After a somewhat embarrassing five-game defeat at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder have some problems to solve. Free agency is often the easiest avenue to add talent, however, the Thunder are over the cap by about 40 million dollars. They will have about 4.5 million dollars from the taxpayer mid-level exception to use. Besides that though, they’ll be forced to sign players to minimum contracts only. The NBA draft is another way to add talent. The Thunder will have the 21st overall pick and no second-round picks in the draft. They do have all of their future second-round picks so they could make a trade for a second-round pick in this year’s draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder draft needs are depth and better shooters. They only played seven players at least 1,000 minutes during the regular season while most teams have nine or ten such players. Only 35 players in the entire NBA played at least 2,500 minutes. Four of them belonged to the Thunder. Only two other teams had three players with 2,500 or more minutes played. If the threshold is lowered to 2,300 minutes played, the Thunder have five players. No other team even has four. The Thunder are 16th in three-point attempt rate (the percentage of field goal attempts that are three-pointers) and tied for 22nd in three-point percentage.
Prospects the Oklahoma City Thunder Could Draft
Johnson may be the best prospect for the Thunder to select in this draft. Johnson shot 45.7 percent from three on 5.8 attempts per game in his final season at the University of North Carolina. In his five total seasons at college, he shot 40.5 percent on 4.7 three-point attempts per game. Johnson also shot 46.3 percent on 4.5 NBA threes per game in his final season in college, per The Stepien.
The one real downside to Johnson’s game is that he’s already 23 years old. However, this may actually be good for the Thunder. The Thunder are competing right now, so a player that has experience is actually a positive. Johnson is also a good defender who has the ability to guard multiple positions. He’s certainly athletic enough to guard small forwards and even some shooting guards, and he’s big enough to guard most power forwards. He is 6’9” with a 6’10” wingspan and 205 pounds.
Looking at the Thunder’s current roster, center doesn’t seem like a position of need. However, Steven Adams is under contract for just two more years and Nerlens Noel has a player option this summer for just two million dollars which he’ll likely decline. The Thunder could use a young big man for the future, or even just as a backup if they don’t re-sign Noel.
Porter could very well fill that need. Porter doesn’t have one great skill but he is good at pretty much everything. He is a good shooter, shooting 36.4 percent on 3.3 three-point attempts per game in his one year at the University of Missouri. Porter is also a pretty good passer, posting 3.3 assists per 36 minutes. This is one of the best marks amongst all big men projected to go in the first round, with the University of Tennessee’s Grant Williams the only one higher at 3.6. Porter is also a pretty solid defender despite not being very athletic. Instead, he uses his high IQ to be a very good help defender and solid on-ball defender.
Porter, however, does have one glaring issue. He tore his ACL and MCL and missed the entire 2018-2019 college season. Because of this injury, it’s very difficult to know where Porter will be drafted. He is most certainly a first-round talent but he may be available with an early second-round pick.
Herro is a very popular player amongst Thunder fans. Herro has a very elite touch and smooth stroke. He also shot 93.5 percent from the free-throw line in his lone season at Kentucky. However, he shot just 35.5 percent from three on 4.6 attempts per game and 31.9 percent from the NBA three-point line on 3.2 attempts per game, per The Stepien. With that said, he should be a pretty good shooter in the NBA.
Other than shooting, not much of Herro’s game sticks out. He’s an okay passer and he averaged 2.5 assists to 1.6 turnovers per game. He’s pretty mediocre on defense as well. He doesn’t have elite athleticism or outlier IQ. He is 6’6” which is very encouraging but his wingspan is a measly 6’3”. Herro could very well be drafted by either the Detroit Pistons or the Orlando Magic at 15 and 16, respectively. However, if he falls past them, there’s a very real chance that he’s available at 21.
Thybulle doesn’t make as much sense as the other players with the Thunder, but he is very similar to prospects the Thunder have drafted in the past. While Thybulle isn’t a non-shooter like Roberson, he isn’t a good one either. He shot just 30.5 percent on 4.2 three-point attempts per game in his final season at the University of Washington. In his four years there, he shot 35.8 percent on 4.0 attempts per game. Thybulle also shot 28.6 percent on 2.3 NBA threes per game in his final season in college, per The Stepien. However, the best part of Thybulle’s game is his defense. Thybulle averaged 3.5 steals per game in his final season at Washington. His 3.5 steals per game is third all time. Thybulle also has a seven-foot wingspan despite being just 6’6” tall.
Sam Presti, the GM of the Thunder, has a history of drafting long players. This past draft he selected Hamidou Diallo, a shooting guard with a seven-foot wingspan. The year before, he selected Terrance Ferguson, another shooting guard with a 6’9.5” wingspan. In the 2015 draft, he selected Cameron Payne with the 14th overall pick. Payne is a point guard with a 6’7.25” wingspan. Thybulle fits very well within this group with his seven-foot wingspan.
Who Should the Oklahoma City Thunder Draft?
The Thunder have clear weaknesses with their three-point shooting and their lack of depth. Because of their poor cap situation, the Thunder will look to improve through the draft. The Thunder currently have the 21st pick in the 2019 NBA draft. With this, they should look to select Cameron Johnson, Jontay Porter, Tyler Herro, or Matisse Thybulle. They may also look at Nickeil Alexander-Walker with this pick. With a second-round pick, the Thunder may look at Fletcher Magee, Lagerald Vick, or Ryan Cline. All three players are elite three-point shooters.
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