Thunder NBA Draft 2021: OKC swings for fences with first of many picks by taking Josh Giddey No. 6 overall

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The Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have quiet offseasons. Sometimes, they’re trading their All-Stars for massive piles of draft picks, other times they’re building up around those All-Stars. But Sam Presti, their longtime lead basketball decision-maker, doesn’t do quiet.

The Thunder entered the 2021 NBA Draft with six picks, more than any other team. Three of them were first-rounders, and two of their second-rounders were in the mid-30s. That’s a ton of draft capital for a team that is rebuilding around a young core that may not return a single player over 30 years old, and the Thunder took advantage of it. They ultimately ended the night with four incoming rookies after making multiple trades. Here’s how they did in Thursday’s NBA Draft:

The picks

  • No. 6 overall (Josh Giddey) 
  • No. 18 overall (Tre Mann)  
  • No. 32 overall (Jeremiah Robinson-Earl)
  • No. 55 overall (Aaron Wiggins)

Potential fits

  • Giddey: Giddey is a home-run swing, but not in the usual sense. He isn’t a nuclear athlete, but his basketball IQ and his feel for the game are extremely rare at such a young age. Giddey has a chance to be a special playmaker, but that is going to mean improving as a shooter. He’ll find ways to function off of the ball, but existing as a supporting player in an offense with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander monopolizing possessions just might not be feasible without a consistent jumper. The Thunder pick projects like that all of the time. They’re betting that they can either help him master his jump shot or, if they can’t, there’s no harm done considering their endless supply of picks.
  • Mann: Giddey might need to work on his shot, but Mann doesn’t. He’ll enter the NBA as a strong shotmaker, and when you combine that with his playmaking, you get an offensive player that should be productive pretty quickly. He’s not an elite athlete, though, and his physical dimensions aren’t ideal defensively. Right now, he looks like a spark plug scorer, but over time, the Thunder are betting they can round out his game.
  • Robinson-Earl: Here’s a player that fits the Thunder model to a tee. He’s a strong, multi-positional defender that has a long way to go as a shooter, but will bring a high basketball IQ to the pros right from the start. In the second round it’s hard to ask for much more than that. Robinson-Earl is a consummate role player.
  • Wiggins: Wiggins has the size to be a decent 3-and-D bench guard, but he wasn’t particularly dominant in either area at Maryland. His best chance at sticking will be the continued development of his 3-pointer, but at No. 55, he is going to be a bit of a project.

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