NBA Draft 2011 Recap: Oklahoma City Thunder Fans Have To Trust Sam Presti
Let me start this article off by describing my thought process last night.
ESPN opens its telecast with Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" as the theme, Taye Diggs narrating and every prospect dressed like they're in the 1930s. We've decided the theme is either "We're entering the Depression" (literally, there's a lockout coming), or "We wanted everyone to dress like it's an Amar'e Stoudemire press conference."
The draft begins, thus I begin writing my "Grading the Lottery" article. The players taken in the lottery were more or less what was expected. The only big surprise was Kawhi Leonard falling all the way out of the lottery to Indiana at No. 15.
The article is done, and I stow away my computer so I can enjoy the rest of the draft without having to do any "work."
The Knicks draft Iman Shumpert. I laugh really loud.
The Trail Blazers draft Nolan Smith. I confusedly applaud the pick.
Then I look at the draft board. The Nuggets are on the clock at pick No. 22, and the Thunder in the hole at No. 24. Who is still on the board? More or less everyone I wanted the Thunder to pick. Just for the record, the two players I wanted the Thunder to draft the most were Nikola Mirotic and Justin Harper.
Kenneth Faried gets taken at No. 22 to the Nuggets. I thought he would have been a good fit in Portland, but he falls into Denver's lap.
I'm not heartbroken. I like Faried as a player, but he wouldn't have had a lot of opportunity with the Thunder.
Houston is on the clock. They end up taking Nikola Mirotic. I'm a little bit heartbroken. He was the best fit for the Thunder—a big, scoring small forward who they could stash in Europe for a year or two and bring over to back up Kevin Durant. He had the most potential for this Thunder team.
Then I look at the draft board again. Jordan Hamilton is still available. Could this really be true? Jordan Hamilton, who was once projected as a lottery pick, has fallen all the way to No. 24? Have the basketball gods offered Sam Presti a present?
Just for the record, Hamilton would have been my first choice for the Thunder if I really would have thought he would be around this late. I went with Mirotic and Harper because they were the next best options at small forward.
At this point, I'm feeling awfully giddy. I'm almost salivating. Jordan Hamilton is one of the best shooters in the draft, he can score when he wants and he would provide both the scoring punch the Thunder would need off the bench after starting James Harden and a more than capable backup to Kevin Durant.
It was a done deal...in my mind. The Thunder took three minutes and 40 seconds to make their selection. They didn't even need the full five minutes! They couldn't believe Hamilton was still around, either!
Then, as quickly as all the giddiness came, it was gone. "With the 24th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select...Reggie Jackson, point guard out of Boston College."
WHAT? Did we not realize Hamilton was on the board? Surely this was a mistake, right? By drafting Jackson, the Thunder will have four point guards under contract, and they all may be better than Jackson.
I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I was pissed. Really pissed. Then I started thinking to myself...Okay, surely we made this pick for another team and we're going to trade him for a veteran role player that can contribute from day one. That's a savvy move that Sam Presti is known for.
Nope. The trade never came. So then I start thinking to myself...Okay, surely Eric Maynor is gone, or Presti at least thinks he won't be able to re-sign him when his contract is up. That's a fair assessment, right?
Well, Maynor's contract isn't up for another two years. So why would we be drafting a backup point guard now to take his place? Then today, Sam Presti assures us that Eric Maynor will be around for quite some time.
So what are we to believe now? Did Presti really have a promise to Reggie Jackson stemming from months back? Is that why Jackson didn't offer any information or work out for anyone? How is it that Sam Presti is so confident in this player?
Honestly, I have no idea, but I'm not going to question it anymore. I still think Hamilton was the better fit, more logical pick, etc...but who am I to judge Sam Presti? Everybody already has, and it has come back to bite them.
Everybody denounced the Russell Westbrook selection in 2008. Sure, he was athletic, but why would you take a risk on an athlete when Jerryd Bayless, a true point guard, was still on the board?
Westbrook is an NBA All-Star his third season into the league.
Everybody questioned the James Harden selection a year later in 2009. Sure, he could shoot the ball, but is he really the answer the Thunder were looking for? Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans were still on the board.
Harden has blossomed as the Thunder's sixth man, and he and Russ will finally be able to take advantage of their chemistry when he moves into the starting lineup next year, barring a mental collapse from Scotty Brooks.
Presti took a chance on Serge Ibaka in 2008, at the same pick he took a chance on Reggie Jackson this year, No. 24.
Reggie Jackson's freakishly long wingspan (7'0") and ability to score off the dribble make him a valuable combo guard. He averaged over 18 points per game at Boston College, who is to say that he won't be able to contribute the bench scoring that the Thunder need?
If the season were to start tomorrow, here is an idea of the projected lineups:
Starters: Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins.
Second team: Maynor, Jackson, Thabo Sefalosha, Nick Collison, Nazr Muhammed.
This leaves Daequan Cook out of the mix, but Cook will still find his minutes. Let's not forget he's a specialist. He will be on the court if the Thunder need outside help.
On paper, these lineups don't look too bad. Thunder fans, including myself, shouldn't question Presti's decision-making too much.
The Thunder made it to the Western Conference finals with the same guys minus Reggie Jackson, so any help Jackson can provide is just another step in the right direction for this young, maturing team.
Would the second team look better with Jordan Hamilton out there? Maybe. But there has to be a reason he fell as far as he did, and then got traded away, right? Presti doesn't go after bad character guys. That's one reason the Thunder are so close as a team.
The draft is over. The pick has been made. Presti has a pretty solid track record—let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I believe in Sam Presti.
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