Oklahoma City Thunder NBA Draft Picks, Needs, Targets: Paolo Banchero Makes Sense In OKC

Sam Presti will have three picks in the top 34 to work with, including the 2nd overall pick. The Thunder are in a unique position, as they could continue to build for the future or trade in assets for a star. Although their roster is young, Oklahoma City has a talented roster that is eager to reach the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder Draft Picks 

  • 1 (2nd)
  • 1 (12th)
  • 2 (34th)

Oklahoma City Thunder Draft Needs 

Derrick Favors exercised his player option, so he is returning for next year. The Thunder have a team option for Luguentz Dort, Mike Muscala, and Isaiah Roby. It would be shocking if all three options were not exercised, as they are valuable pieces on the roster. Dort is a defensive menace who radically improved his off the dribble scoring, and Muscala spaced the floor off the bench with his 42.9 3PT%. Roby flashed potential late in the season; he finished with 10.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and a 44.4 3PT% on 2.2 3PA.

They have no unrestricted free agents, but Melvin Frazier is a restricted free agent. Frazier played in just three games, and he’s not a vital building block. With no potential devastating departures to worry about, the Thunder have more certainty about their roster’s makeup and outlook. This knowledge will allow them to accurately fix their weakness in this draft. 

The guard rotation is a huge strength for Oklahoma City. Giddey is a fantastic playmaker, and he has incredible size (6’8”) at the point guard position. Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best drivers in the NBA; he can consistently drop 26/5/5 as their lead scorer. Dort’s defense is suffocating, but he also radically improved his off the dribble shooting. Off the bench, Tre Mann was a microwave scorer as a rookie. His outside shooting and isolation scoring will potentially thrust him into 6MOY contention next season. Gilgeous-Alexander (23), Dort (23), Giddey (19), and Mann (21) are all young too, so the Thunder can count on their guard rotation for years to come. 

The Thunder were 17th in Defensive Rating, which is a solid mark for such a youthful and inexperienced team. They were 3rd at defending the pick and roll ball handler, as they only allowed 0.84 Points Per Possession for that playtype. The Thunder also only allowed 0.82 Points Per Possession in isolation, which ranked 2nd. Oklahoma City’s perimeter defense projects to be a strength next year, especially if they select more perimeter defenders. 

The frontcourt is one of the worst in the NBA, and it dragged the Thunder down significantly. Derrick Favors and Mike Muscala are solid veterans, but they are out of their depth against starting lineups. Presti has to address the center position in this draft because they need interior scoring and rim protection. Oklahoma City also needs a bigger forward who can space the floor, switch on the perimeter, and create his own offense. Trotting out another elite scorer would ease the defensive pressure off of Gilgeous-Alexander, who was constantly trapped last season. 

The perimeter shooting was awful, as they had a 43 FG% (30th) and 32.3 3PT% (30th). Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey would knife their way into the paint, but spot up shooters couldn’t capitalize on the clean look from deep. Drafting sharpshooters would provide a necessary boost and rejuvenate the offense. 

Oklahoma City Thunder Draft Targets

  • Paolo Banchero

The two targets at the 2nd pick are Chet Holmgren and  Paolo Banchero. Either of these options are perfect for the roster, but I think Banchero is the best option. Paolo can create his own offense with a deep offensive bag; his isolation scoring would balance the offense. He is 1 on my big board, and the Thunder can find a center at 12. 

  • Chet Holmgren

Chet provides rim protection and shooting at the center position. His upside is massive, which is tantalizing for the Thunder. If the Magic select Banchero at 1, then the Thunder should select Chet over Jabari Smith Jr. 

  • Jalen Duren

 If they select Paolo, then the Thunder should look to draft a center. Jalen Duren (6’11”) and Mark Williams (7’0”) are the two targets in this scenario. Both can become dominant rim protectors, which completes the defense. The starting lineup would be Giddey, Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort, Paolo/Jabari, and Duren/Williams. This combination can absolutely compete for a playoff spot. 

  • AJ Griffin

If they select Chet, Oklahoma City must target a wing who can shoot at 12. AJ Griffin fits this description. The Thunder would benefit greatly with his outside shooting, and it makes sense to try and aggressively trade up for him. They have a treasure chest of assets, so Presti can afford to part with some for an impact player at a position of need. 

  • Hugo Besson

Presti can focus on their outside shooting at 34 with the frontcourt radically improved through earlier picks. Hugo Besson is a smooth shooter who will be at least a 38 3PT% shooter the moment he steps foot on the court. He can help Mann run the bench offense, as he is an efficient ball handler in the pick and roll. 

  • Christian Braun

The Thunder can also target Christian Braun – a 6’6” sharpshooter from Kansas. He will space the floor and provide an outlet for their multitude of ball handlers. He is also a threat in transition, which is a plus next to Giddey. 

Recent Oklahoma City Thunder Picks & Tendencies

The Thunder love to find unique prospects that possess a number of different skills. They selected Josh Giddey over Jonathan Kuminga and coveted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander when he was on the Clippers. This trend leads them to Chet Holmgren – a 7’0″ center with guards skills. I don’t think Presti would pass on the opportunity to take Chet.

Braxton has been writing for Lineups since December 2021 with the majority of his articles focused on the NBA. He is currently a senior at the University of Pennsylvania where he has spent the last few years working with various UPenn athletics teams and contributing to the UPenn Sports Analytics Group.

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