Hello again, Thunder fans!
Today we take a look at the NBA Draft, where we all pretend like we still watch college basketball before March. Or knew who Rudy Gobert was before we decided to take a quick glance at our favorite mock.
However, today’s preview won’t consist solely of hardcore analysis. We’ll touch on what the players can provide on the court, but, let’s face it, we’re all interested on what they do off the court as well. It’s pretty obvious what someone like a Robert Swift or Chris Andersen is all about, but it takes a discerning eye to discover the rapping abilities of Kevin Durant or the painting abilities of Desmond Mason. I’m not that discerning eye, but I’ll find some funny viral videos for you, anyway.
Will the Thunder make a trade?
It was reported yesterday that the Thunder were shopping Kendrick Perkins, Pick 12, and Pick 29 for a Top 5 selection. But, Kendrick Perkins has the value of Jason White’s autograph right now, and nobody wants to deal with this three-year long contract. Combine that with the fact that most teams in the top 5 are looking to rebuild and the fact that pick 12 is a crapshoot because there’s such a swath of questionable talent, and you realize that there’s no hope of this trade happening.
Otherwise, I will say that Sam Presti is definitely looking for a deal to get done. There’s going to be some competition for roster spots next year. Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher, and Ronnie Brewer are the only players guaranteed to go into free agency, while Thabeet, Orton, and Liggins all have non-guaranteed deals. Basically, Thabeet, Orton, and Liggins can all be cut to make space or picked up for next-to-nothing, while the Thunder will need to negotiate with Martin, Fisher, and Brewer. Fisher is likely to quasi-retire, while Martin and Brewer will likely want to re-negotiate. Combine the one free roster spot Fisher provides with the 3 picks the Thunder will make this year, and you’ve got a clog of players. Either someone will get cut, somebody won’t get signed, or the Thunder will make a deal. My money’s on a deal, but it all depends on how much Presti is willing to give, and how well he understands the market value of his players.
Who do the Thunder take at #12?
If the pick isn’t traded, the obvious solution is a big man. The Thunder need a dynamic offensive swingman just as much as they need a backup big, but the solution for the latter simply isn’t there at #12. Most of the guys the Thunder would want are likely to be picked higher, and those remaining are largely regarded as one-dimensional offensively. When you also consider that the Thunder have Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb currently developing, picking a big seems like the smart thing to do.
Alex Len from Maryland would be anyone’s first choice, but there’s no chance that he falls down to #12. Beyond that, the field is wide open. Here’s a quick look at the 6 prospects the Thunder will likely find themselves looking at when they’re on the board.
Steven Adams, Pittsburgh via New Zealand
As a player:
Right now, he seems to be the Thunder’s target player. He’s a guy who has a lot of athleticism and speed for his size, which is why he was predicted to go at the top of the Lottery in mock drafts prior to this year. But after a year at Pitt, it’s apparent that he has a lot of work to do. Adams thrives in a fast break offense, off of screens, and when backed into a smaller defender. But you can’t throw the ball to him in the post and expect him to generate offense. This is something that can be worked on, but you never know how he’ll develop until he gets on this level. His on-ball defense is decent, but he doesn’t know how to help in the lane too well. Basically, he’s a project. A promising project, but not somebody you’d look to give minutes on Day 1. This is good news for Hasheem Thabeet, but bad news for those who want to win this year. Since Presti has always been a man of the future, I’ll say that he’s most likely to end up on our roster.
As a man:
This is probably the most awkward interview you’ll ever come across. Steven is doing one of two things here: 1. Being awkward and shy because he’s never given an interview before. 2. Intensely trolling the DraftExpress guy just for the hell of it. I’m hoping it’s #2. By the end of the video, the interviewer can’t keep himself from laughing and basically fumbles his words worse than Steven. Steven Adams can sum up just about anything in a sentence or two, and anything he likes is “hot”. With all of the generic, pandering speech put out by NBA players these days, Steven Adams is a splash of cool refreshment.
Also, you’ve got to check out his sick tattoos. Below is the one he has on his chest:
It’s true, if you swipe at Steven Adams’ chest, you’ll find an assortment of tropical leaves. The man literally doesn’t bleed!
If you paid attention to the photo I showed earlier, he’s also got a tattoo on his forearm that reads “Tunaki”. In all actuality, that’s his middle name. His mother is Tongan, which explains how he got to have such an incredible title. Hopefully, it will be a nickname for him in the NBA. I mean, if you have the guts to put that on your forearm, you might as well call yourself that.
Lastly, I’d like to highlight his Twitter account, @RealStevenAdams. Even if this dude doesn’t get drafted by the Thunder, it’s one to follow. Below are some examples of what you’ll find.
I played great defense today! I wanted a real photo. He was on a cruise though. pic.twitter.com/qLPM3CQTg6
— Steven Adams (@RealStevenAdams) June 13, 2013
Wooh! It's a sign! My number! #13 pic.twitter.com/SKzb7hxBm0
— Steven Adams (@RealStevenAdams) June 19, 2013
I swear I just seen @KateUpton in Chicago airport (O'hare) if not its her stunt double.
— Steven Adams (@RealStevenAdams) June 14, 2013
Yeah. Basically, this is one of the most real and relatable dudes on the planet.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
As a player:
If I could sum this guy up in one phrase, it would be as the second coming of Nick Collison. And no, I’m not saying that because they’re both white big men from successful college programs. Basically, Cody Zeller is a guy who’s guaranteed not to bust. He’s got excellent basketball IQ, knowing exactly where he needs to be on the floor at all times. He has really nice hustle. He knows what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot, and where to be on defense. He’d be ready to go from Day 1, and could shore up the Thunder’s big man core nicely.
Here’s the bad news. His ceiling is very low. He’s already developed himself as a basketball player, and doesn’t have a lot of tricks that would translate to the next level. He doesn’t have the athleticism or size to dominate with his basic skill set of moves, and he doesn’t have the jump shot or post moves to make himself a serious scoring threat. His defense would be admirable, and he could sneak in points while the opposing defense was sagging, but I just don’t see him ever becoming a legitimate starter in the NBA. To sum up: Nick Collison.
Also, there’s some doubt as to whether he’d be available at Pick #12, but he’s a likely selection should he drop that low.
As a man:
Nicknamed “The Big Handsome” at Indiana, Cody Zeller is mainly known for looking reasonably attractive while being 7 feet tall (a feat not achieved by Nenad Krstic), and liking animated films. He had the highest GPA on Indiana’s basketball team, and is pretty much an all-around good guy.
There’s no hilarious interview or video of Zeller, so I’ll list a few tidbits from scouring his Twitter. Both he and Steven Adams like Duck Dynasty, for some reason. He likes country music, and is NOT ok with remixing it into a pop song. And, as you can see above, he’s got a really intense decision to make. Boring business suit A, B, or C? But mostly, his Twitter consists of posts thanking people, talking about how country life is different than city life, and jokes about how he doesn’t have a lot of money yet. Yep, that’s Cody Zeller. He doesn’t make for an entertaining blog post, but he does make for a risk-free draft choice.
Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
As a player:
Kelly Olynyk has seen his draft stock drop a bit in recent times, but he was originally thought to be the Thunder’s most likely selection. Olynyk looks absolutely amazing when you watch his highlights. He has a decent shot, can drive the ball from the mid-range, plays great help defense, and has decent touch around the basket. The only problem is that he’s playing against mid-major schools, so it’s hard to gauge how much of that he’d be able to pull off against higher competition. Putting that aside, it’s apparent that Olynyk is a bit too wild and unfocused on the court at times. He’ll bite off more than he can chew on the perimeter, losing the ball or losing the guy he’s supposed to defend. His awareness will need work and he might have to reel himself in a bit, but he definitely has the potential to make it in the NBA.
As a man:
Yes, that’s a video of Kelly Olynyk acting in Romeo and Juliet. He didn’t have a main role, but it’s pretty entertaining to watch him toss around metal balls and act really intense. Maybe, when his career is over, he can rival Shaq as one of the 7-foot acting greats. He also likes to get “on that board game flow”.
As a player:
Gorgui Dieng is one of the toughest defensive players you’ll ever come across. He can act as a help defender so easily on drives to the basket, swatting shots out of the air. He has the quickness to switch onto guards and the presence of mind to switch back when the time comes (something desperately needed on the Thunder). He’s also very good at avoiding foul trouble, and grabs defensive boards with ease. Offensively, he’s got a decent jumper and finishes at the rim well.
Despite all that, Dieng has a number of concerns attached. There’s no question about his offensive IQ, which is very high, but his actual offensive skill is very lacking. Aside from close shots to the rim and wide open jumpers, he offers next to nothing. Moreover, he’s 22, so it’s looking like that offensive game won’t ever develop. He’s also got some injury concerns in relation to his ankle and knee, which is a big warning sign when a player is this old. This has led to him falling down the draft board lately, and the Thunder grabbing him would be a bit of a reach. Still, it’s a possibility.
As a man:
What Steven Adams brings in bluntness, Gorgui Dieng brings in charm. This dude literally passed the SAT 6 months after learning English as a second language. I took German for 10 years, and I still speak like a Kindergartner. The dude is basically the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo, and has wisdom well beyond his years.
Lucas Noguiera, Asefa Estudiantes (Liga ACB in Spain) via Brazil
As a player:
Lucas Noguiera is a big enigma in this year’s draft. Some mocks have him going at the end of the lottery, and some have him slipping into the second round. He only declared for the draft a month ago and spent the entirety of his career playing in Spain, so executives are still figuring out what to make of him. Spain has the best domestic league in Europe, so his level of competition was high, but there’s a big question as to whether his game translates to the NBA. Like all European big men, he works mainly off of the pick and roll and has a decent jump shot. But it’s apparent that he relies a whole lot on his athleticism, something which works in Liga ACB nut not necessarily in the NBA. He hasn’t had to really do a lot of work in the post and didn’t get anything more than token minutes while playing in Spain, so he’s definitely a project for now. I doubt Presti drafts him so early, but he’s definitely a backup option should things go awry.
As a man:
Like Anderson Varejao and Nene before him, Noguiera is continuing the sacred Brazilian tradition of having badass hair. (Leandro Barbosa sucks, by the way.) His nickname (Bebe) means baby in Portuguese, much like Nene’s name also means baby in Portuguese. Brazil must not think basketball players are very tough. He’s also known for doing some Birdman-like hand motion after he dunks, but I can’t get a clear image of it. Besides that, because he’s from Brazil and doesn’t have a Twitter, English-language information on him is pretty scarce. I did find this Portuguese-language video of him though.
It’s pretty hilarious to watch him walk around with a basketball and awkwardly sign autographs. Imagine if Kevin Durant decided to walk in downtown Oklahoma City with a basketball and Michael Jordan hoodie and sign random autographs. Also, go to 0:49 for a great depiction of how difficult it is for a tall person to lay down on small furniture. I’m only 6’5″, but I feel you, Bebe!
Rudy Gobert, Cholet Basket (LNB Pro A, France)
As a player:
Rudy Gobert is another enigma in this year’s draft. A lot of people love him, and a lot of people hate him. But if there’s one man who loves him, it’s definitely Sam Presti. Why? He has a 7’8″ wingspan. THAT’S TWO INCHES LONGER THAN HASHEEM THABEET’S WINGSPAN. And… that’s all you really need to know about the guy. He has the most boring highlight reel of all time. It consists of two things: Standing dunks right next to the basket, and blocks where he doesn’t have to jump. He’s obviously a raw project along the lines of Thabeet, but whether he’ll be anything more is anyone’s guess. He did decently in France’s domestic league on one of their best teams, but France only has the 10th or so best league in Europe. He did come from the same team as Kevin Seraphin, though. In any case, you better believe Presti will draft him if he’s somehow available at 28.
As a man:
Like Noguiera, Gobert has never played in the states, so it’s hard to know much about the guy. But, here’s something. In both French interviews with him that I’ve watched, he appears to be eating a massive amount of food. Check it out here and here. I’d love to have Goku on the team. On a side note, in the second interview, they say “omelette du fromage”, the only three French words I and anybody who was a kid in the late 90s would know.
So, who do we look at with pick 29 and 32?
Well, if any of the above centers are still available, they’ll definitely be considered. But the Thunder will probably look for something of a sharpshooter, or somebody to draft and stash. In terms of sharpshooters, the Thunder will hope someone like Tim Hardaway Jr. or Tony Snell can drop down to the spot. If they could get someone who could shoot threes and play decent defense right off of the bat, it would be infinitely helpful this season. Unfortunately, Brooks normally doesn’t play rookies, so the Thunder are more than likely to waste at least one of their picks on a foreign prospect that will never come. Yeah, I’m still bitter on us not bringing over Tibor Pleiss. (Let’s face it, if you’ve read this far, you know who that is.)
Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed my draft preview! Have fun watching the draft this Thursday, and remember that basketball players are people too. Especially Tunaki.
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