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News » No Griffin, no problem

No Griffin, no problem

No Griffin, no problem
So we're going to have to do this the hard way.

What? You thought just because it's the Thunder , lightning would strike twice, and the same cosmic forces that landed Kevin Durant in the Ford Center would keep Blake Griffin in Oklahoma?

No, that's not how the NBA or life works.

You mix a little luck with a lot of smarts and hard work, and maybe you get a Basketball team that will send you home happy on many a winter's night.

So while the NBA Draft lottery sent the No. 1 pick - and Griffin's wondrous talents - off to the Clippers, the Thunder settled for the consolation prize of the third pick.

Could be UConn shot-blocker Hasheem Thabeet. Could be Arizona strong man Jordan Hill. Could, I suppose, be Spanish point guard phenom Ricky Rubio, if the Grizzlies of Memphis lose their mind and bypass him at No. 2.

Either way, doesn't matter. Since Thunder general manager Sam Presti took the Basketball reins of this franchise, in June 2007, he's had overall draft picks 2 (Durant), 5 (Jeff Green), 4 (Russell Westbrook) and now 3.

If you can't build a quality roster with that positioning, nobody to blame but yourself. Not that Presti has done anything to make us think he won't ace this selection, too.

The Durant pick was a no-brainer, but the Green and Westbrook additions have been home runs, so Presti seems unlikely to screw up this pick.

If Rubio is the player he's projected to be, I would love him on this roster. You talk about versatile. Westbrook could be a combo guard, playing the point some and off the ball some, just as he did with Earl Watson this past season.

If the 7-foot-3 Thabeet is another Samuel Dalembert, the 76ers' athletic center, I'll take that, too. Both will drive you bananas on offense, but if Thabeet can defend the basket like Dalembert can, that will improve this team quickly. Interior defense is priority A for the Thunder .

And who knows what other curveball Presti might throw? Who saw Westbrook coming at No. 4 last June?

Presti said he was "thrilled" that the lottery moved up the Thunder from fourth to third, though he didn't tip his hand on who that third pick might bring. No way to know until Memphis makes its call, anyway.

Getting Griffin would have sent revelers into the streets, and trade talk will bubble between now and draft night. But don't expect the Clippers to let Griffin go.

Franchises just don't trade that No. 1 pick anymore; just once in the last 20 years. Too much PR damage.

"I will look forward to hearing from all 29 teams before we probably keep the pick," Clipper president Andy Roeser said. "You never know what your crazy partners in this league will do. But the likelihood is we will keep the pick."

Actually, no franchise is crazier than the Clippers, but Roeser talked sense when he said, "Stars don't come along that often. It means a lot to the franchise for the long haul to have that pick."

The Thunder has plenty of trade arsenal - two first-round draft picks this season, 3 and 25, and two first-round picks next season, its own and Phoenix's. Those picks are valuable in this economic climate; they allow a franchise to employ good, but cheap, talent.

However, do not expect the Thunder to entertain trade offers if it means breaking up the core. Durant is untouchable, naturally. But Green is a great Robin to Durant's Batman, an egoless sidekick loved by Durant. As the Clipper president said, stars don't come along that often. Messing with Green might be messing with Durant. Don't play with dynamite.

Trading Westbrook in a Griffin deal would put the Boomers back at the starting line for a point guard, so that's no good.

So I wouldn't include Green or Westbrook in any deal to move up in the draft, and I don't think Presti will, either.

"We really like the core of our group," Presti said. "You never know. But we feel pretty strongly about these guys."

The future remains bright for the Thunder . Bright enough that this should be the last time for a while that Oklahoma City gets all worked up by the lottery. Next year, the Boomers should be lottery long shots. With picks 2, 5, 4 and 3, it's time to leave lottery land.

Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 22, 2009


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