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Thunder roll dice on Terrance Ferguson after Down Under detour

Terrance Ferguson is technically back home, but it took almost 20,000 miles, round trip, to get there.

With the 21st overall pick in Thursday's draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Ferguson, a 6-foot-7 guard officially out of Dallas, where he attended high school. Ferguson, though, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and lived there until he was 11, and he went to the other side of the world before finding his way back to Oklahoma, and thereby to the NBA.

Terrance Ferguson, who played professionally for a year in Australia instead of going to college, was the Thunder's first-round draft pick. Stacy Revere/Getty Images
A 2016 McDonald's All American alongside the likes of Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk, Ferguson had committed to Arizona out of high school but elected to turn pro instead, signing with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia's National Basketball League. He wasn't shy about his reasoning -- it was financially motivated.

"Maybe you think I'm crazy -- crazy for passing up on the college experience, the parties, playing at one of the best schools in the country, being the big man on campus," Ferguson wrote for The Players' Tribune a year ago when announcing his decision to turn pro. "Honestly, I don't need all that. I think some guys get it into their heads that college is everything, that going to Duke or North Carolina or whatever is an automatic ticket to the NBA. But anything can happen. Nobody really thinks about that. An injury or a bad year can ruin your career, and I'm trying to take care of my family."

If he had gone to college, maybe Ferguson would have caught more attention and shot up draft boards. He certainly wasn't that impressive in the NBL, averaging just 4.6 points on 38 percent shooting while playing only 15.2 minutes per game. But Ferguson's size, length, athleticism and speed made him an attractive prospect, especially to Oklahoma City. The Thunder prioritize certain qualities in players, such as size at their position, and Ferguson checked a lot of boxes.

General manager Sam Presti has an exceptional draft record, and the Thunder organization has a strong reputation for developing players. Kevin Durant was a can't-miss prospect, but from Russell Westbrook to Serge Ibaka to Reggie Jackson to Steven Adams, Presti and the Thunder know how to evolve young talent. Ferguson fits the Thunder profile in a number of ways, but with the roster being re-engineered around Westbrook's solitary skill set, what intrigued them most was how Ferguson could fit.

Westbrook creates a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities for teammates, particularly in transition. Ferguson is athletic and speedy, and despite hitting only 31 percent from deep last season with the 36ers, scouts raved about his shooting mechanics. The Thunder hope Ferguson can be that elusive 3-and-D wing they've searched for season after season, but they aren't shying away from the reality that it will probably take time to get there.

"Anytime we draft any player, we're not drafting a player for where he is today, we're also drafting a player because we feel like we want to walk hand in hand with them through their development," Presti said. "This is really a beginning point."

At just 19 years old, and with a thin frame, Ferguson is a bit of a project. The Thunder utilize the G League (formerly the D-League) as much as anyone and value internal development as a primary part of roster building. Presti is unsure whether Ferguson will spend time in the G League, and some of that may be dependent on what happens with the roster in free agency (see: Andre Roberson).

"This guy, he competes," Presti said of Ferguson. "I don't want to put any limitations on what he's capable of doing. He makes shots. He's got great, great length and speed. So those are things that generally are valued in our building. We'll see where it goes."

Drafting Ferguson signals a new mentality of sorts for the Thunder in a post-Durant world. In past seasons, it was about layering the roster with youth to replenish a possible exit or to fill a specific role on the periphery. Ferguson comes with boom-or-bust potential, a crack at trying to give Westbrook the two-way talent the roster desperately needs.

But that's the catch: How much time is there to wait for the possible boom? The Thunder were already the third-youngest team in the league last season, and though Presti praised the youth and upside of the roster at the end of the season, Westbrook will turn 29 next season. The window of Westbrook's prime won't be propped open for forever, and while Ferguson could be an important piece, it will likely require more waiting to know for sure.

Source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/19720313/oklahoma-city-thunder-hope-terrance-ferguson-australian-detour-complement-russell-westbrook

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