Presti says he's happy to be picking at No. 3

What now?

That's the question the Thunder and its fans are asking after the ping-pong balls delivered Oklahoma City only a sliver of good fortune Tuesday night in the NBA Draft Lottery.

The Thunder will have the third overall pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, a slot that is one spot higher than it entered the night slated to pick but two spots lower than the one everyone had hoped to come away with.

The Los Angeles Clippers, with the third-best chance, landed the No. 1 overall pick and likely will select OU forward Blake Griffin, long considered the consensus top prospect. Memphis jumped from sixth to second and could select consensus No. 2 prospect Ricky Rubio, the 18-year-old point guard from Spain.

That would leave the Thunder to choose from a gifted group of players that includes Connecticut 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet, Arizona State shooting guard James Harden, Arizona power forward Jordan Hill and Southern California shooting guard DeMar DeRozan.

All have question marks. All have limitations. All are projected to be role players rather than stars.

"Having the third pick for us is a lot better than having the fourth," said Thunder general manager Sam Presti. "And when you have No. 3 you wish you had No. 2. But this is definitely a great position for us to be in. I think we'll definitely get some phone calls and we'll have some options. We also like the group of players that will be there, so I'm excited."

The Thunder , coming off a 23-win season, has several needs to fill as it continues retooling its roster. The most pressing is interior defense, which could go a long way in lowering this year's disappointing averages of 103.5 points allowed and 47.5 percent opponent field goal percentage.

Thabeet could fill void with his rebounding and shot-blocking skills. He averaged 10.8 rebounds and 4.2 blocked shots as a junior for the Huskies last season. The Tanzanian native lacks much of an offensive game, however, and might never develop skills on that end.

"We followed him as we have all the players in the draft, and we will continue to study him more," Presti said of Thabeet. "He had a nice career in college and he's someone that we'll look at in the group of players that we continue to study."

Hill, Arizona's 6-foot-9 power forward, is another long big man who is a good rebounder and shot blocker.

Hill is more athletic than Thabeet but also is raw offensively.

Presti didn't say whether he is leaning toward going with a big man or a guard, but enough talent will be left on the board to give the Thunder plenty of options if it's not sold on Thabeet or Hill.

Harden, who is listed at 6-foot-4, is considered the most polished player in the three-through-seven pack. He averaged 20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a sophomore for the Sun Devils last season. He lacks athleticism but makes up for it with his savvy and playmaking ability.

DeRozan is Harden's exact opposite, a 6-foot-6 athletic wingman who lacks fundamentals and struggles with perimeter shooting but possesses enough size, speed and strength to make plays. As a freshman for the Trojans, DeRozan averaged 13.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

"Much will be said up until the draft about players that go here and players that go there," Presti said of upcoming draft workouts. "I can tell you that we don't have it all figured out. We continue to do our work, collect information and on the 25th we'll be ready to make a pick."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 22, 2009