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Pick No. 2
Jabari Smith (Auburn, PF, Freshman)
While most around the league speculate that the Orlando Magic will take Smith No. 1, the Oklahoma City Thunder still need to prepare for surprises. Scouts have been infatuated all year with the 6’10” forward’s shooting ability, self creation into jumpers, defensive versatility and maturity.
Aside from Smith giving the Thunder a go-to option to feature around the elbows, he’d also make for an ideal floor spacer and pick-and-pop partner for Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga, PF/C, Freshman)
Holmgren would love playing with Giddey, whose special passing IQ would help optimize the 7-footer’s finishing tools and catch-and-shoot game. And the Thunder figure to be interested in Holmgren’s potential to change their defensive identity with his unique range/instincts in rim protection.
Oklahoma City seems like an ideal place for Holmgren to develop, given its solid guard play and the freedom and reps he’d have to work on his half-court scoring skills.
Paolo Banchero (Duke, PF, Freshman)
The Thunder need offense, and Banchero may be able to give them more than any other prospect in the draft. His ability to create, both for himself and teammates, is far superior compared to Smith and Holmgren’s. Between Gilgeous-Alexander and Banchero, the Thunder would have two star isolation scorers whom they could lean on and go to late in games.
Pick No. 12
Jalen Duren (Memphis, C, Freshman) and Mark Williams (Duke, C, Sophomore)
Assuming the Thunder grab one of the power forwards at No. 2, they could eye Duren or Williams for their defensive anchor. Duren won’t turn 19 until November, so he’s likely the more attractive play given his athleticism, shot-blocking and flashes of post footwork and passing. But Williams was also a high-impact player for a Final Four team, and it’s tough to beat his 9’9″ standing reach.
Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona, SG/SF, Sophomore)
There would need to be some surprise picks in the top 11 for Mathurin to fall to No. 12. He’d be a fitting addition after the Thunder grab a star at No. 2, though. Mathurin doesn’t create at a high level, but he does project as a lethal catch-and-score wing, both as a shooter and finisher.
Tari Eason (LSU, F, Sophomore)
The Thunder could use Eason as a wing or big to bring defensive activity and offensive versatility. For a young team that’s likely to get younger after it selects at No. 2, his toughness and energy should be welcomed.