Thunder guard Théo Maledon took the same perspective as Bazley on draft night. While in some ways being selected by an NBA team on draft night is the culmination of so much hard work and the realization of a dream, in many ways it is just the start of the next journey. It was close to 2 a.m. in Paris when Maledon was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers at number 34 overall, though he knew he would be headed to Oklahoma City in a trade. The mental fortitude and steady outlook he showed his rookie year was on display even in the moments after his life changed forever.
“As soon as I heard my name, all I wanted to do is go out there and get with my teammates and coaches and prove to them that I deserve to play some minutes, to try to gain the coaches’ confidence, not to take one day for granted and always have that mindset that getting to the NBA is the hardest thing to do, but then it gets harder – so be ready for that challenge,” said Maledon.
In a few weeks, when the Thunder’s youngsters get together for a brief training camp prior to Summer League in Las Vegas, the slot where each player was drafted in the 2021 NBA Draft won’t make a difference. The impetus will be about the work done on the floor, the skill sets being honed and the approach to the game that determines both playing time and success at the NBA level.