So the 2023 NBA draft has come and gone less than two weeks after the conclusion of the league’s finals.
Compared to other major U.S. sports, the NBA’s draft occurs in what feels like the blink of an eye. In the span of just a few hours, the Oklahoma City Thunder managed to wheel a couple of deals and walk away with, by most accounts, two solid players who will likely be able to contribute right away.
Cason Wallace, a 6’4″ point guard who played one season at Kentucky, is an excellent defender with explosive qualities. And local Big 12 basketball fans may have seen Keyontae Johnson play last season for Kansas State, where he averaged 17.4 points per game as a 6’5″ wing with a solid three-point shooting percentage. He can throw down some mean alley-oops.
Adding Thunder rookies like Wallace and Johnson who could make an immediate impact feels exciting, especially as last year’s top pick, center Chet Holmgren, will also be making his NBA debut in the fall after missing all of this past season with an injury. After being in a rebuild mode for a few years now, last season’s jump back into the postseason has already set expectations of contending for a high playoff spot next year.
All of this enthusiasm with a young, talented team should only help with the anticipated vote among OKC citizens on public funding for a new basketball arena. Although OKC Mayor David Holt recently told Kathryn McNutt of The Journal Record that he did not want to discuss details of how the new arena would be funded, he did say to “be ready” because news will be coming this summer.
A poll being conducted earlier this year implied the new arena’s total price tag could be $750 million, and one question suggested that team owners might pay for 10 percent of it, with a six-year one-cent OKC sales tax covering the rest of the cost.
NBA rookies are expected to put in a lot of work right from the start, so perhaps general manager Sam Presti can access added labor from the two Thunder rookies if this year’s arena vote looks close.
Time will tell on how much of an impact the recent draft picks will have, but the Thunder’s arrow appears to be pointing up for now.
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