The NBA lottery happened Tuesday night, and several teams were happy to see their ping-pong balls come up. The Cleveland Cavaliers scored the No. 1 pick, but rumors suggest it could be traded. That’s not something that is usually even discussed, since the top overall pick is almost always a game-changing player. But that may change this year.
What I really want to talk about is the Oklahoma City Thunder. They have to love where they landed in this draft, with Toronto’s first-round top-three protected pick they got in the James Harden trade. The Thunder have the 12the pick and every Oklahoma City fan knows what they need to do with that pick: get a big man to replace Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins is a great defender and good rebounder, but he’s getting old and his inability to do anything on the offensive side of the ball, makes him a liability. Pair that with the fact the league is becoming a small-ball type league with a stretch-forward at the 4 spot, he’s the odd man out.
While Serge Ibaka is developing a decent jump shot, he still has a long way to go with his post moves and the Thunder desperately need a scorer on the inside to take heat off of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
There are a few big men in this draft that who should be available to Oklahoma City at No. 12, but which one is the best fit for the team?
Here is a list of the guys who should be available and how they would fit with the Thunder:
Plumlee is still expected to be available at No. 12, which bodes well for the Thunder. He is much more athletic than his older brother, Miles, and has solid moves in the post, including a running hook that is nearly unblockable. He also isn’t afraid to bump inside and battle for rebounds, which is a big plus.
On the downside, he is an average defender. He blocks some shots, but isn’t a stalwart defensively. His jump shot could use some work, as he is still developing the pick and pop portion of his game.
I saw a mock draft that has Olynyk going at No. 20, which is ridiculous. I am from Spokane, originally, so I keep tabs on Gonzaga. Olynyk is an NBA-ready player.
He can score the ball inside with excellent post moves and can also step out and knock down jump shots. He also is a great passer for a man his size and operates well in pick and roll or pick and pop situation. Think whatever you want about who Gonzaga did or didn’t play last season, but I don’t want to hear it. This guy has skill and it will translate to the NBA.
One thing holding Olynyk back is that while he’s a good rebounder, he’s not great. If he adds more muscle and toughens up a little, he could be a great rebounder. It may be better to start him at power forward and let Ibaka play more at center to play to the strengths of both players. Ibaka can guard the rim and not get pulled out of the lane and Olynyk can guard less physically dominating power forwards.
Len is considered by many to have the most upside among the post plaeyrs in the draft. His athleticism and raw talent is evident. His hustle and energy make him an appealing option. He can make a major defensive impact and has a good arsenal of post moves in his repertoire. His mid-range jumper is also developing.
Unfortunately, he currently has a fracture to his foot, which is troubling to some teams. There is a stigma with big men and foot injuries that scares a lot of general managers and scouts in the league. A problem for the Thunder also, is that a few mock drafts I’ve seen have Len going closer to the 10th spot, so he may not even be available.
Zeller is extremely polished on the offensive side of the ball. His post moves are excellent and his footwork is great as well. He also tested as the top athlete among centers at the NBA combine. Defensively, he’s solid and he hits the boards well.
His thin frame concerns some teams and his ability to finish after contact isn’t where it should be. Some teams feel he’ll get pushed around on the interior and won’t be able to keep opposing centers out of the lane. If you’re the Thunder, that is a big concern.
In the end I think the best fit for the Thunder is Kelly Olynyk. He needs to learn to play team defense, but given his offensive tools, he can fit in and take some of the scoring load from Westbrook and Durant. His basketball IQ is excellent and his skill-set will be properly utilized in Oklahoma City.