By Randy Renner
I was planning on getting us started by telling you about Kristap Porzingis the 7-foot, teenager in Europe the Thunder had reportedly promised to draft if he was still on the board when the 21st selection rolled around.
On Sunday Porzingis pulled his name out of the draft and so promise or no promise there will be no KP added to KD in OKC.
Even if he had stayed in the draft he likely would have been a draft and stash guy because, as he now admits, he can use another year in the Euro League and another year to add some weight because he only has 220 pounds on that 7-foot tall frame.
Okay, now to the real possibilities.
The Thunder have the 21st pick and the 29th but it’s doubtful they use both. They will more than likely use one in a trade and perhaps even both. Thunder GM Sam Presti went so far as to say during his end of the season news conference the Thunder prefer to “select” someone rather than just “pick” someone.
So if there’s not a guy they really like still available for those spots, a deal will be made.
That being said we thought we’d begin with a couple of guys who’ve been in the Thunder facility recently for workouts. One the Thunder could be looking at for the 29th spot and one at 21.
MARKEL BROWN (Shooting Guard, OKLAHOMA STATE)
The Thunder have some roster spots available at guard, both backcourt spots will need someone with Derek Fisher definitely not coming back and Caron Butler probably not returning.
The Thunder know Markel Brown very well. Thunder staff members including Presti and head coach Scott Brooks have attended games in Stillwater and Brown was in town a couple of weeks ago. The Thunder don’t release any information about prospects and don’t allow the media access (many NBA teams do however) so it’s hard to know for sure how Brown did but the rumor on the street is that he did very well.
He’s visited several other NBA teams and some of them have been a bit more forthcoming and all have been impressed. Brown’s draft stock is rising though most all the mock drafts have him going in the second round.
Brown’s game has steadily improved while at OSU and his senior year he averaged 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. At 6-3, Brown is a bit undersized for NBA shooting guards who are usually more in the 6-5 to 6-7 range. Thabo Sefolosha is 6-7 for instance.
But what Brown lacks in height, he makes up for with his phenomenal leaping ability. At the draft combine he graded out at the very top of the scale. In the max vertical jump he got up to 43.5 inches (tying Arizona State’s Jahii Carson for the best of the combine and the third highest mark all-time) and in the standing vertical jump (where a player just goes straight up without a step to start) Brown got up to 36.5 inches which tied Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III for best in the combine.
He used that leaping ability to become an ESPN SportsCenter regular with his highlight reel dunks off lob passes. He also uses those hops to get up and over taller shooting guards trying to cover him. According to Synergy Sports 66 percent of Brown’s shots in the half court last season came on jumpers and he hit a decent amount (40 percent). He also hit 40 percent of his spot up jumpers and 45 percent on pull-ups which were about 10 percentage points higher than what he shot the season before.
Around the rim Brown shot 66 percent, many of those shots coming with fantastic finishes.
Brown was mostly a shooting guard at OSU but also played the point on occasion but his ball handling needs some work if he’s going to make that move in the NBA.
Defensively he also has work to do, though he’s improved his performance over the last couple of season on that end as well.
The Thunder have been known to reach a tad higher for guys they really like, no one else really saw Russell Westbrook going with the fourth pick in 2008 or James Harden with the third pick in 2009 but turns out they were worth the gamble. The Thunder would risk a lot less money taking Brown at #29 than they did with the Westbrook and Harden picks so they might be willing to roll the dice since they know Brown so well.
KYLE ANDERSON (Small Forward, UCLA)
The Thunder brought UCLA's Kyle Anderson in for a workout a few weeks ago. Several teams are high on Anderson and project him as a small forward in the NBA, though he actually played point guard for the Bruins. Depending on which mock draft you look at Anderson could go anywhere from 15 or so all the way down to around 25.
So the Thunder could have a shot at him at #21, he may even be a guy they'd be willing to move up in order to grab.
Small forward doesn't appear to be the greatest position of need on the Thunder but since Anderson ran the point in college the Thunder are looking at him as a guy who could play multiple positions, point guard, shooting guard, small forward, maybe even power forward at times. Anderson is so versatile he may be too good to pass up if he's still available.
Last season at UCLA he averaged 14.6 points on 48.0 percent shooting overall and an outstanding 48.3 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists. As you can see he brings a pretty unique skill set for a guy who's 6-9 and in college, playing the point, he presented all sorts of matchup problems. He has the potentiual to do the same in the NBA.
He has a 7-3 wingspan and that helped him disrupt the passing lanes and average almost two steals a game.
Anderson is also an incredible ball handler, he can pass with either hand and at UCLA he was known for pinpoint passes.
On the downside he doesn't have a quick release on his shot and scouts say it looks flat at times and they wonder how well he'll be able to stretch his range out to the NBA 3-point line.
His shot is so deliberate teammates gave him the nickname "SloMo," so that probably concerns folks at the next level too.
You have to wonder a little bit if the reason he looked so good at times in college was that opponent defenders weren't quite quick enough to take him on, even though he may have appeared to be moving in slow motion. That won't be the case in the NBA.
The other problem with him is his lateral quickness on defense...he doesn't have much. Though he was able to grab a lot of rebounds and block some shots in college, scouts are concerned that in the NBA smaller players will be able to just go around him and bigger players may also because Anderson tended to play defense in a very upright position, rather than getting down low in more of a traditional defensive position.
So with Kyle Anderson you have a guy who's strong points are very, very strong and his weaknesses very, very weak.
That's probably why you see such a wide disparity with his projected draft positions. Some teams love him, some teams have little interest, exactly where the Thunder fit in is a question we may not have an answer to until draft night.