Young and rebuilding teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder generally don’t find consistency in their night-to-night lineups. What fans can expect though, is a lot of burn for the players this organization is interested in developing. Coincidentally, that’s almost the the entire team since the Thunder have the youngest roster in the league.
That means a wide variance, and a lot of creativity in those lineups. Aleksej Pokusevski at point guard? Sure! Darius Bazely at center? Why not! Mike Muscala at shooting guard? Certainly no!
The thing to look for in these lineups that will often be the hardest to find though, is playmaking.
Josh Giddey may emerge quickly this season as the Thunder’s best playmaker, which says a lot about Giddey’s natural passing ability and vision, but provides context on the potential chasm between this teams’ second and third best playmaker.
When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, incredible scorer and not-quite-incredible passer and Giddey are sitting, who will head coach Mark Daigneault put in charge of playmaking duties? If you follow Sam Presti’s roster decisions since the rebuild began, finding a “primary playmaker” may not be in the cards. Presti has built this roster full of guys that can do most things on the court, including passing.
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Being able to pass and being able to make plays for your teammates are different though. The coaching staff will be looking for players that can be the bridge between the teams’ generally high basketball-IQ, and actually scoring a bucket.
It’s expected that guys like Ty Jerome and Theo Maledon will spend time as lead guards when the starting back court is on the bench, but look out for nights where Pokusevski essentially plays point guard in a reserve role. That could be why he comes off the bench this season.
Number one, it gets Darius Bazely a chance to start in what is a prove-it year for him, and number two, it lets Pokusevski be himself with the Thunder bench. Step-back threes, behind-the-back passes and euro-steps are what the Thunder should continue to encourage Pokusevski to do. Build confidence and learn from the mistakes he will inevitably make.
The Thunder will likely continue to push guys on their roster into roles they wouldn’t expect to be in. It’s how they’ll get the most out of this young and developing roster, and it’s what will be second nature by the time this team reaches the playoffs again.
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