The NBA Draft is coming up, which means The Game Haus will be doing draft profiles for each NBA team. Each day, a new team will be analyzed for their past season, their team needs and targets. Today, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be evaluated.
The two biggest moments in the history of OKC’s franchise both happened in 2016. They blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors and subsequently, later that summer lost Kevin Durant to them as well.
Since Durant’s departure in 2016, it’s felt like OKC has been teasing themselves and their fans into championship relevancy. They were buoyed by Russell Westbrook’s historic MVP season where he first averaged a triple-double. But the Thunder got trounced in the first round of the NBA playoffs that year by the Houston Rockets.
Then they were revived by the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the summer of 2017. They lost in the first round again, four games to two, to the Utah Jazz.
Last summer after the failed Carmelo Anthony experiment they got a breath of fresh air through a few off-season moves in the summer of 2018 that led up to the most recent NBA season. Once again they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs, this time by the Portland Trailblazers.
Oklahoma City has been a competent, noticeable team since Durant left, but never a true contender.
They showed flashes of real contention this season when Paul George was playing MVP level basketball, but an injury to his shoulder and a lack of offensive weapons to make up for his muted abilities really did them in. It created a funk they just couldn’t seem to climb out of.
But if a championship is the goal having two guys who can be the best player on the floor in any given night is a great place to start.
OKC has Paul George, Steven Adams and Russell Westbrook locked up for a few more years. With a couple of tweaks it is very possible to vault right into position as one of the powerhouses of the NBA.
The Thunder only have one pick in this year’s NBA draft.
First Round: Pick No. 21.
Shooting – OKC looked really good for about the middle third of last season thanks almost entirely to their defense. They led the league in steals per game and were second in the league in rebounds per game. They got more possessions than just about any other team in the league, but the problem was how they finished those possessions.
They were 19th in field goal percentage, 22nd in three-point percentage, and 28th in free throw percentage as a team. The Thunder’s cap is locked up with the money they’re paying their top 6 players (about $136 million next season) so they have to get a shooter in the draft since it’ll be hard to pay anyone in free agency.
First Round: Pick No. 21 – Cam Johnson, Forward, North Carolina
The Thunder need shooting and Cam Johnson can shoot. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has had a fascination in the past with athletic forwards who can play defense so OKC is loaded on that front. Offensively, Westbrook and George can create for themselves and others. They just didn’t have a consistent shooter who could space the floor for them and Johnson can do just that.
He’s on the older side of draft prospects coming in at 23 years old. He’s about 6-foot-8 which means he is switchable on defense, but he isn’t an elite athlete and not the strongest of players. He can learn to play smart to hang with guys who are better athletes and work to put on some muscle, but that isn’t his necessarily game. His primary role in the NBA should be as a skilled, offensive role player which fits perfectly for what OKC needs. If he’s still on the board at 21 the Oklahoma City Thunder should absolutely nab him there.