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Oklahoma City Offered First Look at the Guard Rotation in Season Opener

Ty Jerome was a healthy scratch for the Thunder in their opening night loss to the Utah Jazz.

Oklahoma City’s season opener in Utah last night offered the first look into what the Thunder’s rotation may look like this season.

As OKC fell 107-86, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault worked a few extra guys in who might not have played otherwise, allowing 13 Oklahoma City players to log minutes.

Absent from the game, however, was bench guard Ty Jerome.

Jerome started last season with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League Bubble, but eventually returned to the Thunder roster alongside then-rookie Aleksej Pokusevski.

From the moment Jerome arrived back in OKC, he was an impact player for the Thunder reserves.

The former Virginia guard knocked down 42.3 percent of his shots from 3-point range while also dishing out 3.6 assists per game, and he always looked in command of the Thunder offense when he was on the floor.

But on Wednesday night, Jerome was a healthy scratch on opening night to pave the way for Oklahoma City’s sometimes forgotten first-round pick, Tre Mann.

In his NBA debut, Mann played nearly 15 minute, and had an efficient shooting night from the floor. The former Florida guard drained 4-of-7 shot attempts, knocking down 1-of-2 from deep.

“They went out there and competed and didn’t look overwhelmed at all,” Daigneault said after the game of the Thunder rookies. “I thought our team had a certain personality tonight. We had good and bad stuff as a team, but no individuals looked overwhelmed out there.”

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Mann’s 3-point shooting was one of the things that excited NBA scouts the most in the draft process, as he shot 40.2 percent from beyond the arc last year.

The Thunder rookie may not ever be the creator that Jerome is, but he’s certainly more athletic, and if he can continue to grow into his role in the NBA and utilize that athleticism to create his own shot, Mann could be a nice piece off the bench for the Thunder going forward.

Daigneault downplayed Jerome’s absence from the contest, reinforcing that he’ll get some run this season.

“That’s what we’re rolling with right now,” Daigneault said. “Tre early to get him out there with our starters. It allows us to get Josh (Giddey) back in early and then play Theo (Maledon) deeper into the second and the fourth. We’ll look at a lot of different things as we try to find the right chemistry with the team.

The backcourt rotation will continue to be interesting as the season develops just due to the sheer number of players who can play a role there for the Thunder on the current roster.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and Lu Dort will gobble up a majority of the minutes in the starting roles, but Kenrich Williams, Maledon, Vit Krejci, and Aaron Wiggins are all guys that Oklahoma City would probably like to get some developmental minutes this season alongside Mann and Jerome.

Managing the bench to ensure everyone gets time to develop will be key for Daigneault as the 2021-22 season unfolds for Oklahoma City.

“We’re going to need everybody,” Daigneault said. “Those guys know it’s a long season and everybody ends up contributing at one point or another.”

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