D pick-up for the Thunder as there is enough evidence to suggest that Herro can become better providing that he puts the effort into his game. The clear downside of his game is that Herro can force his shot at times and because of this is wildly inconsistent, it would be a worry if Herro starts jacking shots and becomes inefficient on the court.
The next option would be Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga. The sophomore has the size to succeed at the NBA level (6'10 and 215 lb) but the most exciting part of Clarke's game is his polish. He has already displayed an ability to succeed on the defensively end in terms of altering shots and blocking a few. Moreover, Clarke has been adept on the offensive end. he has a soft touch around the rim and has shown an ability to stretch the floor out to 15ft. He took 9.7 2PA and shot 70.1%, an incredibly efficient clip. It is possible to project that he can be an effective shooter from deep as he has a smooth shooting form in which there are no noticeable hitches that prevent him from developing this aspect of his game. Clarke has already rebuilt his ability to shoot jumpers during his red-shirt season at Gonzaga which is positive news for the Thunder as it indicates that he is ready to work on his game and knows where he needs to improve. Clarke won't be perfect out of the box, he'll need time to adjust to the physicality of the NBA but it is entirely possible to see him as a Shawn Marion type of player.
Matisse Thybulle out of Washington would also be an interesting option for Presti to pursue as he is player who could instantly fit on an NBA roster. He shot a decent clip from outside over the entirety of his four years at UW (35.8%) and was a force defensively. He recorded 100 steals and 45 blocks at UW which for a guard is unthinkable, it is very rare that a guard can put together athleticism with defensive intelligence to achieve these type of results. It is reasonable for Thybulle to project as a shooter in the league who can also play gritty defence, in some aspects he shares some parallels with a player like Patrick Beverley. Beverley is a better man to man defender but both players make their living by shooting the three-ball and making smart decisions offensively. Thybulle uses his three to create for others by making the simple pass offensively which would be desirable on the Thunder.
For the Thunder, there are few options presented here who would be great additions to the roster. Each player brings something different whether it being Herro as a pure shooter, Clarke as the rounded big man or Thybulle as the two-way guard. Presti would do incredibly well to add one of these players into a team that is definitely win-now.