Each year there are hundreds of touchpoints that will impact the development of The Thunder as a franchise. The vast majority of these moments are under the organization’s control, but Tuesday night is an annual NBA event that’s being left to chance.
The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery (7:30 p.m. CT, ESPN) will see the ping pong balls bouncing and revealing Thunder’s selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, taking place on Thursday, July 29. The Thunder will be represented by the lottery Nazr Mohammed, who played for the Thunder for three seasons and now serves as both a pro scout for the Thunder and general manager of Thunder’s G-League affiliate, OKC Blue.
The Thunder will have the location of two first round selections announced during the lottery, with the possibilities through the draft order reaching far and wide. The results of the lottery will play a role in how Thunder builds the team to move forward, but the organization’s focus is on responding to the outcome methodically and conscientiously.
“Anytime you’re in the lottery, it means really being able to accept the reality that you don’t really control anything at all,” said Sam Presti, Thunder’s general manager and executive vice president, at his press conference at the end of the season on May 20th. “That’s one of the things we’ve learned over the years here since we’ve been in Oklahoma City. You can’t control chance. Usually coincidence and good or bad luck show up in similar moments or events, and over time one hopes that this ability will show up over a longer time horizon.”
“We control how we think and we control how we react and that’s what we really need to focus on because if we stay consistent with our goals over a period of time, if we stay consistent with our focus and our plan, I believe really that good things will happen and we will achieve our goal of once again having a consistently excellent team in Oklahoma City,” added Presti.
In addition to the two picks above, the Thunder will have the No. 16 overall pick he received alongside guard Kemba Walker in a trade with the Boston Celtics last week. In the second round, the Thunder will pick at 35, 36, and 55. All of these selections provide the Thunder with an opportunity to land a high-profile player, but also serve as assets to be used at the organization’s discretion.
“The draft is littered with good players, and they very rarely go one, two, three, four, five in order,” Presti said at the May 20 press conference. “I think it’s clear that the wisdom of the masses makes it so, for obvious reasons, that the odds are better at the top of the draft and the odds go down significantly as you move back through the draft, but there’s always players.”
With 6 of the 60 selections in this draft and 14 more first round selections in the upcoming five drafts, the Thunder has incredible flexibility going forward. Regardless of whether the Thunder makes all of these choices or not, the team will focus on how it engages players in its program.
In addition to all newcomers, The Thunder thinks holistically about the people within its walls, so no matter where players are picked from, they are treated with the same care and held to the same standards. From there, each person can begin their growth and development journey as they seek to build their careers in the NBA and the Thunder.
“Drafting players is one aspect of that,” Presti said. “Keeping them healthy, developing them, figuring them out both personally and professionally, and enabling them to thrive and excel over time is a whole different equation that I think sometimes gets overlooked will.”