As of now, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s starting lineup looks nearly solidified. It would be surprising if Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort and Chet Holmgren didn’t take the floor as starters on opening night.
That final starting spot in the frontcourt alongside Holmgren is much less clear. More than likely, that spot will be filled by either Jeremiah Robinson-Earl or Darius Bazley.
Both of these forwards have experience being a starter at the NBA level, but have different skillsets. It’s also important to ensure the player that slots into this role fits with Holmgren.
Bazley is a better defensive option as it relates to perimeter-oriented players. While he’s gained weight and has gotten stronger during the offseason, he might not be the best fit next to Holmgren on that end. Any teams with a big, physical frontcourt would be a matchup problem for how thin Holmgren and Bazley would be. With that in mind, they’d be fantastic on offense with the versatility they’d bring on the perimeter.
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On the flip side, Robinson-Earl would likely be a better fit on the defensive end given his frame. He’s the same height as Bazley but is stronger and more physical. He’s proven to be a better option defending centers, while Bazley is better against wings and forwards. Robinson-Earl is a bit more limited on the offensive end, but is more than capable as a cutter and a catch-and-shoot option from beyond the arc.
In reality, the Thunder will likely give both of these guys the opportunity to prove they fit as a starter alongside Holmgren at some point, but only one can earn the spot on opening night.