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Grading The Oklahoma City Thunder's Draft

NEW YORK - JUNE 24:  Cole Aldrich stands with NBA Commisioner David Stern after being drafted eleventh by  The New Orleans Hornets at Madison Square Garden on June 24, 2010 in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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Adam NetwalContributor IJune 26, 2010

     Coming into the 2010 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder had two pressing needs, an outside shooter and a center of the future.  Even before Draft Day, the Thunder traded their #32 overall pick to the Miami Heat for the #18 overall pick and Daequan Cook.  The Heat did this trade in order to clear more salary so they would potentially have enough money to make a run at three maximum salary free agents.  The Thunder were able to move up 14 spots in the draft just to take on Cook’s salary and prosper off of the Heat’s salary situation, much like the Thunder stole Eric Maynor from the Jazz.  So, by trading for Daequan Cook the Thunder had already grabbed an outside shooter and added another valuable trading asset.  
    Their had been reports initially that the Thunder were looking to package the #18 and #21 picks along with Eric Maynor in order to move up to the #10 slot.  This deal actually makes a lot of sense for both sides as the Pacers desperately a young point guard and the Thunder were looking to grab an impact center.  For whatever reasons the trade fell through and the Thunder ended up trading the #21 (rights to Craig Brackins) and #26 (rights to Quincy Pondexter) picks to New Orleans for the #11 pick (rights to Cole Aldrich) and Morris Peterson.  
    This trade actually works out better for the Thunder than the Indiana one as they get to keep Eric Maynor and their #18 pick, which would be used to select Eric Bledsoe whose rights were traded to the Clippers for a lottery protected future first rounder.  Man, Sam Presti is really good at his job, huh? Along with keeping Maynor the Thunder got their center of the future in Cole Aldrich.  Aldrich will be able to immediately help the Thunder on the defensive end as he is a terrific shot blocker and rebounder.  Aldrich also has an above average post-up game but he still needs to work on his post moves in order to be a credible low post threat.  He also has range out to 15 feet and even though he has a very unorthodox delivery, the ball somehow goes in.
    Drafting Aldrich over someone like a Daniel Orton or Hassan Whiteside makes more sense as Aldrich is more of a sure thing.  The other available centers were seen more as projects and the Thunder are ready to win now.  The biggest reason the Thunder were bounced in the first round last year was because Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were too much for the Thunder to handle down low.  With a frontcourt of Serge Ibaka and Cole Aldrich, the Thunder have an imtimidating defensive front line that will no longer be bullied under the basket.    
    In the second round the Thunder added Tibor Pleiss, a 7 footer from Germany who is only 20 years old.  He looks to spend a few years in Germany still but Sam Presti has been targeting him for sometime and Presti has a great track record with foreign players.  The Thunder were also able to add Latavious Williams through a trade with the Heat.  Williams was the first high schooler to go straight to the Developmental League and played on Oklahoma City’s very own Tulsa 66ers.  Williams shows good rebounding ability and upside is a low risk player in the second round.  The Thunder then chose Magnum Rolle at #51 and traded him to Indiana for the rights to Ryan Reid and cash.  Reid did not produce much at Florida State and is a long shot to make the roster.
    Overall, the Thunder have to receive an A+ for their work in the draft.  Daequan Cook will provide a threat from the outside from off the bench and Cole Aldrich will be a defensive force in the middle for the next decade.  The biggest positive though was that Sam Presti was able to keep the Thunder's core together, something he has been very focused on while building this team.  The Thunder have made themselves into threats to reach the NBA Finals as early as next season and be a fixture there for the next several years.  If possible, the Thunder have made their already bright future even brighter.

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