The Oklahoma City Thunder tanked the entire 2021-22 season and scored the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. With a young core consisting of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and many more promising prospects, and the fact that they still have a boatload of draft picks over the next decade, there is no doubt the future in Oklahoma City is going to be incredibly bright.
Nonetheless, this year’s selection could be a key part of the Thunder’s rebuilding process. While there is no consensus top pick, most mock drafts have pegged Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren to go No. 1 and No. 2. In addition, many project Paolo Banchero to round out the top three. However, they may be a case for Purdue star Jaden Ivey to sneak in that conversation. There have been rumblings that the Thunder might like the 20-year-old guard enough that they draft him at second overall.
With that said, here are three reasons the Oklahoma City Thunder should shock the world and take Jaden Ivey with the No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
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Thunder 2022 NBA Draft Pick Must Be Jaden Ivey
1. He has great potential to be a two-way star
Ivey’s greatest strengths are his speed and explosiveness, which makes him a nightmare especially when going downhill. He is an absolute freight train on the open floor with his ability to turn on the jets and burst to the basket. In the half court, the kid possesses an explosive first step and great ability to get around his defenders that allows him to get all the way to the cup.
With a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Ivey also has the body and the tools to become a terrific perimeter defender. He already has good knack and timing on playing the passing lanes and this allows him to get out in transition and excite the crowd with his high-flying antics on the break.
In his sophomore season, Ivey averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and less than a steal and a block in 36 games. He also shot 46.0 percent from the field and a respectable 35.8 percent from beyond the arc. Ivey is by no means known for his three-point shooting and still needs work on becoming a more consistent jump shooter. But that can be easily improved through more repetitions. In addition, Ivey also needs work defensively despite his ability to get off ball steals. He will still need to make better reads on rotations and learn the ins and outs of staying in front of his man effectively.
If the 20-year-old is able to improve more as a well-rounded scorer and improve his defensive IQ, there is no reason Ivey couldn’t become a two-way star in this league and for the Thunder.
2. He will bring an athletic dynamic to the Thunder core
Jaden Ivey showed in his sophomore season in Purdue just how much of a dynamo he is on offense. The 6-foot-4 guard wowed the nation with his aerial assaults at the rim, athletic finishes at the basket, and incredible burst off the bounce.
OKC’s most promising pieces currently are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. With Ivey’s skill set, he will bring a different dynamic to the Thunder and should be able to complement the games of Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey.
SGA has developed into a well-rounded offensive talent with defensive upside due to his length. Meanwhile, Giddey has shown potential to become a playmaking savant with his ability to see the floor well. Adding a high-flying athlete like Ivey should give the Thunder the best of all worlds with the different kinds of playing styles they bring to the table.
3. He will remind the fanbase of a certain Thunder legend
Before any Russell Westbrook fans get offended, this isn’t saying Ivey is going to be Westbrook or be what Russ was to the Thunder. There’s is no replicating what Westbrook did for this franchise and the 20-year-old guard isn’t going to do that.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to ignore the uncanny similarities with their games. As mentioned, Ivey is an athletic freak — which is what Westbrook was in his early days and through his prime with the Thunder. Ivey can jump out the gym with the best of them. If OKC does indeed pull off the shocker, Ivey’s monstrous throwdowns, powerful bursts to the hoop, and incredible acceleration on the open floor will provide the same electricity to the Chesapeake Energy Arena (now the Paycom Center) as Westbrook did back in the day.
In addition, maybe the Thunder sees how Memphis found a diamond-in-the-rough when they selected a similarly jump-out-the-gym star in 2019. Now, the Grizzlies have blossomed into one of the top teams in the West with Ja Morant leading the way.