Oklahoma City Thunder: A look back at NBA Draft history before 2019

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to enhance their roster this summer starting with the 2019 NBA Draft. A look back at recent history shows that selecting in the 20s is more beneficial than conventional wisdom suggests.

At the end of the day the NBA Draft is a crapshoot.

Every NBA team — including the Oklahoma City Thunder — spends countless hours scouting prospects, conducting interviews and talking to former coaches, all hoping to find a player that will enhance its roster.

But in the end, you can never be certain. No. 1 overall picks can fail miserably (Anthony Bennett and the Cleveland Cavaliers) and the final pick in the draft can flourish (see: Isaiah Thomas and the Sacramento Kings).

For Oklahoma City — armed with the 21st overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft — the hope is to find a contributor.

Recent history suggests that isn’t too farfetched.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti is no stranger to making selections in the back third of the first round of the draft. Dating back to 2008, he’s made 10 selections in the 20s — albeit only seven of those players ended up on the roster.

Of those seven picks — Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, Andre Roberson (a draft night pick swap for Archie Goodwin), Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, and Terrance Ferguson — five played prominent roles for at least one season with the Thunder, while three became mainstays in the starting lineup.

For a crapshoot, that’s a pretty high percentage.

Furthermore, the franchise has had the 21st selection in the draft twice since relocating to Oklahoma City, selecting McGary in 2014 and Ferguson in 2017.

When looking back at the last few NBA Drafts, it becomes clear that high-caliber talent is routinely available in last 10 picks of the first round.

The 2018 NBA Draft produced two starting-level guards in the 20s: Landry Shamet and Josh Okogie.

2017 proved to be a treasure trove of late first round talent with Harry Giles, Terrance Ferguson, Jarrett Allen, OG Anunoby, Kyle Kuzma, Derrick White and Josh Hart.

Breakout players Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray and Caris LeVert were all taken with pick No. 20 or later in the 2016 NBA Draft.

While all of the aforementioned players have developed into — at minimum — quality role players, Ferguson was the only one taken with the 21st pick.

Actually, most players taken at No. 21 haven’t panned out in the past 20 years.

The most accomplished 21st pick in the 2000s is undoubtedly Rajon Rondo from the 2006 NBA Draft. He and Boris Diaw (2003) are the only players chosen in that draft spot to have an NBA title since the turn of the century.

Jayson Williams (1990), Jon Barry (1992), Michael Finley (1995), Ricky Davis (1998), Nate Robinson (2005), Ryan Anderson (2008), Darren Collison (2009), Gorgui Dieng (2013) and DeAndre’ Bembry are a few other notable picks at No. 21.

On the other hand, six of the last 18 players selected with the 21st pick did not even finish out their rookie-scale contracts — a sobering thought for Presti, who’s about to make his third selection at the 21st spot in the last five years.

While drafting in the lottery is ideal, the 2019 NBA Draft seems to have a handful of “role player” type prospects that may be available for the Thunder at their pick.

Rumors have recently began to spread that Oklahoma City may have already made a draft promise to Washington University’s Matisse Thybulle, but other interesting candidates such as North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson, Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson could fit a role for the Thunder in the upcoming season.

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Gambling is a dangerous game. Losing is the only constant. In the crapshoot of the NBA Draft, the Thunder will roll the dice on the 21st overall pick. Maybe the odds will be kind to them again.