Entering Thursday’s NBA Draft, experts weren’t sure what to expect from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Some expected the Thunder to use their first round picks — Nos. 6, 16 and 18 — and try to trade their way into a top-three pick. If the Thunder stayed put, some expected them to draft James Bouknight from Connecticut or Jonathan Kuminga from the Congo.
In the end, they did something different.
They did end up trading the No. 16 pick to Houston for two future first-round picks, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but the team selected Australian point guard Josh Giddey with the sixth pick and Florida guard Tre Mann with the 18th pick.
Looking at mock drafts entering Thursday, the Thunder are reaching a little by picking Giddey this high. Most experts had Giddey as a late lottery pick — somewhere from 10-15.
But Thunder General Manager Sam Presti always have a plan, and it’s easy to see why he’s optimistic about Giddey.
The 6’8 point guard was named the Rookie of the Year in the National Basketball League last season for the Adelaide 36ers, averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. He’s shown potential as an all-around wing who can play on and off the ball, and he could fit perfectly next to Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
CBS Sports referred to Giddey as the best passer in the draft who could develop into a good playmaker. In other words, the Thunder are prioritizing playmakers and shot creators during this rebuild.
Oh, and he’s excited to play for the Thunder.
“It’s a dream come true so to be taken by the Thunder and to have them want me on their team,” Giddey said after he was drafted. “It makes me feel really special and I couldn’t be happier.”
It makes sense that Giddey is excited to play for Oklahoma City. The Thunder have a history of drafting international players — see Aleksej Pokusevski last season — and he’s also 18-years-old joining a very young Thunder squad.
Oh, and he’ll be close to family, as his sister attends Oral Roberts University in Tulsa.
“This was a dream situation and my parents are over the moon about it, [because] now because they can visit both me and her,” Giddey said.
Giddey has a few weaknesses he’ll need to work on with the Thunder’s staff. He’s not a great shooter — just 29% shooting from the 3-point line last season in the NBL — and he’s not as athletic as some of the other players picked in the lottery.
But he’s young, and he has time to work on those issues as a member of a young, rebuilding team.
He also said he plans to get started right away and play for the Thunder’s summer league team next month.
“Moving forward, hopefully in the next coming years we can have a lot of success in Oklahoma, and as I keep saying, it was really something I wanted to be a part of and kind of start from the bottom and move our way up in the league,” Giddey said. “It’s a great young team and I can’t wait to get down there and get started.”