The NBA Finals just concluded, which means the NBA Draft is right around the corner, more specifically, it’s this Thursday. With the Toronto Raptors dethroning the Golden State Warriors, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant’s free agency plus their injuries that will sideline them for the majority of next season at least, and the monumental Anthony Davis trade, the NBA’s landscape has shifted. For the first time in five years, more than two teams have a legitimate chance to win an NBA title, and the Thunder could be one of them.
The NBA Draft is the easiest route for OKC to improve this offseason.
“We’ve got to take a hard look at where we are as a team, what the options are, and look at those and see how we can make it better,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at his end-of-season press conference on April 29.
The Thunder have a few choices when it comes to their draft pick. As you should know by now, OKC holds the No. 21 pick. Considering it’s a late first-round pick, the guarantee of a productive player isn’t as high as a lottery pick. Late first round picks are a hit or miss, so the Thunder have some thinking to do.
The easiest thing for Sam Presti is to pick at 21 and go for OKC’s biggest needs. The Thunder could draft a guaranteed sharpshooter like North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson, which would make more sense than any other draftee. However, if they choose to draft someone other than Johnson, Kentucky’s P.J. Washington or Grant Williams could potentially fill the backup power forward role.
These picks would be ideal and perfect for most NBA teams, but with OKC’s window being wide-open but closing quickly, they need someone that will produce without question. Someone that can consistently serve as OKC’s third option.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive seasons, so the Thunder would have to essentially draft for another team in a prearranged trade. The only thing about trading their 21st selection alone is that they’ll have to trade for a contract of similar value, which won’t get them anywhere further than a player like Raymond Felton.
The route OKC should take is to trade the 21st pick and package an expiring contract with it. Other teams would be able to benefit from a productive player for a year and only have to deal with their contract for a year. Andre Roberson and Patrick Patterson are both on expensive expiring contracts, while Dennis Schröder and Steven Adams rock with overly-lucrative multi-year deals.
Packaging one or more of those players with the 21st pick would open the door for OKC to pick up a valuable piece that could help them win in 2020. Although draft picks are fun, anything after the 10th or 11th pick gets too unpredictable for comfort and with the NBA finally competitive again, the Thunder need to leave their mark on this offseason. Getting rid of Roberson, Patterson, Schröder or Adams won’t be easy for the Thunder to do, but sacrifices have to be made for the Thunder to taste success.