The Oklahoma City Thunder went out as the runner-up on the night in last Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery for the second overall pick.
The Thunder have never had a No. 1 overall pick in their franchise history, which technically dates back to 1967, when they were still the Seattle SuperSonics.However, they picked second place both times, and they both succeeded real Well (Kevin Durant in 2007 and Gary Payton in 1990).
The Thunder have a ton of draft picks for years to come, but those picks are meaningless if they don’t choose to change the team’s talent. Fortunately, the No. 2 pick should provide the opportunity to do so. The 2022 draft class has some “can’t-miss” prospects, including Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paul Banchero. All three have their pros and cons, but adding any of them to the existing core of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey should work just fine.
The Thunder made six selections in the 2021 NBA draft, but they traded three of them. They added Giddey (selected to the 2021-22 All-Rookie Second Team), Tre Mann and Aaron Wiggins — none of them big men. The Thunder did trade a 7-footer (Aleksej Pokusevski) in the 2020 draft, but he’s still very raw and not quite the same prospect as a top-three prospect.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done through the scouting process to effectively assess the most coveted prospects in all three drafts, but a look back at the past 10 NBA drafts reveals a darker history than one might think . After examining the success of the teams that picked the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft last week, let’s see how the most recent No. 2 pick has fared.
2012 NBA Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets
The Hornets were bombed with the second overall pick in 2012. Kidd-Gilchrist had a great career, averaging 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in eight seasons in the NBA. The thing is, Bradley Beal was picked third and Damian Lillard was picked fifth, both of whom are All-NBA players every year. By comparison, it was a huge miss for Charlotte.
2013 NBA Draft: Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
The Cavaliers took Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick, surprising many of us, but the Magic stuck to the script. Oladipo, widely seen as a top-three player in this draft, was the second-best player in the class before knee and quadriceps injuries derailed his career.
Even though injuries have stripped Oladipo of much of his ability, he’s still an interesting player, and he could get some nice free agency offers this offseason. Obviously, CJ McCollumn (No. 10) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15) are the better players, but neither was considered by the Magic. Considering Oladipo was a two-time All-Star, an All-Defensive team member, and an All-NBA team member, I think the Magic did a good job of picking Oladipo.
2014 NBA Draft: Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks
The 2014 draft was an odd one. Neither the No. 1 pick nor the No. 2 pick is the best player at this draft level. Andrew Wiggins has found a good role, and while he’s far less successful than most people think, Jabari Parker is really unimpressed. Granted, Parker spent eight seasons in the league, including some now, but his career simply didn’t materialize, even if it wasn’t his (nor Milwaukee’s) fault.
Parker tore his ACL twice. Before his second ACL injury, he looked to be a very good player (even if he was a liability on defense), averaging 20.1 points and 6.2 rebounds in 2016-17. No matter how good Parker is, the fact that Joel Embiid is attractive enough on draft night to be picked on draft night makes him miserable.
2015 NBA Draft: D’Angelo Russell, Los Angeles Lakers
Here’s an example of a player who actually deserves a top-three pick. The problem is that the Lakers have the second overall pick, and there’s a big difference between Karl-Anthony Towns or Devin Booker and Russell. To make matters worse, the Lakers sent Russell to Brooklyn before he matured. His immaturity was part of the reason he was traded, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Lakers drafted him and moved quickly. Russell may or may not end up being a team-changing talent, but he has yet to reach his full potential, and he clearly won’t be doing it for the Lakers.
2016 NBA Draft: Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers
Ingram is one of the best No. 2 picks in the last 10 drafts. He’s the true No. 1 option on a playoff team, a career 18.5 ppg scorer and a one-time All-Star. Whether Jaylen Brown (3rd) and/or Jamal Murray (7th) are equally good or better players is debatable, but both have played alongside more talented teammates throughout their careers .
Ingram has been the best player on the New Orleans Pelicans for years, and we shouldn’t take it for granted that Ingram is leading a playoff team this season. Granted, the Lakers didn’t specifically cash in on him, but he was part of the package that led to Anthony Davis landing in Los Angeles. So, this works well for them as well.
2017 NBA Draft: Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers took the No. 2 overall pick again in 2017. This time they were not so successful. First, Jayson Tatum needs to be considered. Tatum was selected with the third overall pick and was the best player in the 2017 draft class. Being drafted by the Lakers won’t change that, and that should be enough. But Ball’s rough shooting skills also need to be considered. Sure, he’s grown into a great shooter, but the Lakers haven’t benefited from it. It’s hard to classify Ball’s selection as a complete failure because, like Ingram, he helped Davis get into the Lakers. Still, it’s hard to classify his selection as a success.
2018 NBA Draft: Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Bagley is probably the worst No. 2 pick in the past 10 years. The 2018 NBA draft will forever be remembered as the Luka Doncic class. The Kings could have drafted Doncic since he was still on the board, but they picked Bagley. Bagley isn’t even on the Kings anymore, and his time in Sacramento wasn’t memorable.
Bagley is an under-par defender and three-point shooter. He’s scoring at a decent pace, averaging 19.5 points per 36 minutes, but he never gets a role big enough to show what he can really do, and he’s only on losing teams. By contrast, Doncic and Trae Young (5th pick in 2018) have turned their teams around.
2019 NBA Draft: Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies
Ingram used to be Best No. 2 pick of the past 10 years until 2019. Morant stole that fictional honor almost immediately in his rookie season. The thing is, the 2019 NBA draft was supposed to be about Zion Williamson. Unlike Williamson, however, Morant backed up all the hype, and some. So while Williamson has dealt with injuries for most of his young career, Morant has the audacity to be the face of his draft class.
Morant is being compared to numerous superstars, and he was named to the All-NBA second team for the 2021-22 season. Anyone drafted after him didn’t make the Grizzlies think twice.
judgment: great success
2020 NBA Draft: James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
Unlike his brother Lonzo, LaMelo Ball used to be Deserves a second pick in 2020. Instead, the Golden State Warriors selected James Wiseman, even though the logic behind the pick was clear, even in retrospect. The Warriors already have two All-Star guards. The thing is, Jordan Poole looks pretty good around Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, doesn’t he? So, it is feasible to assume that Bauer also fits.
Two seasons later, Ball is a significantly better player, but he also has plenty of opportunities to prove it. Wiseman has had bad luck with health. He played in 39 of the Warriors’ first 53 games of the 2020-21 season, but he tore his meniscus in Golden State’s 53rd game of the season and hasn’t been seen since. Wiseman remains a significant contributor, as his per-36-minute stats are impressive for a rookie (19.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 1.6 rpg on 0.542/.316/.628 FG) blocks and 1.1 assists). This is an item that we must continue to monitor.
judgment: not clear
2021 NBA Draft: Jaylen Green, Houston Rockets
It’s tough to successfully pick a pick in just one rookie season. Green posted an impressive rookie season, but his defensive flaws were glaring. For a rookie, this is an understandable flaw. Green is considered the second-best player in the class. In hindsight, we now know that Scotty Barnes (4th) and Evan Mobley (3rd) were very well integrated into the NBA. But wing scorers have a much harder time shooting jumpers because they have to hit deeper 3-pointers and compete with more athletic opponents. Green’s bottom line may be lower than Barnes and Mobley’s, but I think his ceiling is still higher. Let’s give him a little more time.
judgment: not clear
The No. 2 pick has clearly been one of the best players at the draft level in the last 10 drafts (2013, 2016 and 2019).
An in-depth study of the No. 2 overall pick shows that the amount of talent that can change teams is limited. For every Kevin Durant, Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Earl Monroe and Bill Russell, there are some players who didn’t live up to expectations. Sometimes, there’s no generation on the board; other times, picking the second-best team is just overthinking it, or going in the wrong direction. Either way, No. 2 didn’t produce as many historical greats as you might think, but there were quite a few important contributors.