Oklahoma City Thunder rolls forward with new drafts

Joseph Ross

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann jumps for a dunk April 9, 2023. (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished the 2022-23 season as the 10th seed and with a 40-42 record, but were eliminated from the play-in game by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Thunder played this past NBA season without star rookie center Chet Holmgren,  who was drafted second overall in last year’s draft but sat out the season due to a Lisfranc injury in his foot. Oklahoma City found themselves with the 12th overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft and looked to add some pieces to their 2023-24 roster. 

The Dallas Mavericks, who held the 10th overall pick, traded with the Thunder, who held the 12th overall pick. It would be a pick swap with both teams. With that 10th pick, the Thunder drafted University of Kentucky guard Cason Wallace. 

“Cason Wallace I love. I think he’s a guy that can make an immediate impact off the bench with the second unit, especially given his offensive prowess,” KFOR anchor and UCO alumni Dylan Buckingham stated. 

Wallace looks to give the Thunder some depth at the guard position and be another weapon offensively in the second unit.

“I think he’s like Lu Dort, just more gifted offensively and not as polished as a defender yet,” Buckingham said. 

With the 50th overall pick, Oklahoma City drafted Kansas State guard/forward Keyontae Johnson. 

Johnson averaged 17 points while shooting 51 percent from the field.

“Keyontae Johnson has an amazing story. He will work on a two-way deal and I think he will be a great addition to the team,” Buckingham said.

With Johnson being a two-way player, that will be an element that will stick out to the Thunder coaching staff.

“I like to see more consistency offensively and I think he will get there. Just going to take some time,” Buckingham said. 

After the draft was concluded, Oklahoma City was allowed to sign those players who were not drafted, which are known as undrafted free agents. 

The biggest Thunder-acquired name on the undrafted free agent list was Baylor guard Adam Flagler. Flagler was on the 2020-21 Baylor team that won the National Championship that season. 

“I like Adam Flagler from the ones I’ve seen signed so far. I watched him take a game over in Norman late to beat the Sooners. He’s an experienced, gritty player who’s won a national title. He knows what it’s like to work and get to the top of the mountain. I like his potential upside,” Buckingham said.

Flagler looks to add more steadiness to this Thunder team but will have to be able to generate interest to put himself in the best position for success. It is never easy when it comes to a rookie entering the NBA. 

The Thunder also was able to sign another undrafted free agent, but this time they did not look far when they signed University of Oklahoma center Tanner Groves. Groves spent his first two seasons with Eastern Michigan before transferring to the Sooners alongside his brother Jacob Groves.

Oklahoma City also signed Australian forward Jack White on a two-way deal in free agency. 

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