The NBA Draft is quickly upon us.
In one week, the moment several franchises and fan bases have been awaiting will finally hit the big screen. Tuesday, May 17, at 7 pm CST, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will unveil the full order of the upcoming NBA Draft live on ESPN. And for Oklahoma City, the stakes have never been higher.
Following a bad shake in last year's lottery, the Thunder head into next Thursday armed with the fourth-best odds, carrying a 12.5% chance of the No. 1 pick, and the twelfth-best draft odds via the Los Angeles Clippers, wagering a 2.5% cut of the top choice.
All 14 franchises are to select a representative for coverage of the selection process. These choices can range anywhere from Hall of Famers, current players, and representatives of said organization.
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With seven days until the big reveal, here are seven names to watch for Oklahoma City’s lottery luck charm:
Cedrick Ikpo - Executive Director, Thunder Fellows
This season, the Oklahoma City Thunder launched its inaugural class of the Thunder Fellows Program, a program that provides Black youth in Tulsa career opportunities in sports, entertainment, and technology through a curriculum based in data and analytics.
In the Thunder Fellow's first year, the class of 24 students had the opportunity to code their own robot, learn about data and analysts used by quarterbacks, and get a behind-the-curtain view of how FC Tulsa operates on game days, among other events throughout the year.
The Thunder Fellows Program, running in Tulsa’s historic Greenwood District, is headed by Executive Director Cedrick Ikpo. Ikpo, who has worked on numerous social responsibility initiatives for the NBA, WNBA, and G League, played an instrumental part in the organization’s successful first year.
Eric Maynor - Player Development Coach, Oklahoma City Thunder
Following Russell Westbrook’s trade to Houston, Eric Maynor was the final sediment remaining from the Thunder’s 2011-12 Finals team still within the organization. He was a Summer League Assistant.
Since that offseason, Oklahoma City has honed back into its initial roots giving former players such as Nick Collison and Anthony Morrow, among others, opportunities within the organization as well. And as shown last draft cycle – the Thunder carry a lot of respect for them, too.
Last year, Oklahoma City Blue GM Nazr Mohammed was selected as the Thunder’s lottery representative. Mohammed, who carried two stints in OKC, including the Finals team, walked out of the lottery with Pick No. 6. The Thunder had a crack at obtaining Pick No. 1 and 5.
If there are any superstitions out there, bringing on a former player such as Eric Maynor could set an alarm for some fans. However, his continuous contributions to the franchise make him worthy of heading to Chicago.
Nick Collison - Special Assistant, Oklahoma City Thunder
There’s one jersey hanging in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s rafters. It belongs to Nick Collison.
Collison has been the embodiment of what loyalty does to a franchise. After being selected by the Seattle Supersonics in 2003, Collison stuck around through thick and thin, concluding his NBA tenure after 14 seasons – all of which were within the Supersonics and Thunder organization. For perspective, the Thunder relocated 14 seasons ago.
After his retirement in 2018, Collison took a backseat role from the organization. But, last summer, he accepted a role as Special Assistant behind General Manager Sam Presti.
Collison gives you the whole package as a representative. Not only has he shown the highest levels of endearment to the franchise, but he also carries a perfect resume for ESPN’s production. You can already picture them noting that he's the only jersey retirement in Thunder history.
Josh Giddey - Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
Josh Giddey is the perfect on-air candidate for the Thunder. As the franchise’s top selection in last year’s draft, Giddey checks the boxes as both a familiar face and a commanding cog in the organization's future outlook.
Giddey, age 19, was one of the league’s top rookies this season. In his time, he posted averages of 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while bringing home Rookie of the Month awards on four different occasions.
From a front office perspective, making Josh Giddey the team representative would come with more steps than other potential candidates. However, from a fan point-of-view, Giddey may be in a league of his own for on-air time.
Giddey has become a well-known figure on TikTok over the last year, keeping fans in the loop with funny videos, responses, and in-game storylines throughout the season. Above all else, he’s gone viral for shots. He gets a pass since Australia’s drinking age is 18.
In the Drake snippet, which reads, “What do mean breathe breathe, bring me a shot.” Giddey has used the clip for just about everything. Regardless if Oklahoma City nets a top pick or takes a lottery nosedive, you can be assured Giddey will use this snippet in some capacity.
Over the offseason, it appears that Giddey has spent a lot of his time back in Australia. However, if he returns to the States by next week – a trip to Chicago would be right up his alley.
Mark Daigneault - Head Coach, Oklahoma City Thunder
Mark Daigneault has embodied what it means to be a part of the Thunder. Since joining the Oklahoma City Blue in 2014, he’s climbed the ranks to where he is today, making him a great choice for lottery festivities.
As aforementioned, Daigneault is almost a surefire bet to be in town for the Lottery considering the Draft Combine will also be held in Chicago. Because of this, he wouldn’t be going out of his way too much to make this event.
Daigneault stressed the importance of team culture and the next-man-up mentality in his two seasons with the Thunder, pioneering an ongoing rebuild in the process. He’s essentially been tasked with the responsibility to develop well over 10 young prospects in both seasons, and he’s risen to the challenge.
Oklahoma City has brought on head coaches for previous draft lotteries, notably in the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery, which yielded James Harden at Pick No. 3. So, tipping their cap to Daigneault would be akin to the franchise’s practices.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder has found its leader. That would be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Gilgeous-Alexander took the torch from Chris Paul two seasons ago, and he’s never looked back. In the last two seasons in Oklahoma City, he’s led the league in drives while averaging 24.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists. Basically, he’s been the primary source since the rebuild.
In the Thunder’s lottery years, the organization put the players front-and-court come lottery night, placing Kevin Durant as the representative in 2008, and Russell Westbrook in 2015. Gilgeous-Alexander slips in as Oklahoma City’s highest usage piece. So, it’d make sense for the 23-year-old to be given the greenlight.
Mike Muscala - Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
Mike Muscala has found his safe haven in Oklahoma City.
After five seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and two brief tenures with the 76ers and Lakers, Muscala joined Oklahoma City on a two-year deal in 2019. The kicker – the team he thought he was joining was no more. With Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony out of the equation, they were a completely different group. For some, such as Alec Burks, he axed his deal following the realignment – Muscala stayed.
Now, three seasons later, Muscala still dons a Thunder jersey. And, on numerous occasions, he’s continued to show his support of the franchise.
At age 30, Muscala is one of the Thunder’s oldest members, both in NBA experience and tenure on the roster. Though the franchise has pushed a more youth-infused blueprint, Muscala has stayed committed as a veteran, showing leadership qualities while on the roster.