By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder general manager Sam Presti made no promises that first-round draft pick Terrance Ferguson would be an immediate contributor.
Yet Presti, a man who rarely shows much emotion, seemed genuinely excited after Oklahoma City selected Ferguson with the 21st selection in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
“I don’t know what will happen with Terrance, but I wouldn’t put any limitations on him,” Presti said.
Presti said he likes Ferguson’s demeanor, and said the 6-foot-7 guard/forward has all the physical tools necessary to at some point make an impact. Presti said he expects Ferguson to play in summer league.
“He has the speed the size, the strength, the athleticism, and obviously, the ability to shoot the ball from range that makes him an exciting piece to bring into the organization,” Presti said.
Ferguson committed to Alabama, then Arizona, then skipped college and played professionally with the Adelaide 36ers in Australia last season. He averaged 4.6 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.6 assists per game.
Presti respected Ferguson’s willingness to play grown men right out of high school.
“Just the choice to take that challenge on, knowing that it was not going to be the easiest path or the path that would be more standard — it wasn’t easy, and there were difficult circumstances and there were times that it was a challenge — but he continued,” Presti said.
The 2016 McDonald’s All-American has won three gold medals for Team USA at the youth and junior national levels, most recently the 2015 Under 19 World Championships.
“It’s rare to find a player at his age that has the experience in different environments,” he said.
Ferguson is an ideal pick for the Thunder because he’s a good 3-point shooter who can defend. He could help in case the Thunder lose Andre Roberson in free agency. Roberson, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, is a restricted free agent who has said he wants to return to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City lost Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in free agency last summer and still went 47-35 and made the playoffs.
Oklahoma City could have used a backup point guard who could help the team stay competitive when Russell Westbrook rests. The Thunder lost ground quickly in several games during the first-round playoff series against Houston when Westbrook went to the bench. It also might be unfair for Westbrook to duplicate a dominant season in which he won the scoring title and averaged a triple-double.
The Thunder also needed a perimeter shooter to take pressure off of Westbrook. The Thunder ranked last in the league in 3-point shooting last season. Oklahoma City has several good perimeter shooters on the roster, but they are reserves because of their defensive shortcomings.
Presti said he wasn’t worried about filling a specific need, instead opting to find the player who best fit the team overall.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP