The 2021-22 NBA season is getting closer by the day. In just over a week, Oklahoma City Thunder training camp will begin as players start to compete for roster spots and minutes in the regular season rotation.
Additionally, the Thunder will have four preseason games to let guys prove their worth before the final roster has to be trimmed down heading into the season.
One of the most interesting positions on the roster this season is the center spot, where OKC doesn’t have a young guy to develop. However, they do have a couple of veterans and young stretch bigs who will fill out the depth chart.
Starting Center: Derrick Favors
Mainly due to lack of competition for the starting job, Derrick Favors will be forced to start and play a ton of minutes at center this season. Although undersized at 6-foot-9, Favors is incredibly strong and an effective traditional center, even in the modern NBA.
Before last season in New Orleans, Favors was a guy who consistently started most games he played in the seven years prior. In fact, he’s got 485 career starts under his belt, which will only increase this season with the Thunder as their main center.
Backup Center: Mike Muscala
With center being the one position that the Thunder don’t have a young guy to groom, the backup this season could also be a veteran. Mike Muscala will play more of a mentorship role off the court this season, but when he does play should be effective with his floor spacing.
Favors is more of a traditional center, meaning Muscala can give defenses a different look without losing size. At 6-foot-10 with a solid frame, he can truly play the center position for long stretches.
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No. 3 Center: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
When Oklahoma City decides they want to play small-ball, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl could be the go-to guy this season at center. With that in mind, the rookie certainly isn’t a true center and isn’t viable at the position for long stretches of a game at 6-foot-9.
In NBA Summer League last month, Robinson-Earl was forced to play quite a bit of center with no other true bigs on the roster. He looked very comfortable most of the time, but the talent he’ll be up against in the regular season will be much higher.
No. 4 Center: Isaiah Roby
Similar to Robinson-Earl, Isaiah Roby is not a center in the NBA, but has proven to be effective when playing in smaller lineups at big. He can’t give you a ton of minutes at the five, especially against teams with an elite center, but does provide additional lineup versatility.
At 6-foot-8, Roby will split his time between the wing, the stretch four and small-ball five. His strength and athleticism often goes unnoticed, but he’s one of the better athletes in Oklahoma City, which helps him on both ends of the floor when he’s playing undersized.
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