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Oklahoma City Thunder draft picks 2021 preview: Options with three 1st-round picks, trade scenarios

The Oklahoma City Thunder are loaded with picks entering the 2021 NBA Draft, with three first- and second-round selections to spend in some form or fashion.

There’s no way a wheeling and dealing general manager like Sam Presti is going to hang onto all those picks. It’s not even practical from a roster standpoint. Plus, Presti has a legitimate trade chip he might play in All-Star guard Kemba walker.

Let’s break down an Oklahoma City Thunder mock draft for the first round, give an overview as to how they can construct their roster, and how the franchise can fast-track its perpetual rebuild.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2021 NBA Draft picks

  • First round, 6th pick
  • First round, 16th pick
  • First round, 18th pick
  • Second round, 34th pick
  • Second round, 36th pick
  • Second round, 55th pick

Oklahoma City Thunder mock draft: Pick No. 6

  • 5. Orlando Magic: Scottie Barnes, forward, Florida State
  • 6. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jonathan Kuminga, forward, NBA G-League
  • 7. Golden State Warriors: Davion Mitchell, guard, Baylor

Oklahoma City Thunder mock draft: Pick Nos. 16 & 18

  • 15. Washington Wizards: Usman Garuba, forward/center, Spain
  • 16. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Boston): Isaiah Jackson, forward/center, Kentucky
  • 17. Memphis Grizzlies: James Bouknight, guard, Connecticut
  • 18. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Miami): Cameron Thomas, guard, LSU

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Oklahoma City Thunder mock draft: Round 1 analysis

Oklahoma City Thunder mock draft: Round 1 analysis
Mar 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Isaiah Jackson (23) runs down the court during the second half of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be interesting to see how Presti ultimately views this draft and its top prospects. Does he love a player enough to mortgage assets and move up? Will Walker yield a decent haul, and potentially another first-round pick in a trade?

So many different directions this could go. For now, let’s focus on the selection of Jonathan Kuminga at No. 6 overall.

Kuminga is only one year removed from high school and made the choice to jump from the prep level to the G League. It didn’t go wildly well, as Kuminga struggled on offense to a 38.7% shooting clip, including just 24.6% from 3-point range on 65 attempts in 13 games.

Not the most flattering numbers, yet Kuminga is such an incredible athlete with such a high ceiling. In an ideal scenario, he might fall to the Golden State Warriors and be in prime position to develop there without much pressure. On the other hand, live game experience could see Kuminga rapidly grow into an All-Star-caliber player.

As for the next two mock Thunder first-round picks, loading up the frontcourt to start is a logical way to go. One big piece that went away in the Walker trade was big man Al Horford, so Oklahoma City needs reinforcements and depth there.

Isaiah Jackson is thinly-built and needs to grow into his frame a lot, yet his physical tools and traits are elite. A 7-foot-5 wingspan helped Jackson average 2.6 blocks per game in only 20.8 minutes on average during his one-and-done year at Kentucky. He isn’t a willing outside shooter, but his 70% free throw clip suggests he has room to improve there.

To invest in perimeter scoring, OKC turns to LSU guard Cameron Thomas at 18th overall. Thomas just averaged 23 points for the Tigers. Despite relative inefficiency from the field (46.4% on 2-pointers; 32.8% from 3-point range), Thomas got to the foul line for 7.6 attempts per game, hitting at 88.2%.

Suddenly, the Thunder would have a decent-looking small ball lineup on paper, if all their rookies were to share the floor at once:

  • PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • SG: Cameron Thomas
  • SF: Luguentz Dort
  • PF: Jonathan Kuminga
  • C: Isaiah Jackson

The reality is, Thomas and Jackson will be lucky to crack the starting five. Having said that, if there’s an NBA roster where there will be ample opportunities to play as a rookie, it seems like Oklahoma City is the best bet, barring some unforeseen acquisition of multiple star players.

Oklahoma City Thunder trade scenarios for 2021 NBA Draft

Ben Simmons trade
May 31, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) reacts after the basket during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards during game four in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder honestly have cap room to do whatever they want. That said, they’re not a prime free-agent destination, and would need to loop in multiple teams to pull off a blockbuster deal that’d yield anything meaningful. Walker’s contract may be top-notch, but his trade value isn’t.

Let’s explore what sort of wizardry Presti might be able to pull off on draft night — even if it feels a little far-fetched, considering Walker is the only trade asset Oklahoma City really has to play as far as established players go.

  • Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers: Maybe sending a boatload of first-round picks (with, say, some top-three protections) and Kemba Walker to Philadelphia might be enough to entice the Sixers to part with their embattled point guard. However, Walker’s recent injuries are cause for concern for Philly, and Simmons’ shooting woes are no guaranteed fix. The Sixers and Thunder would probably want to loop in a third team for more compensation.
  • Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets: A change of scenery on a legitimate championship contender is probably what Walker is looking for at this point. Then again, he thought he’d get that in Boston, and it didn’t work out. Walker and Irving both flamed out with the Celtics. They’d be at the center of this trade. Before you say it’s crazy, Brooklyn is rumored to be mulling an Irving trade this summer.
  • Figure out a trade into the top three: Whether it’s working something out with the rebuilding Houston Rockets and their three first-round picks or negotiating a swap with the Cleveland Cavaliers, perhaps OKC can offer enough future assets to entice those teams to move down.

Oklahoma City Thunder draft preview: How long is Sam Presti’s long game?

Just look at this fact from CBS Sports, and you can plainly see Presti’s penchant for hoarding draft capital:

At some point, those assets really need to pay off. The question is, when?

Presti drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Durant walked in free agency, Harden was traded for nothing, and even though Chris Paul came back in a Westbrook deal, CP3 stuck around for only one season. Oh, and Paul George came and went from OKC.

Are the Thunder serious about building a winner any time soon, or are they waiting to hit the lottery in the draft again? Many choose to trust in Presti’s vision, yet if Oklahoma City doesn’t start winning or fielding a legitimate team soon, he deserves to be on the hot seat.

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