Contrary to what you might have heard, Oklahoma City has not one, but two draft selections in the upcoming two-round NBA draft.
Of course, of those picks, neither is in the first round. Also, neither is in the first third, nor even the first half of the second round.
In fact, the Thunder own the Nos. 53 and 57 selections of the 60-selection draft and if you’re wondering what became of their first-round pick, Utah got it when Enes Kanter came to Oklahoma City, yet Minnesota has it now, arriving in the Twin Cities when Ricky Rubio arrived in Utah.
Yeah, I know, Kanter’s in New York. It’s a crazy league.
The good news is, given Oklahoma City’s bloated payroll, No. 3 in the NBA last season despite being the No. 28 NBA market, should the players it spends its picks on — if it spend them on anybody; it could always attempt to trade or sell them — make the team, they shouldn’t cost too much.
Well, they actually could if the Thunder enter a max-luxury tax bracket of nearly 600 percent on every dollar they go over the cap, but that’s far too complicated to get into here, so we won’t.
Instead, let’s say the Thunder spend those picks on actual players and let’s say they spend them on players they hope would, you know, help.
That’s the whole idea, right? You’re trying to get better, not worse.
So, let’s think about that.
Who might they get?
Shelve that question for a moment and ask this instead: Could they find anybody who might help?
The answer is not likely, but it’s more enlightening to explain why.
Since moving to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have selected five players with picks no higher than No. 45.
Three in 2008: Trent Plasted out of BYU-Hawaii (yeah, that’s a school) at No. 46; DeVon Harden at No. 50 out of Cal; Sasha Kaun at No. 56 out of Kansas.
One in 2010: Magnum Rolle from Louisiana Tech at No. 51.
One in 2015: Dakari Johnson from Kentucky at No. 48.
If Johnson sounds familiar, it’s probably because you saw him play for Oklahoma City as recently as April 23, when he logged 88 seconds in Game 4 against Utah.
Here’s the thing about that:
Though Johnson was drafted in 2015, he didn’t play in the NBA until opening night of the 2017-18 season after spending two years with the Oklahoma City Blue of the developmental G-League. And despite that and despite his very limited role with the Thunder last season, given where he was drafted, he is nonetheless an absolute success story.
Johnson found his way into 31 games last season. That’s 31 more than Plasted, Hardin and Rolle ever played in their NBA lifetimes and six more than Kaun, who saw action for 25 games in Cleveland during the 2015-16 season, more than seven full years after being selected.
Still, maybe the No. 45 pick is an arbitrary place to begin paying attention. Why don’t we dial it all the way back to the No. 20 pick?
Since moving from Seattle, Oklahoma City’s selected 12 players with picks ranging from Nos. 20 to 45.
Here’s a few of them:
Walter Sharpe played all of eight NBA games after being drafted No. 32 out of Alabama-Birmingham in 2008.
Craig Brackens played in 17 NBA games after being drafted No. 21 out of Iowa State in 2010.
Mitch McGary, the No. 21 selection from Michigan in 2014, has been out of the league since playing in 52 games as a Thunder rookie.
Perry Jones, from Baylor, the 28th pick in 2012, played in 143 games over three Thunder seasons but hasn’t played in the league in more than three years.
Remember Archie Goodwin (No. 29 in 2013), Quincy Poindexter (No. 26 in 2010) and Rodrique Beaubois (No. 25 in 2009)?
Each spent real time in the league — a collective 649 games — but none have been particularly memorable.
Here’s some you have heard of:
Reggie Jackson (No. 24 in 2011) is carving out a nice career for himself in Detroit. Alex Abrines (No. 32 in 2014), still with the Thunder, has shown flashes. And everybody still loves the upside of Terrance Ferguson (No. 21 in 2017), who saw action in 61 games his rookie season.
None of them, however, have enjoyed the career of the one guy in that range of picks who became a star for the Thunder: Serge Ibaka, No. 24 in 2008. But Ibaka hasn’t been in Oklahoma City since 2016 and the Thunder don’t have the 24th pick, but Nos. 53 and 57.
It’s slim pickings.
Yes, Manu Ginóbili went No. 57 to San Antonio in 1999 and Isaiah Thomas went No. 60, dead last, to Sacramento in 2011. More than stars, they’ve been miracles.
Good luck finding one of them.