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Top 2022 Draft Prospects Offer Multiversal Options for Thunder

Oklahoma City's top options in the 2022 NBA Draft offer vastly different timelines.

Hollywood has been obsessed with the multiverse lately.

From the culmination of decades worth of Spider-Man, to Sam Raimi’s Dr. Strange sequel and the meteoric rise of Daniels' Everything Everywhere All at Once, the concept of billions of infinite universes comprised of parallel realities has captivated audiences.

The idea that minute decisions can branch into thousands of thousands of alternate realities.

Right now, that's exactly what Thunder general manager Sam Presti is faced with. The idea that his one decision on June 23, 2022 could cataclysmically alter Oklahoma City's timeline .

Oklahoma City landed the second overall pick at Tuesday’s 2022 NBA Draft Lottery. The Thunder didn’t make off with the top pick, which landed in the hands of Orlando’s John Hammond, but it certainly felt like they did.

Fists were pumped and woos were had as, one by one, Oklahoma City inched closer to their top pick in franchise history.

In all likelihood, Presti and the Thunder have three real options at No. 2, despite many more multiverses waiting on the horizon with the potential to trade back.

Duke’s Paolo Banchero, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. are the likely options at number two, and they offer a multiverse for the Thunder.

Jabari Smith, 2022 NBA Draft

Smith, a 6-foot-11, 249-pound sharpshooter with a frame build for defense, offers the most clear and seamless future universe.

Smith shot 42 percent from three on 5.5 attempts at Auburn, and likely has the purest shooting form in a top prospect we’ve seen in decades. It’s projectable and translatable, and there’s no doubt next to current OKC guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey that he would thrive.

The universe in which Smith wears the Thunder blue offers a lifetime of Giddey assists, pick-and-pop plays with Gilgeous-Alexander and the possibility of him blossoming into a star.

But Smith’s biggest question mark is his ceiling. While he’s certainly the best fit on the current Thunder roster, he may never project to be an All-Star caliber player, something OKC likely needs this high in the draft.

Enter Paolo Banchero.

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Paolo Banchero, 2022 NBA Draft

Banchero, at 6-foot-10, 250-pounds, offers guard like skills packed in a huge, NBA-ready frame. He’s an elite creationist with footwork that will make any NBA scout drool.

He’s an offensive machine whose defensive woes are overblown, and he’ll likely be a star in the league.

But Banchero’s fit next to SGA and Giddey is not to be ignored. The pairing likely limits all three of the trios talents.

A universe in which Banchero is draft by OKC doesn’t bode well for one or both of Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander. While all three are capable passers, there’s only so much ball to go around.

Giddey fits Banchero’s timeline better, but Gilgeous-Alexander is likely a better fit due to gravity and natural scoring ability.

And finally, Chet Holmgren.

Holmgren offers a bit of both timelines. A unique 7-footer who offers legitimate rim protection and inside scoring ability, packaged together with guard skills, a 3-point shot and potential creation upside, there’s little not to like.

Holmgren fits seamlessly with OKC. The Thunder need everything he has, and vice versa. He can fill a much-needed role at the moment, and develop down the line.

Holmgren’s Thunder universe is teeming with possibilities. Various lineups and roster configurations branch in every direction. Wins are had and questions answered.

Giddey is allowed to thrive. Gilgeous-Alexander can remain ball dominant with a likely backup option. And Presti is elated at Holmgren's work ethic and winning attitude. Holmgren's timeline currently looks like the best fit overall.

Ultimately, though, the Orlando Magic will be eliminating one of Oklahoma City’s multiverses just before their own decision.

The NBA Draft will take place on Thursday, June 23.