The Oklahoma City Thunder have been known to make pre-draft arrangements with prospects. Has the same happened for next month’s edition of the NBA Draft?
The NBA Draft is a time for wing-spans, shooting forms, and rumors. This year the Oklahoma City Thunder seem to be involved once again.
Back on May 8, The Seattle Times ran a story about the University of Washington’s defensive juggernaut Matisse Thybulle, which featured a quote from Thybulle’s agent:
“Matisse will not be attending the NBA Combine next week. He was invited, but we decided to pass. We believe Matisse brings a unique basketball skillset to an NBA team and our focus will be on organizations that are interested and we believe are a good fit.”
Then the rumors began.
Many draft experts began to hypothesize that Thybulle had received a first-round promise from a team.
Why else would he chose to forgo the combine — a setting where he could show off his athleticism and freakish measurements (6’5″ with a reported 7’0″ wingspan!) publicly to NBA teams?
On Friday, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders took to Twitter to answer NBA Draft questions, including over Thybulle:
Thybulle appears in the first round on multiple mock drafts, including: 24th on ESPN, 29th on CBS Sports and 26th on NBADraft.net. So a promise at pick 21 seems a bit high.
However, if the Thunder believe that Thybulle would’ve improved his draft stock at the combine, then promising to take him higher than his current projections could be best for both parties.
Oklahoma City being involved in pre-draft rumors shouldn’t be a surprise. Thunder general manager Sam Presti has made his fair share of promises and deals before draft day rolls around.
in 2011, Boston College prospect Reggie Jackson shut down his individual team workouts a week before draft day, leading many to believe that he received a first-round promise. He was later taken with the 24th overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
in 2014, Presti and the Thunder surprised the NBA community by selecting Josh Huestis — a projected mid-to-late second-round pick — at 29th overall.
Word quickly got out that Huestis’ agent and Oklahoma City made a unique pre-draft deal: Presti would select Huestis in the first round, but the Stanford forward would spend his first year in the NBA Development League, essentially becoming the league’s first domestic “draft-and-stash” player.
Yet again, in 2015 rumors started to swirl a month before the draft that Oklahoma City made a promise to take Murray State guard Cameron Payne at the 14th overall pick.
Payne did not conduct any private workouts for teams over the next month and ended up being selected by the Thunder, just as everyone expected.
It shouldn’t be a shock if Thybulle is taken by Oklahoma City with the 21st overall pick in the 2019 draft. Not only does the Thunder engage in pre-draft promises, but Thybulle seems like a prototypical prospect that Presti covets: length, versatility, and defensive-minded.
Thybulle currently holds Pac-12 records for steals in a single season (126) and steals in a career (331) and was last season’s Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
While his defensive game has drawn comparisons to the Thunder’s Andre Roberson, his offensive capabilities show more promise than Roberson ever has.
Although Thybulle struggled from the 3-point line in his senior season (30.5 percent), his career numbers from deep (35.8 percent) and free throw percentage (85.1 percent in his senior year) are reasons for optimism.
Unlike Roberson, Thybulle has a compact and clean shooting motion that should translate to the NBA.
Just like any other aspect of life, basketball rumors are tricky: you probably shouldn’t believe them, but there is always a small shred of truth in there somewhere. With Oklahoma City’s history of draft-time speculation, though, it’s hard to not buy into the noise.
Plenty of quality players will be available at the 21st pick of June 20’s draft. Just don’t be surprised to hear Matisse Thybulle’s name called at that moment.