Thunder Trying To Move Into Draft But Far From Desperate To Do So

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

For the first time since the Thunder set up shop in Oklahoma City the team will go into the NBA Draft without a pick.

“We're truly an organization of firsts,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said of the situation a couple of weeks ago. “We're still not 10 years old, and we haven't encountered the situation yet.”

Presti didn’t really think he’d be without a pick in this year’s draft when the move was made that set this scenario up.

Back in January of 2015 the Thunder traded away their first round pick in that June’s draft to help get Dion Waiters. The pick was lottery protected which meant if the Thunder didn’t make the playoffs they’d keep the pick for 2015 and wouldn’t have it for 2016.

Even with their injuries in 2015 the Thunder still figured to make the playoffs but of course they missed it by one game. So the pick they’d traded away came back and became Cameron Payne.

They dealt away this year’s second round pick in February to get Randy Foye from the Denver Nuggets and that’s how they ended up without a pick.

At least they don’t have one yet.

“I'm actually kind of excited by it because it's an opportunity to approach the draft in a different way,” Presti told reporters during his end of the season news conference. “It's a way to use our creativity and imagination in ways we haven't. So I'm kind of excited to see where it leads us.”

Presti and his staff have been working the phones the last several days talking about possible trade scenarios that could them into the draft. There’s also a chance they just simply buy their way into the second round.

“We will prepare for the draft like we're picking 60 times, no different than we've ever done or prepared for any draft, but we can use our minds a little bit differently,” Presti said, “trying to decide how to get in, and if we were to get in and who to get in for. I'm kind of looking forward to that.”

There’s been some question as to just how good this draft class is when it comes to surefire star players at the NBA level especially when you get beyond the first couple of picks.

After that a lot of teams seem to be thinking you can get almost the same quality in the second round as you can the first but you won’t have to spend as much money and the salaries for players taken in the second aren’t guaranteed so if a player taken there turns out to be a bust the financial risk is minimal.

According to some reports at least a third of NBA teams, and maybe as many as half, are actively shopping their first round picks.

The Thunder have been built through the draft. All five regular starters from last season were Thunder draft picks. They’ve used the second round primarily to stash players either overseas or on the OKC Blue while they develop.

Shooting guard Alex Abrines, point guard Semaj Christon and power forward Dakari Johnson are the latest examples of that strategy.

The 6-6 Abrines is talented enough to come to the NBA now but he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave Europe where he won the Euro League’s Rising Star Award. He remains under contract with Barcelona. Christon played for the Blue and averaged 18.8 points and 5.8 assists season before last then went to Italy where he remains. Johnson averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Blue last season.

The most likely scenario is for the Thunder to buy their way into the middle to late second round. Getting into the first round would likely involve dealing a player they would prefer to keep around.

Among the players that could be available in those spots are high school power forward Thon Maker (projected at 36th), Kansas shooting guard Wayne Seldon (projected at 50th), Oregon State point guard Gary Payton II (projected as the 51st pick) and OU shooting guard Isaiah Cousins projected at 54th by Draft Express but who has also generated buzz as possibly moving all the way into the first round because of some outstanding workouts.

So even though the Thunder don’t have a pick as of this writing, they may very well have one by tonight so this could end up being an intriguing evening.

Either way the Thunder have said Presti would be available to answer questions after all the picks have been made.

I’ll be at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center this evening keeping track of what’s happening. You can follow me on Twitter @RandyRenner for live updates through the evening and be sure to check out the Twitter Feed page of our website to get updates from others both locally and from around the NBA.