Following a third consecutive first-round exit, this time to the Portland Trailblazers, it’s clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder have some significant problems, with shooting being at the top of the list. Luckily for them, this draft is teeming with prospects, some of which could make immediate improvements to OKC’s roster. Here are five prospects the Thunder could target, should they choose to keep their No. 21 pick.
One of the most obvious choices for Oklahoma City would be Kentucky’s Tyler Herro. The 6’5” shooting guard is one of the purest perimeter shooters in the draft and seems like the most ideal player to fix the Thunder’s shooting woes.
Herro averaged 14.0 ppg in his lone year at Kentucky, just behind team PJ Washington, who averaged a team-high 15.2. Herro attempted 10.9 field goals per game, with just under half of those coming from beyond the 3-point line. He made 36% of his 4.6 attempted 3’s, which could make an immediate impact on OKC’s shooting.
Herro isn’t the greatest ball-handler, and struggles passing the ball. But paired with Russell Westbrook, the league leader in assists, he could shine.
Herro is only 19 years old, which could be good or bad. Obviously 19 is an extremely young age to be thrown into the grueling NBA. The upside, is that he is still developing as a player and could become an even better shooter with more experience.
Herro is projected to go anywhere from late teens to mid-20s.
The four-year starter out of Washington averaged 9.2 ppg for his career, shooting 43% from the floor and 36% from 3. But Thybulle’s claim to fame isn’t his scoring, it’s his defense. Thybulle averaged 3.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per game in his senior year at Washington and repeated as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Oklahoma City’s Andre Roberson, who hasn’t played since the 2017-18 season due to injury, won the award in 2013.
As one of the most athletic players in the draft, what Thybulle lacks in height, he makes up for in length. The former Husky is listed at 6’5 but has reported 7’1” wingspan.
Despite Thybulle’s inability to add much to OKC’s offense, Presti can’t help himself but to take a look at the most lengthy, athletic player in the draft. And that’s Matisse Thybulle. Thybulle won’t fix the Thunder’s shooting problems but could be a cheap replacement for the Andre Roberson situation.
Thybulle is projected to be a late first round pick.
Son of former NBA player Manute Bol, Bol Bol is one the most interesting prospects in the draft. The 7’2” Oregon center played only 9 games for the Ducks due to a stress fracture in his left foot. His extremely small sample size could be a problem for many teams, but anyone willing to take a chance could get a huge payoff.
One of the most unique center prospects in years, Bol averaged 21.0 ppg on .56% from the field in his 9 games at Oregon. Outside of his obvious natural talent, his ability to score from outside as a center is one of the biggest reasons he’ll be drafted in the first round. He attempted just 25 3-pointers but made just over half of those at 52%.
Just like his father, Bol has the ability to be an incredible shot blocker, especially with his 7’8’ wingspan.
The biggest question surrounding Bol is when will he be taken off the board. Due to his health issues, he has been projected anywhere from inside the top 10 to the lower 20’s. If Bol is still on the board when OKC is on the clock, it could be worth it to take the chance on his terrific upside.
Carsen Edwards would be an interesting pick for Oklahoma City. The score-first guard from Purdue would likely only be drafted to replace Dennis Schroder if the Thunder choose to deal him in the offseason, which could be likely.
Schroder wasn’t terrible for OKC. He averaged 15.5 ppg while shooting 41%, and was the best 6th man the Thunder have had since James Harden. But Oklahoma City was no closer to the second round with Schroder than they were with Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder may choose to go a different direction this offseason, and Schroder could be dealt as a part of that.
Edwards ability to score the basketball was on full-display in the NCAA tournament, as he averaged 34.8 points in wins over Old Dominion, Villanova, and Tennessee. He averaged 24.3 ppg in his final year at Purdue, using his quickness, skilled finishing, and perimeter shooting.
Edwards downside is his size. At 6’0”, it will be harder to score at the rim in the lengthy NBA. Defensively, Edwards wasn’t great at Purdue, which means he could be in real trouble in the league.
Edwards is projected to be a late-first or early-second round pick.
Cameron Johnson possesses many of the same qualities as Tyler Herro, but in a 6’8” lengthy frame that allows for even more opportunities to score.
Johnson averaged a team-high 16.9 ppg for North Carolina at small forward last season. He shot a scorching 46% on 5.8 attempts per game from beyond the arc. Numbers like those could make an immediate impact on OKC’s shooting struggles, and to the eye look much better than Herro’s.
The problem with taking Johnson over Herro, is his age. Drafting an experienced 23-year-old Senior over 19-year-old Herro seems like a good idea, but in Johnson’s case it might not be. Herro averaged his 14.0 ppg in his only year at Kentucky, whereas Johnson improved over 4 years to average his career high last year. He averaged just 4.5 and 4.8 ppg in his first two years at Pittsburgh, and 11.9 the year before he transferred to UNC. While improvement on his game seems like a positive, it could mean that Herro simply has a higher overall ceiling than Johnson.
If Herro is off the board when the 21st pick rolls around, Johnson could be the second perimeter shooting option.