Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren have fans excited about the future in Oklahoma City, and rightfully so. The Thunder have an incredible head start to the rebuild with the talent at the top.
This off-season, though, Sam Presti and the Thunder have started to fill out the bench and find potential impact players in the second unit. The lineups will fluctuate throughout the season, and may even shift completely if the Thunder opt to develop towards the end of the season. But, this should be the first time in a long time that OKC has organization on the bench. There should be more of a consistency in playing time and minute distribution.
Predicting a bench lineup is tricky, especially knowing how many different guys could potentially start and the different position battles taking place. Oklahoma City will almost assuredly start Holmgren, Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey and Lu Dort as four-of-the-five, with room for fluctuation at the fifth spot. Just based off personal preference, Darius Bazley’s athleticism and strength fits in well with that group if he can accept a role on offense that doesn’t involve much creating.
If that’s what the starting lineup looks like in Oklahoma City, the bench will have a chance to be a very strong unit. At this point, it’s hard to envision Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl not being the first two off the bench. JRE could easily be a starter, which would move Bazley to that role as the first one off the bench. Mann and Robinson-Earl would be great young options to lead the second unit and develop their own game as well. With more freedom and shot attempts to go around, they could flourish.
Next in line would be lottery pick Jalen Williams, who absolutely looks ready to play right away. Williams should be in line for heavy minutes off the bench and can take on a playmaking role with the second unit. He and Mann will be responsible for taking care of the ball and he will be able to expand many areas of his game.
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The last two spots will likely be occupied by veterans, with room for Oklahoma City’s projects to step in. After a pay day this off-season, Kenrich Williams could play a bigger role on the floor. He’s been ultra efficient for the Thunder, but the team hasn’t been chasing wins with a Williams on the roster, making his fit a bit awkward. Now, with Williams locked in and the Thunder starting to compete, he will be the perfect glue guy.
Aaron Wiggins should receive minutes off the bench after a strong summer league. He's a widely efficient player for the Thunder and is a sneaky player to follow in regards to the future. Mike Muscala will also rotate in off the bench, as he’s proven to be a loyal, respected voice in the locker room and an incredible shooter off the bench. He’s the perfect stretch five.
Both Ousmane Dieng and Aleksej Pokusevski will have plenty of opportunity to seize court time if they are ready. The Thunder will continue practicing patience with those two, but if at any point they are ready to contribute, expect Oklahoma City to let them loose.