Preseason basketball is right around the corner.
The Oklahoma City Thunder open their 2021 preseason slate on Oct. 4 when they host the Charlotte Hornets, and they’ll enter training camp in just two weeks.
As the roster appears to be rounded out for the most part, it’s time to start filling out the Thunder depth chart.
Over the next week, InsideTheThunder.com will be going position group by position group to project the OKC depth chart starting today with the point guards.
Starter: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
The starting point guard is perhaps the biggest no-brainer on the team.
Fresh off agreeing to a contract extension this summer, franchise cornerstone Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will get the nod when he’s healthy and available.
Last season in limited action, Gilgeous-Alexander took another leap forward and played at fringe All-Star levels, though he ultimately didn’t get the nod to play with the NBA’s best during the All-Star Game.
It’s not unrealistic to think that the former Kentucky guard could again show significant improvements in his game because that’s become the norm for Gilgeous-Alexander throughout his young NBA career.
“The most impressive think about him, especially with the offseason upon us, is every time you give that guy time in the offseason, he comes back better,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said during his exit interview at the conclusion of last season. “And he’s proven that time and time again.”
The real intrigue comes at who will backup Gilgeous-Alexander, as for this exercise Josh Giddey will be classified as a shooting guard, filling the role of Oklahoma City’s secondary ball handler behind Gilgeous-Alexander.
Backup Point Guard: Ty Jerome
Last week, the SI Thunder staff minted Ty Jerome as the choice to backup Gilgeous-Alexander off the bench.
In his first year with the Thunder, Jerome flashed incredible 3-point shooting range, as well as a great understanding of how to dissect opposing defenses.
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Jerome averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 assists per game last year while only turning the ball over 1.4 times per game, and he never really looked out of his depth running OKC’s second unit.
It could be a moot point, as it’s not unreasonable that Jerome and Theo Maledon will share the floor as Oklahoma City’s second unit guard pairing. But when purely projecting the backup point guard, Jerome gets the nod.
No. 3 Point Guard: Theo Maledon
By no means will the second-year Frenchman be buried in the Thunder rotation throughout the 2021-22 season. Maledon led all Thunder players in minutes last season, and the organization again proved they are invested in his development by handing him the keys to the offense during Summer League action last month.
But Maledon’s turnover problems and his lack of deep shooting range in comparison to Jerome has him slotted just behind the former Virginia guard.
Again, it may be a moot point if the Thunder look to recreate their three-guard lineup on the second unit, as Maledon and Jerome could see plenty of playing time alongside one another, but for now he should be the third choice at point guard for OKC.
No. 4 Point Guard: Tre Mann
The No. 18-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Thunder fans didn’t get much of a look at Tre Mann during the Summer League.
After a rocky shooting performance in the first game where Mann admitted he had some first game jitters, Mann flashed the shot creation ability in the second Summer League contest which saw him knock down 40.2 percent of his 3-point attempts last year at Florida.
Unfortunately, a personal matter saw him pulled from Summer League play, making it difficult to project where exactly he will fit in on this year’s Thunder roster.
Fortunately for Mann, Oklahoma City’s continual movement toward position-less basketball should give him plenty of opportunity to get some run on OKC’s second unit and allow him to develop throughout his rookie season.
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