Thunder fans should not have high expectations for their team in the 2018 NBA Draft.
As the two rounds of the draft unfold tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Oklahoma City has two second-round picks — No. 53 and No. 57 overall.
History suggests, emphatically, that the Thunder won’t select anyone who makes an impact in the NBA or even sticks on an NBA roster.
Don’t misunderstand. There have been good players unearthed late in the draft. Manu Ginobili went 56th to San Antonio in 1999. Luis Scola went 56th overall to San Antonio in 2002. Marcin Gortat went 57th to Phoenix in 2005. Goran Dragic went 45th to San Antonio in 2008.
Yes, three of those players were drafted by San Antonio, where Thunder GM Sam Presti worked for the Spurs from 2000-2007. Presti was only involved with drafting one of them, but clearly he learned the model for evaluating late-round talent.
Still, it’s a significant challenge to find even moderately enduring talent that late in the draft.
Of the 20 players drafted in the 53 and 57 spots over the last 10 drafts, only two — DeAndre Liggins and Nando de Colo — have played more than 18 career games, according to basketballreference.com. (Kadeem Allen played 18 games as a rookie for the Celtics last season.) Liggins, a former Thunder backup out of Kentucky, has played in 177 games since 2011. De Colo, who came to the NBA from France, played in 119 games from 2012-14.
While some have made a roster and even suited up, fifteen of the 20 have never even played in an NBA game.
Maybe Presti goes back to his Spurs roots and finds that unknown international who becomes a solid NBA player. Or maybe packages the two picks and trades up (given the history of the 53rd and 57th picks, who would take that trade?).
What’s more likely is that Presti selects two players you don’t know who never make it into a Thunder uniform — or onto an NBA roster.
NBA Draft picks 53 & 57, last 10 years
- 2017: Kadeem Allen, Arizona (18 games); Alexander Vazenkov, Spain
- 2016: Petr Cornelie, France; Wang Zhelin, Japan
- 2015: Sir Dominic Pointer, St. John’s; Nikola Radicevic, Spain
- 2014: Alessandro Gentile, Italy; Louis Labeyrie, France
- 2013: Colton Iverson, Colorado State; Alex Oriakhi, Mizzou
- 2012: Furkhan Aldamir, Turkey; Ilkan Karaman, Turkey
- 2011: DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky (177 games); Tanguy Ngombo, Qatar
- 2010: Pape Sy, France (3 games); Ryan Reid, FSU (5 games)
- 2009: Nando de Colo, France (119 games); Emir Preldzic, Turkey
- 2008: Tadija Dragecevic, Serbia; James Gist, Maryland
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.