All 30 NBA teams should have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing in Thursday's draft.
Whether they’re looking to trade up, trade down, trade completely out of the draft or stand pat with a wish list from which they hope to choose from the top — or if they’re looking at all of the above — all should know what they’re hoping to accomplish.
Amongst the best analysts who don’t work for the 30 NBA teams, journalists and experts plugged into the league, its front offices and the talent pool available … well, is it possible nobody knows anything?
Or, perhaps, it's just a matter of the subjectivity that will always be present when it comes to grading perceived futures of basketball players.
The Transcript has surveyed seven different mock drafts belonging to ESPN, Sports Illustrated, USA Today’s Rookie Wire, NBADraft.net, The Athletic and The Ringer, taking a look at each one’s prognostications for the Nos. 18-24 selections.
In the middle of those selections, the Thunder have the 21st pick.
All over the map
As a measure of the disagreement among experts, 19 different players showed up as the 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd or 24th pick in at least one of the mock drafts The Transcript surveyed.
For instance, though Sports Illustrated sees North Carolina freshman small forward Nassir Little as the 18th pick to Indianapolis, NBADraft.net and ESPN both have him coming off the board with Minnesota’s 11th selection.
And, while ESPN sees North Carolina senior shooting guard Cameron Johnson — believed to be the best shooter in the draft — going No. 21 to the Thunder, no other mock draft sees him so high. And, despite OKC’s need for more and better outside shooting, NBADraft.net doesn't see Johnson being chosen until the second round, when Phoenix selects No. 32.
Maybe this guy?
There is, however, one prospect that two of the mock drafts — Bleacher Report and Rookie Wire — see heading to the Thunder and that’s Matisse Thybulle, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard out of Washington.
Among the 19 prospects that showed up in the mocks, Thybulle is one of only three seniors, along with Johnson and Villanova’s Eric Paschall, a power forward.
The Pac-12 defensive player of the year each of the last two years, Thybulle averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a Husky last season, shooting 41.5 percent overall and 30.5 percent from 3-point land.
His career collegiate shooting percentages, however, are higher than that: 42.9 percent overall and 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged more points as a sophomore and junior: 10.5 and 11.2.
In addition to Johnson, who’s 6-8 and plays the small forward position, other players at least one mock draft have being selected by the Thunder include Southern Cal freshman Kevin Porter (NBADraft.net), Stanford sophomore KZ Okpala (The Athletic), Republic of Georgia international prospect Goga Bitazde (The Ringer) and Indiana freshman Romeo Langford (Sports Illustrated).
Porter is a 6-5, 215, shooting guard/small forward; Okpala is a 6-8, 210 shooting guard/small forward; Bitazde is a 6-11, 250 center and Langford is a 6-6, 210 shooting guard.
On its face, the Bitazde possibility appears off given the presence of both Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel on the Thunder roster. The rest, though, make sense as real possibilities.
Both ESPN and The Ringer see Langford as the 15th selection to Detroit, so perhaps he’d be a steal at No. 21 after averaging 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds as a Big 10 freshman last season.
Porter only played 22.1 minutes per outing at Southern Cal last season and only averaged 9.5 points. Still, Bleacher Report still sees him going as high as 18th to Indiana.
Nobody sees Johnson or Okpala going any higher than No. 21, though Johnson’s numbers are sure to get the attention of Thunder fans. As a Tar Heel senior, the 23-year-old averaged 16.9 points and made 50.6 percent of his shots and 45.7 percent from 3-point land. Meanwhile, Okpala averaged 16.8 points for Stanford, shooting 36.8 percent from long distance.
It’s anybody’s guess what Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti will do with the 21st pick and that’s presuming the Thunder don’t deal it or make it a part of a draft night trade.
It is, though, a first-round pick, high enough to spend on the best perceived value available, on a player who might shock everybody with his talents the way Serge Ibaka did after OKC drafted him No. 24 way back in 2008.
It is also high enough to spend on an absolute need, on a player that may never be an all-star but could help immediately, a defensive specialist like Thybulle or a dead-eye shooter like Johnson.
Though nobody but Presti may know, the wait is almost over.