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Ty's Time: Ty Jerome's Bench Ascension and the Puzzle Pieces yet to be Placed

Ty Jerome has risen from an out-of-rotation position to a nightly bench role within the Thunder’s roster.

When the Oklahoma City strapped up for the 2020-21 season, it was apparent Mark Daigneault had a positive predicament on his hands — his backcourt was permeating with talent.

With a legion of returning assets, an emerging star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a bevy of draft selections, the Thunder checked into the season with nine guards. As a result — wringing out a night-to-night guard rotation looked to be a nightmare.

Thus far, it has. The reasoning as to why — third-year guard Ty Jerome.

Jerome entered his third season finishing off a fruitful sophomore campaign averaging 10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists across 33 appearances — all the while doing so in a frugal 23.9-minute sample.

Despite solid second-year numbers, Jerome had become an immediate afterthought in roster construction heading into this season. With a 23-year-old Gilgeous-Alexander fresh off a max extension alongside the No. 6 pick in Josh Giddey, the starting gigs were already allotted. The bench posed a similar issue. With a potential-filled first-rounder in Tre Mann, and last year’s team leader in minutes, Theo Maledon — the day one rotation saw the 24-year-old on the outside looking in.

Now, the tides have shifted.

After opening the regular season behind Maledon and Mann in the guard rotation, it looked like a done deal that the minute-less guard would find himself in another jersey sooner or later. But, with a Maledon cold spell and a Mann G-League assignment in late October, Jerome got his chance. He’s been running with it ever since.

In what eventually led to a point guard positional battle, November saw Jerome and Maledon exchange pieces of the minute pie in the sunrise segments of the month. Jerome came out on top, placing 14 points and 9 points in back-to-back games. As for Theo, his feeble production in the face of pressure pushed him to the wayside, assigning the Frenchman to the G-League on November, 11.

Since Theo’s initial assignment to the Oklahoma City Blue, Jerome has carried over last season’s microwave-scoring role while providing a suitable ball-handling outlet when needed in the half-court. In short, Jerome’s knack as a catch-and-shoot threat paired with a vigilant passing ability caters towards what Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and company need — shooters.

Through 19 games this season, Jerome has chipped in eight double-digit scoring outputs, seven of which coming off of the bench, while logging 7.2 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists across 14.3 minutes per contest.

With Ty Jerome now receiving a sturdy double-digit workload within Mark Daigneault’s rotation, the spotlight now shines upon rookie Tre Mann and sophomore Theo Maledon for finding minutes — and one is bound to be on the outside looking in.

As it stands, Mann looks to be a key cog within the Thunder’s system. As the 18th selection in the draft, Mann strutted into OKC as a high-caliber prospect, but early on, the minutes simply were not there. However, after averaging 15.8 points in the G-League, including a 30-point outburst, Mann is back on the Thunder’s radar, and he’s picking up steam hastily.

Since Mann’s last pitstop with the Blue, the 20-year-old has netted a career-high 17 points and 7 rebounds, placed two-consecutive starts in absence of Josh Giddey and reaped the rewards of placing 13.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.7 assists across 29.7 minutes in his last three games. Rest assured, the former Gator should be out of the swamp.

Now with both Jerome and Mann settled in, Maledon has yet to regain footing since his early-November positional battle. 

Maledon made use of his six-game stint in the G-League harvesting 15.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4. assists, including a 28-point showing, but the sophomore’s shaky play in the big league’s have put the former second-rounder on a waiting list, just as Jerome had been tabbed to open the season.

Ty Jerome’s resurgence into Oklahoma City’s night-to-night roster has called for a bundle of benefits to Mark Daigneault’s drive-and-dish offense, but the additional puzzle pieces off of the bench have yet to be set in place — and they may never be.

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