OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Thunder chose to take young potential rather than fill their most pressing need in the draft.
Oklahoma City selected Brandon Clarke with the 21st overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night but the Thunder were expected to send the Gonzaga standout to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a three-team deal.
Utah picked at No. 23 and chose forward Darius Bazley, who is expected to join the Thunder. ESPN first reported the picks are part of a set of deals that will send Memphis’ Mike Conley to Utah.
Bazley is from Princeton High School in Cincinnati, where he was a McDonald’s All-American. As a high school senior in 2017-18, he averaged 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.4 blocks. He interned with New Balance and worked out for a year before the draft.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti was unable to speak about Bazley because the trade involving him is not final. He talked instead about the team’s general approach.
“The way we’ve always approached the draft is we’re always looking to create value for the organization and get the most value from the opportunities that we have to pick,” Presti said. “I think we’ve also shown at different points and time that we try to take the long view and give yourself the opportunity to have the most success.”
Bazley was a 31.8% 3-point shooter as a senior, meaning his selection does not address Oklahoma City’s primary weakness. The Thunder ranked 22nd in the league in 3-point shooting out of 30 teams last season.
Presti said the Thunder will address the outside shooting issue two ways.
“We’re going to need some internal growth and internal development just based on where we are in what available resources and tools we have from a team-building standpoint,” he said. “And we will certainly have some opportunities to have conversations with people about how they may be able to round out the group.”
Oklahoma City chose an unconventional player a few years ago when they took Terrance Ferguson with the 21st pick in the 2017 draft. Ferguson committed to Alabama, then Arizona, then skipped college and played professionally with the Adelaide 36ers in Australia for a year before the Thunder took him. Ferguson started 74 games last season in his second year in the league and averaged 6.9 points per game.