Roundtable: SI Thunder's Predictions for the 2021 NBA Draft
The 2021 NBA Draft is officially here.
With an onslaught of picks in the current and coming drafts, the Thunder have been linked to countless prospects and trades.
Oklahoma City has picks no. 6, 16, 18, 34, 36 and 55 at its disposal Thursday. The idea of taking home six fresh prospects isn’t totally realistic for the rebuilding Thunder.
The Thunder will also be looking to land a future star with its sixth overall pick. Plenty of high caliber players have been linked to that selection.
Here is InsideTheThunder.com's predictions for who what will transpire on draft night:
No. 6: Jonathan Kuminga, Forward, G League Ignite
No. 9: Alperen Sengun, Center, Besiktas (Turkey)
No. 36: Miles McBride, Guard, West Virginia
Buckle up, this should be one of the more entering draft nights we’ve seen out of Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder in quite some time.
Entering the night with six selections, three in the first round and three in the second, as well as an unprecedented amount of future draft capital, the Thunder are the best positioned team to move just about anywhere Presti wants on the draft board — save maybe pick No. 1.
I’ll be honest, projecting where exactly OKC goes is going to be next to impossible, but we’re gonna try!
I think the first thing to address is how many picks Oklahoma City will end up taking in the first round. There have been grumblings that Presti has little desire to bring three guaranteed rookie contracts into camp this year, but this draft is too loaded for me to think the Thunder won’t want to try and take at least two hacks at this thing.
Despite the smoke on the Thunder aggressively pursuing a trade to land Evan Mobley or Cade Cunningham, the most likely route is for OKC to stand pat at pick No. 6, and then trade back up into the back end of the top 10.
Assuming that Florida State wing Scottie Barnes is taken in the top five, the prevailing wisdom is that the sixth pick will come down to Connecticut scorer James Bouknight or G League Ignite star Jonathan Kuminga.
I’m a massive fan of Bouknight’s offensive upside, and the prospect of pairing him with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort would be too tantalizing for me to pass up, but remember, Presti is one of the few General Managers who made the trek to the G League Bubble and was able to watch Jalen Green and Kuminga in live action first hand. The athletic upside of Kuminga, especially if he can continue to develop as a ball handler and as a play maker for his teammates, will be hard to pass up, so I’m giving him the nod for the Thunder, a move fans would have likely been ecstatic about four-five months ago.
For argument’s sake, let’s say OKC uses both of their remaining first round picks and one of their early seconds, like pick 34, to move up into the 8-10 range. A name I’d look out for is Turkish center Alperen Sengun.
The Besiktas star has a well-developed low-post game, and would be a great compliment to either Darius Bazley, Aleksej Pokusevski or Isaiah Roby, whoever takes over the power forward slot for this season. It would also give Gilgeous-Alexander another weapon to utilize in the pick-and-roll, a relationship that could grow to freeze opposing defenses and add to the threat of Gilgeous-Alexander’s lethal drives.
That would leave picks 36 and 55.
Adding on to the idea that Presti doesn’t want to bog down this roster with tons of more rookies being brought into camp, he may trade away the 55th pick for a potential future asset, just pushing the second round pick back a year or so, giving him one last shot in the dark with the 36th pick.
If West Virginia guard Miles McBride is still on the board, that would be the selection for me.
First and foremost, McBride takes pride in being one of the most annoying defenders to shake on the floor. That sort of mentality fits right in with what the Thunder are trying to build under head coach Mark Daigneault. Pair that with the fact that he was able to stretch the floor for the Mountaineers by nailing 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers last year, as well as dish out 4.8 assists per game, McBride is the kind of raw talent worth giving a chance in the second round.
One thing’s for sure, Thursday night is going to be must-see tv for Thunder fans as Oklahoma City’s rebuild really kicks things into gear.
No. 6: James Bouknight
No. 9: Jonathan Kuminga
No. 27: Josh Christopher
There's no way anyone could guess what the Oklahoma City Thunder do during the 2021 NBA Draft. In fact, as you read this today, even Sam Presti can't predict what the outcome will be. With that in mind, let's walk through the perfect scenario rather than trying to predict what will happen.
While the Thunder explore will all trade scenarios, you've got to consider that 29 other teams could change the direction of Thursday night with a single move. All it takes is one domino to fall for the rest of the evening to be shaken up.
What we do know is that OKC is going to look to package picks. Whether that's packaging them to move up, trade for future capital, or acquire a current NBA player, the Thunder really can't roster six rookies.
In a perfect world, they're able to move into the top four to draft more of a clear superstar. However, in the likely scenario that they aren't able to, there's a situation in which they could take both James Bouknight and Jonathan Kuminga, who are at the top of their list with the sixth pick.
If they take Bouknight at No. 6, there's a real chance Kuminga could fall. With the Warriors drafting at No. 7, they may not be interested in an 18-year-old prospect as they're looking to win now. From there, the Magic already have a handful of forwards and will likely be selecting Scottie Barnes with the fifth pick and could pass on Kuminga at eight.
In this scenario, he falls to No. 9 overall. The Kings own this pick and are open to doing business with this selection. If OKC could package their picks just outside the lottery at No. 16 and No. 18 with some sweetener to move up to nine for Kuminga, that would be an ideal scenario.
From there, they could package their two early second round picks to take Josh Christopher late in the first round as their next project to develop. The Nets need as many cheap contracts as possible to fill out their roster for next season, so perhaps two seconds is more attractive than one first rounder to them.
The only thing that would make draft night more perfect is finding a trade partner for Kemba Walker to gain assets and get his contract off the Thunder's books. While that's unlikely, we've seen crazier things happen on draft night.
No. 3: Evan Mobley
No. 27: Ayo Dosunmu
The Thunder have availability to do whatever they want in this draft, and the possibilities are endless.
Selling the farm for a top three pick, trading for a disgruntled star, and even trading back a few spots seems to be in play.
For reasons I can't explain, Evan Mobley just seems like the pick for Oklahoma City this year, no matter the cost.
In a draft with what's been talked about as three No. 1 caliber picks, the third spot holds the highest value. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has to realize that.
In a 7-foot frame with immense potential on both sides of the ball, i'm wracking my brain to find out why he's not off the board after the first pick. I think the Thunder realize this, and trade in some of their assets to grab him, including the 16th and 18th picks.
Even more than the tremendous value of getting a top caliber player at three, Mobley fits incredibly on the Thunder's current configuration. Especially given that Oklahoma City has no centers rostered for the 2021-22 season.
In the Pick-and-Roll, a combination of Mobley and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be deadly.
Barring an unforeseen, bold move from Detroit, Cade Cunningham seems to be a Piston. Jalen Green seems like even more of a lock with Houston. Mobley, who could potentially be the best longterm player in the draft, seems to be more up for grabs.
Ultimately, I think OKC packages their second rounders in order to move up for Illinois' guard Ayo Dosunmu, a high-upside player they've had their eye on for awhile.