The Thunder have added multiple key pieces to the team building process over the summer, and they may not be done yet.
Sam Presti will almost certainly spend the rest of the summer rounding the team out, trading veterans, and filling holes on the roster for depth purposes. For the most part, though, it seems like the general core is set in place.
Heading into next season, Oklahoma City simply has too much depth to roll out lineups of exclusively 10-day contracts at the end of the season. With injuries and constructive development taking place over the last few seasons, the Thunder have limped to the finish line with the bottom half of the roster plus the G League affiliate.
Many fans thought OKC would adjust the roster crunch during the NBA Draft, but the roster somehow became even more crunched. Presti not only stayed put at both lottery selections, he even added another.
When dissecting the current roster, the logjam seems to be in the backcourt. There are a lot of minutes to divide between Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Lu Dort and Jaylen Williams. In the frontcourt, though, Oklahoma City enters the season in a unique spot. There seem to be a few big men entering “prove it” years, while new, young talent is being brought in at the same time. The ramp-up in competition should have a positive effect among the Thunder towers.
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For instance, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Darius Bazley were both asked to play heavy minutes and, at times, were the only big men available to step in and play. Not to mention, backup forwards like Isaiah Roby and Aleksej Pokusevski still appear to factor into the mix somewhere. With the additions of No. 2 pick Chet Holmgren and early second-round selection Jaylin Williams, the playing time situation could get interesting.
While Mark Daigneault didn’t have many options elsewhere in the front court last season, added depth brings added accountability. With the roster blueprint starting to come together, as opposed to projects and experiments, this could be a big season for developing chemistry and determining lineups. The “younger” players that are headed into year two or three now might not have as long of a leash with inconsistent play on the court.
If Holmgren is penciled in as one of the starters, Bazley or Robinson-Earl seem like realistic options to pair him with given their frame and rim-protecting abilities. After that, though, playing time seems to be up for grabs in a good way for the Thunder.
Unlike last season, there is actual depth and minutes for players to earn. Even if there are injuries down the stretch, there’s enough youth, talent and excitement to be an intriguing team. The added competition could lead to all-around improvement.