With only two games left in the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are playing well and look ready to go for the playoffs. With the No. 2 seed in sight, the Thunder are looking to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs with the ultimate goal of an NBA championship.
OKC is set up extremely well for the future regardless of how this season turns out. The Thunder have locked down their tremendous nucleus of stars in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, along with picking up the contracts of key role players, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb.
The Thunder have prided themselves on drafting well throughout the years, and they will need to continue to do so this year in order to stay atop the loaded Western Conference.
With the upcoming 2014 NBA draft being one of the deepest in recent history, and OKC having two picks in the latter part of the first round, they will have a good shot to land a solid contributor.
According to nbadraft.net, if the season were to end today, the Thunder would have picks No. 22 and No. 29 overall.
The Thunder are expected to at least consider getting rid of Kendrick Perkins, and if they do, then they will have a hole to fill at the center position. Also, with two picks, they will certainly consider a taking a wing player who can bring some scoring off of the bench.
Let’s take a look at their best options.
Kendrick Perkins’ best days are definitely behind him and his backup Steven Adams is still a work in progress, so regardless if Perkins leaves or not, the Thunder will almost certainly take a big guy with one of their picks.
Mitch McGary: Michigan, Sophomore Power Forward/Center
Mitch McGary is a beast down low. He’s physical, strong and finishes aggressively at the rim. At 6’10” and 250 pounds, McGary is imposing in the paint.
He possesses surprisingly soft hands and has a non-stop motor. He can hit mid-range jumpers and is also an excellent rebounder.
McGary would give the Thunder the size that is necessary to bang down low in the NBA. His frame is very similar to Perkins’ so the Thunder won’t miss the veteran big man's physical prowess if he departs. McGary, the Michigan product, has serious potential to become a legitimate piece on OKC’s roster.
A.J. Hammons: Purdue, Sophomore Center
At 7’0” and 280 pounds, Hammons is a giant in the post. Although he’s still raw offensively, he has a soft touch around the basket and is pretty mobile for someone his size.
He is a big, physical player and a tremendous shot-blocker, averaging 3.1 blocks per game this year. He also averaged 10.8 points and 7.4 rebounds.
For the Thunder he would be able to plug a hole in the middle, and with one of the best player development coaches in the league in Scott Brooks, Hammons could turn into a solid NBA player.
Jusuf Nurkic: Bosnia, 19-Year-Old Center
At 6’11” and 280 pounds, Jusuf Nurkic is another monster center. He has been putting up impressive numbers in the well-respected Adriatic League this season.
He’s not the most athletic guy, but he possesses great hands, a soft touch and very good overall skill in the post.
For the Thunder, Nurkic would come in and shore up the frontcourt, providing a good scoring option inside as well as a defensive presence that eats up space in the paint.
Shooting Guards/Small Forwards
Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III are both promising young players on the wings and Thabo Sefolosha and Caron Butler are solid veteran contributors. However, there is always room for improvement and the Thunder will definitely consider selecting a wing player who can contribute off the bench.
T.J. Warren: N.C. State, Sophomore Small Forward
At 6’8” and 230 pounds, T.J. Warren has great size for an NBA small forward and is undoubtedly one of the best pure scorers in the draft. This past season at N.C. State he averaged 24.9 points, 7.1 boards and 1.8 steals per game.
He is a strong, tough player who has a natural feel for the game. He needs to improve his outside jumper, but he is relentless when it comes to getting to the basket and scoring over and around defenders.
For OKC, he could come in and provide depth on the wing and bring an immediate scoring presence to its bench.
Cleanthony Early: Wichita State, Senior Small Forward
At 6’8” and 215 pounds, Cleanthony Early has the frame of a prototypical NBA small forward. He is a versatile and athletic 3 who can score from just about anywhere, including from beyond the arc where he has developed a nice three-point stroke.
In his senior year at Wichita State, Early averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Not only can he score the ball, but he is one of the best defenders in the entire draft.
He’ll need to get his handle a little tighter and make sure his jumper stays consistent, but Early has all the potential to be a real steal later in the first round. He would thrive in Oklahoma City, being able to come off the bench, play great defense, hit the offensive boards and provide a steady scoring option as well.
P.J. Hairston: NBA Developmental League, Shooting Guard
P.J. Hairston has had a troubled past with some off the court issues that caused him to get kicked out of North Carolina, however, he seems to have righted the ship and is proving himself to be one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft.
At 6’5” and 220 pounds, Hairston is big and strong for a shooting guard. He’s an excellent shooter with deep range and can finish with authority at the rim. He’s tough and can play solid defense at either of the wing positions.
He played in the D-League this season and put up 21.8 points per game. He’ll need to improve his mid-range game a bit and shore up his ball-handling, but Hairston could be a great fit in OKC. The Thunder could really use a shooter like him coming off the bench, someone who can provide a deep threat and play strong defense as well.