I’m not sure why it isn’t this simple for all of the other bad teams in the League. The Knicks, Grizzlies, and Timberwolves have a ton of weaknesses. But they don’t seem to have a clear vision to fill the glaring gaps in their rosters.
New York’s best player is a power forward, but they took another one with the eighth pick. The Grizzlies had four seven-footers headed into the draft, and they took another one. The Wolves took two f-ing point guards, and now they’re indignant when someone says that their draft strategy isn’t making too much sense. If only every team approached the draft with the same lucid philosophy as the Thunder.
For the last three years, Clay Bennett‘s team has played the NBA Draft like a sports writer would. When we sit down and bang out a mock draft, we consider two premises, and two premises only: (1) What does the team need? (2) Does this guy address that need?
It doesn’t seem like rocket science. But so many other GMs and owners foul it up, this simple guide has made the Sonics/Thunder into consistent NBA Draft day winners.
They had a glaring weakness at the point heading into the ’08 draft, so they picked a guy who had all of the tools to play that position in the League with Russell Westbrook. This year they were solid at the point, the three with Kevin Durant, and at the nebulous hybrid-forward position with Jeff Green. So it made clear sense to grab a shooting guard in James Harden. They didn’t make the dumb move of drafting Ricky Rubio and moving Westbrook over to play SG. They took the best guy for their team.
Now their nucleus is rock solid. And with some cap space, OKC plans to go out and add a free agent. There are rumors circulating that they’re mulling an offer to Ben Gordon, something that would be competitive with what the Pistons will throw his way.
“NBA source tells me that OKC is a potential landing spot for Ben Gordon,” tweeted SI’s Chris Mannix.
That’d be a mistake. OKC has built one through three through the draft. They have solid role players behind those guys in Thabo Sefalosha, Kyle Weaver, Earl Watson, and Damien Wilkins. There’s no need to create a traffic jam for Harden to get on the court.
The Thunder’s money would be much better spent on Paul Millsap, who they’re supposedly ready to offer a five-year, $65 million sheet. The 24-year old power forward takes this roster one step further, solidifying them one through four. It might force Austin’s boy Jeff Green to come off the bench, presuming that Harden is ready to start from day one.
Who would have thought that this squad would have the luxury of bringing the fifth pick in the draft off the bench as their sixth man in 2009-10? What NBA team wouldn’t want to bring Green in as their first guy? I can only think of a handful who currently have a better option: LA (Ariza), San Antonio (Ginobili), Dallas (Terry), Denver (J.R. Smith), Detroit (Tayshaun Prince or Ben Gordon?). Chicago probably won’t have a better option without BG, as Johnny Salmons would start at shooting guard and Luol Deng would start at the three.
Granted there are still issues at center. Nick Collison is shorter than some guys in the Dime office, but he gets center eligibility in fantasy basketball because he plays on this team. B.J. Mullens is a long-term project. Robert Swift scares me.
Maybe OKC would be better off bombing for another year, ending up with a Top 5 pick next year and taking future Georgia Tech PF/C Derrick Favors, Kansas C Cole Aldrich. Or maybe they should throw the farm at Millsap, and contend right now. If they do so, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be in the lottery next year.