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After the Oklahoma City Thunder received the sixth pick from the NBA draft lottery, HoopsHype draft expert Bryan Kalbrosky joined a Q&A with Thunder Wire to discuss a variety of draft-related subjects surrounding OKC.
While fans are rightfully disappointed that the Thunder got the sixth pick after entering with the fourth-best odds, Kalbrosky still thinks Oklahoma City can and should end up with a top-five talent, but it’s not one of the five players usually mentioned as the leaders of the class.
If Florida State forward Scottie Barnes is available — and, in the majority of mock drafts, he is — Oklahoma City should be his new home.
Here’s the transcript of the Q&A. The discussion has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Q: With the sixth pick, who are some players Thunder fans should be paying attention to?
A: I would highlight, underline and put in bold and all caps, Scottie Barnes. He’s somebody who I think should be considered with the top-five players in this class too. I don’t think he necessarily will be, I think it’s fairly solidified, but I think that Scottie Barnes is just as good a prospect as the top guys. He’s in that same tier. He's somebody who proved as much in the combine, which he didn’t have to do. Most guys in his range typically sit out. But he had a standing reach of 9 feet, which is more than most big men. Wingspan of 7-foot-3. Those are good measurements but he also did very, very well in the athletic testing. Standing vertical of 36, which was third-best. A max vertical of 39.5, which is pretty massive as well. Shuttle run was second-best, just 0.01 seconds shy of the best. Quick, athletic, but he also plays on-ball. He finished more than a third of his possessions as either the pick-and-roll ballhandler or transition ball-handler. He’s somebody who had one of the best assist rates among all freshmen in general. One of the best assist rates among all players 6-foot-7 or taller. With those qualifiers, you see how he could be in the same mold of a secondary ballhandler but potentially closer to a jumbo-sized ball-handler in the second unit. Especially considering the Thunder have somebody like Aleksej Pokuseveki, who also can play on-ball, that kind of versatility can make them an insane threat of putting Scottie at the 1, Poku at the two, and just having a ridiculous lineup that the NBA’s never seen before. He’s also one of the better defenders. One of the best steal rates among all freshmen. He also is just really, really switchable, can guard probably 1-5 with his speed and intellect. That’s the pick for me. I think that at 6, that’s just exactly his range and the Thunder I think are a perfect team for Scottie because realistically, they’ve gone to this mold before, where it's a super athletic guy who lacks a shooting touch but has good court vision, good playmaking. That to me sounds a lot like Russell Westbrook coming out of college. Obviously he is not Russell Westbrook, but he does fit sort of an archetype that Sam Presti has valued in the past.
Q: So then at No. 6, this is pretty much a no-brainer to take Scottie? A: I think it’s a no-brainer, unless some combination of Cade, Evan or the Jalens fall, then it’s a conversation. I don’t think it’s worth trading up unless they really like someone who’s not Cade Cunningham. I don’t think Cade is moving. If they really decide that they like Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs or Jalen Green, then it could be worth packaging to move up, but I think they could get really, really solid value for Scottie Barnes at 6 without moving off a future asset in that regard. Scottie probably would have been 2 or 3 on my board last year, if that puts things in perspective. I think he would have just been behind LaMelo and maybe Anthony Edwards. But I think he probably would have been a pretty clear No. 2 or 3 last year.
Q: To you, Scottie's the clear pick if he's there, but the Thunder obviously will do their due diligence. Who are some other names you have in this range on your board? A: The next tier, I think it’s a pretty big dropoff after Scottie – but I think the next tier of guys, there are probably six or seven names to know. Keon Johnson out of Tennessee, who just set the record for biggest max vert ever at 48 inches. Raw prospect who I think also fits that Oklahoma City model where he’s freakishly athletic, doesn’t have much shooting touch yet but that can maybe come along later. I think that he makes sense as a Thunder developmental piece. He's not somebody that I’m not as high on him, but he was one of the best players on the AAU circuit when he was down there in high school. He's been more productive than he's shown at Tennessee. He's definitely somebody who could be a riser in the combine, but I think he lacks a lot of the efficiency and feel for the game that Scottie has, and he's not as big. A notch below that, a similar tier, is Moses Moody out of Arkansas. Moses was actually high school teammates with not only Scottie but Cade Cunningham, the three of them and Day’Ron Sharpe were on the Montverde Academy team in Florida. Moses was probably the third guy there, but he was the No. 1 guy at Arkansas this year as a freshman, one of the leading scorers in the SEC. He’s a good movement shooter, somebody who I think can run around, score on handoffs, off-screens, pindowns, curls. He’s pretty athletic as well. He’s not somebody who I think necessarily projects as a star archetype in this league, but could potentially play something close to a Khris Middleton role in the best-case scenario. I don’t like Franz Wagner for the Thunder, but I do like him for most teams. He’s somebody who's also pretty big, he can play on-ball, a secondary ballhandler type of role. Decent shooter for someone his size, really versatile defender. I can see him as someone who would be more useful for a playoff team. Not a team that’s necessarily rebuilding. Those are kind of the next names to know. Davion Mitchell, Josh Giddey and James Bouknight probably also in that conversation Davion, I think, makes no sense for the Thunder whatsoever. He’s very old and makes more sense for a team that should be contending. And he's undersized as well. Giddey lacks some of the athleticism that I think the Thunder typically value, but is a really, really fascinating prospect. He led the Australian league in triple-doubles this year, recording three despite the fact that he’s 18 years old. Can’t really shoot yet, but 6-9, jumbo-sized ballhandler as well who is just a fascinating playmaker. Bouknight also might make more sense for a contender because he had a couple years of college, but he hit 40 points in a game against Creighton. He has an insane vertical pop that is going to make a scout pretty happy. Those are the other guys in that conversation, but I think Scottie’s a clear threshold above them. But I can see Keon and Moses and Giddey probably having another advantage over some of the other guys in that range.
Q: Who are some guys who Thunder fans should be researching in the 16-18 range? A: Kai Jones could be potentially available in that range. JT Thor’s name has been rising a lot recently who I think makes a lot of sense for them. Roko Prkacin is somebody who I think could be really, really, really interesting next to Pokusevski just in terms of that really tall, Eastern European ballhandler type who’s not afraid to shoot. They’re closer to projects than they are sure things, but they’re all high-ceiling players. Kai Jones and JT Thor are athletic big men who can stretch the floor pretty well and really provide a lot of versatility. JT's just 18 years old, he's been somebody who has been rising a lot recently. He put up pretty interesting scores at the combine: wingspan over 7-3, standing reach 9-foot-2, just a massive dude who’s not afraid to shoot the ball at all. Really confident for someone his age. Definitely someone who I think, if he had more exposure, would probably be in that same tier as Jonathan Kuminga but just isn't getting that same type of press and development because of his route. Roko Prkacin is somebody who has also flown under the radar a little bit. But clearly the Thunder value dudes who are big but can handle the ball. Him next to Pokusevski would be silly and fun and would give Oklahoma City these crazy options. I don’t know if he’s draft-and-stash, but I think, considering how many picks Oklahoma City has, he's someone who would be worth storing overseas for a year if he doesn't want to come over right away, and if he does, all the better. That would be the three for me.
Q: The Thunder have picks 34 and 36 as well. Do you think there are any players who have been projected as late-first-rounders who might still be available at this range in the second round? A: If for some reason after a terrible, terrible year at Stanford, Ziaire Williams falls, I think he could be worth serious consideration. He’s one of the fastest players at the Combine but he also, at just short of 6-9, plays on-ball pretty well. He's got a pull-up jumper. He definitely is somebody who had a really rough season, but Stanford was hit particularly hard with COVID-19 stuff. They didn't have a training facility and were living out of hotel rooms. He was a top prospect coming out of Sierra Canyon with BJ Boston and Bronny James. He’s not getting the same shot because he had a really rough year. A tough season is never ideal, but he’s somebody who could be worth taking a gamble on. By that same token, you could probably say the same thing about BJ Boston, but I don’t see it quite as much with him. Not because he’s bad, I just don’t quite get the pitch as much at this point. Sharife Cooper, if he happens to fall because of his height. I think he’s somebody who's really interesting. One of most productive players and scorers in college basketball. Jaden Springer of Tennessee, if he falls, I actually like him a little bit more than Keon Johnson. Really good defender, Tennessee had a top-5 defense last season and he was a much better shooter than Keon was and played a little bit better off the ball. Miles McBride and Nah'shon Hyland are two of my personal favorite players in this class. If they are available in the second round I would probably do anything I could to get them. Miles is still testing the waters but he's an amazing point-of-attack on-ball defender who can lock down his man and also played incredibly well in the tournament. A scorer as well, which I think some people didn't expect. I think he projects well as a potential floor general. I see his role being similar to a Marcus Smart at the next level without necessarily being able to guard big men. But he put up 30 points, six rebounds and six assists in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Morehead State while also being one of the best defenders at his position. Nah'shon Hyland has one of the best jump shots out of anybody in this class. He didn't get a chance to shine in the tournament because their game got canceled due to COVID. But he averaged 19.5 points a game for VCU and had really good combine scores as well with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. He’s one of the skinniest players in this class, that's the knock on him, but you can add size to a frame like that. I think that those are probably some of the guys that I would look at early in the second round if I could.
Q: What type of package would you be willing to offer if you could move up into that 2-4 range? A: The Thunder have so many picks. This is the point of having them. I think that you could probably offer future first-rounders from the less good teams they have first-rounders from and potentially some second-rounders. Presti's aggressive and I definitely trust that he knows what he's doing when it comes to what he's willing to offer. But I think that it's very easy for me to imagine a world in which he parts with some of the assets that he's collected. And that's kind of the point. For me, I think it’s worth holding onto the sixth pick for Scottie Barnes and packaging 16 and 18 to move up if possible. I really just like Scottie Barnes so much, but maybe I'm too much gung-ho on him at this point. The two, three, four range – Mobley, Suggs, Green specifically – have a ton of upside as well. I think that that is obviously something that deserves consideration if you start to fall in love with one of those guys during the process.