Realistic Draft Targets for the OKC Thunder
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma City Thunder have multiple possibilities with their three draft picks. They will obviously be interested in prospects who can score with their backs to the basket. Players such as Cody Zeller and Steven Adams seem to fit that need at the 12th pick.
Their two later picks could also yield some interesting talent. There is plenty of depth in this draft, and Oklahoma City has excelled at finding contributors, such as Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor and Reggie Jackson, in the middle of the draft.
Will they have a similar experience this draft?
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The Oklahoma City Thunder have needed a big who can score in the paint—for years. It remains to be seen if Cody Zeller is that guy, but the Thunder sure could do a lot worse than him with the 12th pick.
Zeller tested out as one of the most athletic bigs in the entire draft. He excels at running the floor and can finish in transition. The real question is, can he step out and hit 16-foot jumpers?
Hitting the mid-range jumper will make Zeller a much more difficult player to guard, especially with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the perimeter. Add in the fact that he scores well around the basket, and Zeller looks like a nice fit.
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Despite not being much of an offensive threat during his freshman season at Pittsburgh, Steven Adams’ potential has boosted his draft stock into the late lottery.
A fluid athlete with a massive frame, the 7’0" center could come in and provide immediate support defensively in the paint. Adams recorded two blocks per game in only 23 minutes.
However, Adams might catch Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti’s eye because of his massive upside. If Adams can develop his offensive game and footwork, he could become that two-way center the Thunder have been seeking.
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There might not be a more scrutinized player in the entire draft than Shabazz Muhammad. A year ago, Shabazz was one of the top players in his high school class. Expected to make an instant impact at UCLA, Shabazz’s stock began to drop throughout the season as his weaknesses became more evident.
Muhammad depends on his left hand far too much and does not seem to be a willing passer.
Despite how scouts view his game, one thing is certain. Muhammad can put the ball through the hoop. After trading away the dynamic James Harden and with Kevin Martin set to hit free agency, Muhammad could be a viable option as an explosive scorer off the bench.
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Mike Muscala was one of the most productive players in college basketball last season. The 6’11" center scored 18.9 points per game, pulled down 11.3 rebounds and blocked 2.3 shots.
Although he still needs to add more strength and weight to his frame, Muscala has the potential to make an impact for Oklahoma City on opening night. He can operate on the block, has good form on his jumper and is a fundamentally sound defender.
He will need some time to adjust to the physicality and speed of the NBA game, considering he played at Bucknell. But his skill level is high, he has good size for the position, and he would fill an immediate area of need for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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There were high expectations set for Archie Goodwin, especially upon committing to Kentucky. The uber-athletic guard was unable to translate his AAU and high school success to the college game.
His jumper needs a lot of work, as evidenced by only making 26 percent of his three-pointers and 63 percent of his free throws. Teams began playing off Goodwin and caused him to struggle offensively during conference play. Furthermore, he turned the ball over far too much, 4.6 times per game.
The good news is that he might be one of the most explosive players in the draft—and is also one of the youngest. The physical tools are all there: He is quick laterally, explodes off the floor and has a great frame at 6’5", 190 pounds.
If he can develop his skills, the Oklahoma City Thunder could have the steal of the draft on their hands. His potential is off the charts, which is something the Thunder should definitely consider when evaluating Goodwin.