NBA Draft: Five Players the Thunder May Take in the First Round

Thunder GM Sam Presti is a man with a plan. If there is an ‘I’ to be dotted or a ‘T’ to be crossed, he’s on it.

But what if that plan goes awry, relatively speaking? Few would argue that the Thunder’s first round exit this season was anything but disappointing. With the salary cap stretched past its limit, Presti must find a way to fill out the margins of the roster. And what better place than the NBA draft.

Let’s take a look at five guys the Thunder could secure with the 21st pick — and how they could help (or hinder) the Thunder.


Wing, Washington

6’5” 195 lbs.


Rumors circulated last week that the Thunder had promised Matisse Thybulle, who surprisingly declined to attend the NBA draft combine.

Thybulle, who is a defensive dynamo, is exactly Presti’s type — long, athletic, defensive-minded. Winner of the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award last season, the former Washington Husky averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game. Those numbers usually translate to the NBA level.

But the biggest question surrounding Thybulle is a critical one: can he shoot? He shot 30.5% from deep as a senior, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Those numbers, for better or worse, also often translate to the pro level. Over his four years at Washington, though, Thybulle shot 36% from deep. So perhaps his senior year was just a fluke.



Two-guard, USC

6’6” 220 lbs.


Kevin Porter Jr. is easily the most intriguing prospect in this draft. It will be tough to come up with a player with a larger distance between his ceiling and floor. He spent most of his only year at USC either injured or suspended.

There’s no doubt that Porter Jr. is highly skilled. But off-the-court issues and some wild decision making on it make him a risky pick. Otherwise, he’s got the tools of a lottery pick. (His father was murdered at 4 years old, so perhaps personal issues can be excused.)

Questions about maturity aside, Porter Jr. is a lottery talent at a discount price. If you can somehow look past his abysmal 52% clip from the foul line, Porter Jr. showed promise as a shooter: he hit 41% of his threes. He’s shown an effective stepback jumper, which has become a go-to for players like James Harden and Luka Doncic.


Two-guard, Kentucky

6’5” 195 lbs


Tyler Herro is a floor spacer, pure and simple. As a freshman, Herro shot 36% from deep on a healthy 4.6 attempts per game. Volume and efficiency in one neat package. It’s shooting the Thunder need — perhaps Herro is a seamless fit.

Herro is aggressive in looking for his shot. In his lone season at Kentucky, he showed an ability to run off of multiple screens to find an opening. His form is tremendous.

One thing Herro will struggle with is the physical part of the game. His wingspan leaves much to be desired (remember Presti’s type!). He’s also limited athletically, and didn’t demonstrate much ball-handling ability. Still, it’s easy to make comparisons to JJ Redick, although that may be unfair to Herro.



Center, Oregon

7’2” 235 lbs


Bol Bol (son of the late Manute Bol) only played in nine games as a freshman for the Oregon Ducks due to a stress fracture in his foot — a massive red flag for a 7-footer. It’s the only reason he’s in play at pick 21.

It’s tough to ignore what Bol brings to the table. His 7’5” wingspan is impressive enough, but his three-point shooting is eye-popping. In a very small sample size, Bol shot 52% (!) from deep. Again, small sample size.

His ability to move is also rare for someone his size, and his ability to rebound matches up with his size. Speaking of size — although 235 lbs is slight for a center, maybe his wiry frame will allow him to avoid further foot problems that other bigs suffer from.

Bol is one of the riskiest picks in this draft, which also makes him one of the most intriguing. If healthy, he’s seemingly perfect for today’s NBA. And maybe a bench role (15-20 minutes a night) behind Steven Adams would be perfect to preserve his health.



Center, Maryland

6’10” 245


Going anywhere from 12th ( to 34th (ESPN) in different mock drafts, Bruno Fernando has a wide range of possible outcomes.

The two-year center out of Maryland could help fulfill the need at backup center if the Thunder can’t retain Nerlens Noel in free agency. Fernando, the 20 year old Angola native, is a solid mix of athleticism and shooting for his position. He’s skilled on the block and has a wide wingspan to boot — a Presti trademark.

Adjusting at center from college to the pros is notoriously hard, and Fernando is untested and likely will not be ready to step into a major role — for example, if Steven Adams were traded. He’s also definitely not a three-point shooter, rarely shooting from beyond 16 feet or so.

Fernando is probably the top center in this year’s draft based on his potential. The NBA draft combine and individual workouts could give us a better idea of how ready he is to contribute.

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