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Center Position Key to Thunder's Future, but Mostly Their Present

The Thunder could be unsuccessful by not having size or skill in their center position. Maybe that's better for their future.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a bit of a problem. 

Or, maybe it's less of a problem and more of a solution to this season's goals, and a tool they can use again in the future. 

They have no reliable big man. 

Isaiah Roby is 6-foot-8, undersized for a center. He is athletic though, but he can't finish at the rim, which really puts a damper on the slick passes he'll be receiving from Josh Giddey all year. He's going to get a ton of minutes as this team's center, but on most nights he will be feasted upon by the opposing bigs due to his height and defensive inexperience. 

Continuing the big man carousel that head coach Mark Daigneault appears to be spinning each night, Derrick Favors fits the bill as your veteran big. The guy you know will make the right play on defense and do his job. Except he's just 6-foot-9 and is barbecue chicken in the eye's of the Western Conference's many dominate centers. 

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You can throw in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Mike Muscala as stand-in centers, but they aren't built for the position defensively either, and can really only excel in smaller matchups. Every team needs some sort of defensive anchor in the post. A big that can use their strength or height to just bother the other team when they're called upon.

Before the season started that "intentional tanking" wouldn't even be needed, since this roster had a massive defensive weakness at center. Two benefits lie with that though, depending on your view of this rebuild. 

First, the losses are going to come naturally. Any team this thin down low is going to struggle to defend the paint, and that's going to mean easy baskets for the other team all season long. It also means the Thunder are going to have a good shot to slide into top three lottery odds simply by having this roster.

Second, we saw Utah lose to a Kawhi-less Clippers in the 2021 playoffs because they couldn't go small when they needed to. They knew how to play one way, and that's with Rudy Gobert anchoring the post. When Gobert was taken out of the equation by a small Clippers squad, it showed the value in being able to go small when you need to. Utah simply didn't know how to play that way, so they went out and signed Eric Paschall and Rudy Gay to give themselves that option this season.

The Thunder are going to develop that skill just by way of playing regular season basketball games. Moving forward though, and assumedly getting a good center further down this rebuild process, going small is going to always be a tool to have in their back pocket. When they reach the playoffs again, this season's defensive woes in the middle will all feel worth it. 

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