Luck was not on the Oklahoma City Thunders's side Tuesday night. Despite having a chance at getting the no. 1 pick and no. 5 pick courtesy of Houston, the Thunder’s own pick wound up to no. 6.
The Rockets, meanwhile, got the no. 2 pick and will get to keep it, as their pick only conveyed to OKC if it fell outside the top 4. The coveted no. 1 pick will go to the Detroit Pistons.
This isn’t the end of the world for OKC, obviously. They will have the no. 16 and no. 18 picks from Boston and Miami in addition to their own pick. They could package those picks, or some of the seventeen other future first Sam Presti has amassed, in a trade to move up.
The dream of drafting Cade Cunningham is probably dead; seemingly everyone views Cunningham as a no-brainer pick and the kind of prospect a team, especially a team in need of a star like Detroit, wouldn’t give up for any price.
The upcoming draft is supposed to be quite deep, and OKC will have options with the no. 6 pick, and we’ll preview some of those options over the coming weeks.
The player selected with that pick may become the biggest star of the draft; Damian Lillard was selected with the same no. 6 pick by Portland in 2012.
Still, coming away with one lottery pick instead of two and coming away with a worse pick and thus worse odds at getting a star player does set Oklahoma City’s rebuild back.
This is a gut punch, no two ways about it.
Even if the #6 player has a good year, they’re unlikely to propel OKC back to the playoffs; even with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and other exciting young players, the Thunder just last week traded Al Horford for a worse player (at least in his current condition) in Kemba Walker and yet another future first-round pick.
Without a slam dunk future star like Cade Cunningham next to SGA, expect Sam Presti to continue making asset accumulation trades as the offseason continues, rather than looking to bring in players who will help the team win now.
Patience will continue to be the name of the game.
All that makes it very likely OKC will be back in the lottery again next year. Hopefully, they’ll have better luck by then, and hopefully, the player selected with the #6 pick is looking like another franchise cornerstone.