Thunder likes talent, potential of 4 draft picks
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti had a clear advantage over the other teams in the NBA's draft lottery.
Coming off a 60-22 season, albeit one that finished in disappointing fashion in the playoffs, Presti was in search of complementary pieces Thursday night rather than building blocks.
Granted, the Thunder's top pick - the 12th - wasn't as high as Presti had initially hoped for when trading away swingman James Harden to Houston last year.
Afterward, however, he felt as if the Thunder had found the kind of players they were looking for - those who could provide help right away for the core unit of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka while also possibly developing into much more in the future.
''One of the things about our team that we always have to keep in mind is that the core group is really still evolving and growing,'' Presti said. ''Conceptually, although Kevin and Russell and Serge, in particular, have played an inordinate amount of playoff minutes together, they're still only a couple years advance from a lot of the players that were drafted (Thursday night).''
Oklahoma City added four players by the time the draft was finished, three through draft picks and another with a late trade.
Pittsburgh freshman center Steven Adams was the highest selected at No. 12 - one of the pieces the team received in return for Harden - but he was hardly the only addition that left Presti and assistant general manager Troy Weaver smiling.
The Thunder also selected Colorado rebounding specialist Andrew Roberson in the first round before adding 19-year-old Spanish guard Alex Abrines in the second. The team capped the busy night, which included trade talks of moving both up and down in the draft, by sending cash considerations to Portland for 40th-pick Grant Jerrett from Arizona.
All in all, the four provided Oklahoma City with exactly the kind of win now vs. developmental balance it was looking for.
''We look at it as a real opportunity to bring in young players that we feel like fit our profile on and off the floor, but also complement that core that we have in place,'' Presti said.
One of the areas of need clearly addressed by the Thunder during the draft was the team's need for frontcourt help and depth. Three of the new players - Adams, Roberson and Jerrett - are each taller than 6-foot-7, with Adams (7-foot) and Jerrett (6-foot-10) possible long-term replacements for starting center Kendrick Perkins.
Even Abrines (6-foot-6) brings plenty of height to the team for a guard.
''Yeah, pretty much, we look at those things, those attributes,'' Weaver said. ''These guys lined up with that, and we were excited to have a chance at these guys.
''... Size for the position, that's the way we've been able to build a team. Quite frankly, that's the way we're going to be able to sustain it, so we want to continue to layer players that way.''
Roberson appears to be the most prepared for the NBA, having played three seasons with the Buffaloes and leading the team in rebounding, blocked shots and steals in each. Adams and Jerrett, meanwhile, each have only one collegiate season of experience.
Adams said during the draft that he was comfortable spending time with Oklahoma City's developmental team in Tulsa, if needed. It's a strong possibility, given that the New Zealander averaged just 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his one season with the Panthers.
The same is possible for Jerrett, who averaged 5.2 points for the Wildcats while showing a strong outside shot (40.5 percent on 3-pointers) for his size.
Presti said Oklahoma City would work closely with Abrines to determine when the guard will arrive in the United States. He said the F.C. Barcelona youngster, who is currently averaging 3.4 points in 11 minutes per game, won't immediately join the team's summer league squad.
Regardless of when the newcomers are ready to contribute, Presti and Weaver are confident they will be ready to make an impact at some point.
''These four young guys ... We look forward to bringing them in and getting started with them,'' Weaver said. ''Coach (Scott Brooks) is excited. We're excited. We feel it was a night to continue layer the team with good, young prospects.''