The Thunder have promised Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis that they’ll draft him in the first round, sources tell Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Twitter link), who’s updated his latest Big Board with detail. Ford surmises that It’s likely the Thunder have him in mind for the 21st overall pick, rather than the 29th selection, which they also hold, since there appears to be a strong chance he might not even be available at No. 21. Ford ranks Porzingis as the 18th-best draft prospect, believing he could go as high as No. 12. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress has him at No. 23.
The 19-year-old is variously listed as either 6’11″ or 7’0″, and Ford cites his upside as explanation for why he’s been zooming up draft boards. Porzingis hasn’t produced much in the Spanish league, averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 15.2 minutes per game for Cajasol Banca Civica this season.
Such promises are a standard tactic around draft time, and often prompt players to stop working out for other clubs. There haven’t been reports about Porzingis scheduling any workouts with teams, but if he’s indeed received a promise, he’s unlikely to audition for any NBA club other than the Thunder. Promises aren’t necessarily a guarantee a team will draft a certain prospect, as clubs have reneged on such promises in the past when a more enticing player unexpectedly becomes available. Other teams with higher picks can intercede, too. There were rumors that the Celtics had promised Dennis Schröder last year, but he wound up with the Hawks instead while Boston traded up for Kelly Olynyk.