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Analyzing The OKC Thunder's No. 2 Pick in The 2022 NBA Draft

The Oklahoma City Thunder carry their best in franchise history headed into the 2022 NBA Draft.

May 17 marked one of Bricktown's best days of their rebuild. After having hopes of two top 5 picks last season, they exited the lottery stunned – coming out with the No. 6 pick in the class. That draw ultimately handed themselves a gem in Josh Giddey. However, it reinstated that the draft lottery is exactly how it's listed – a lottery.

This go around, the Thunder caught some luck from Special Assistant Nick Collison, climbing the board to the No. 2 pick in the draft. Those quartet of ping-pong balls will give the franchise a bevy of options.

Here’s a breakdown on the Thunder’s No. 2 pick, top prospects at two, and the various directions Sam Presti may go with the selection:

When trying to predict the Oklahoma City Thunder’s next move, you’ve basically asked to hit a dead end. The franchise is renowned for its ability to keep its plans under tight ropes throughout the draft process, oftentimes selecting prospects no one had on Presti’s radar.

Of the Thunder’s three picks, projecting a direction with the No. 2 pick comes easiest, but that’s not rooted in prospects – it’s based on availability. Oklahoma City opted to trade a chip this week, moving out of the 30th pick in exchange for future assets, their No. 34 pick may also fall in this area. Their No. 12 pick also holds a similar fate as it’s a useful piece in trades, particularly to move up in the lottery.

The No. 2 pick holds more value than these aforementioned choices. But, it’d be extremely unlikely that the organization would part ways with their highest pick in franchise history – meaning they’ll be shooting for an in-draft star.

This draft cycle has formed a top 3 by consensus. With three prominent figures in Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren, and Paolo Banchero (scouting reports linked) – there’s no wrong answer to tackling their second pick.

There are a few problems that have needed resolve in Oklahoma City amidst their rebuild, and frontcourt play is most definitely one of them. In 2020-21, the Thunder had options at the center spot with Al Horford, Moses Brown, Tony Bradley, and even a potential call-up piece in Omer Yurtseven. Instead of hanging onto these frontcourt figures, all four donned different NBA jerseys this season. In their place, Mark Daigneault has shuffled in primary fours to manage this spot – particularly with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Isaiah Roby. A player such as Holmgren, a seven-foot floor spacer, would give some resolve.

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In the cases of Smith and Panchero, the four spot is also in need of adjustments. Since moving on from Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder have wavered between Darius Bazley and Aleksej Poksuevski to field minutes at the four. While both have shown flashes, there’s no clear-cut picture for either. Bazley has shown to be an excellent off-ball mover and a great rebounder, but his inconsistent shooting outputs have blurred his long-term role. Pokusevski has been much the same. He’s one of the most jaw-dropping players when hot offensively. But, when he’s not firing on all facets, he can tend to be a net negative on the floor. In selecting Smith or Banchero, the Thunder would bring in a high floor high upside prospect guaranteed to fill up this hole.

It’s been commonplace to suggest the Thunder would select Chet Holmgren if the Orlando Magic take Jabari Smith with the first pick. But, it'd be unjust to rule Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith, if available, out of the equation.

Purdue guard Jaden Ivey is also in the cards.

While Ivey is widely considered to be in his unique tier in evaluations, wedged between the consensus top 3 and the rest of the pack, his wide range of skills still keeps him in the equation for the Thunder.

In terms of fit, Ivey does not slip on like a glove such as the other three aforementioned prospects. As a 6-foot-4 guard, he’s not solving a gashing wound within the Thunder organization. Oklahoma City has their hands tied in the backcourt with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, and, in stints, Lu Dort filling in minutes. If the Thunder elect to go Ivey with their prized pick, a few puzzle pieces would need to be shifted. However, his skill set warrants top 3 consideration, and his sky-high upside gives him the makeup of a draft-day stunner.

With all noise cleared out, there are four different prospects the Thunder may weigh out with the No. 2 pick. In terms of fit, finally honing in on a stretch-five center in Chet Holmgren would pay massive dividends. Going with a forward also has a major upside with Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero. If talent trumps fit, Jaden Ivey could be the wild card pick in Bricktown.

As Thursday’s draft nears closer and closer, rumors surrounding the Thunder and their top-pick intentions will flutter about. However, nothing will be set-and-stone until Adam Silver reaches the podium.


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