Oklahoma City Thunder: Predicting the Final 15-Man Roster
Oklahoma City Thunder's Final 15-Man Roster
The Thunder are one of many favorites in a relatively deep Western Conference this season and return their core players. Last season, without budding NBA superstar and former Thunder player James Harden, Oklahoma City finished 60-22, the best record in the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City though lost guard Kevin Martin, the big piece in the Harden deal, in free agency in the offseason. Last season, Martin averaged 14 points per game and the Thunder will look to count on a large group of rookies and second-year players to help fulfill Martin's production.
OKC may be off to an even slower start this season though, as combo guard Russell Westbrook is still recovering from a knee injury which sidelined him for the final nine games of last year's NBA playoffs. Without Westbrook, the Thunder proved to be a completely different team, finishing with a 3-6 record.
As long as superstar Kevin Durant and defensive stalwart Serge Ibaka remain healthy, the Thunder will be in relatively good shape to begin the season. Last summer's playoffs proved exactly how much Durant and Westbrook need each other for the Thunder to get back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012. Thunder head coach Scott Brooks knows he needs both his superstars to bring home a championship as well.
Besides Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka, who else will make up the final 12 spots on the Thunder roster? Who should fans count on to replace Westbrook for the short term? Which players will be counted to provide a punch off of the bench to help replace Martin? Click through to meet the 2013-14 Oklahoma City Thunder.
15. Rodney McGruder
The 6-foot-4 rookie guard from Kansas State should get the slight edge over Diante Garrett in training camp, as McGruder has youth and talent on his side.
14. Andre Roberson
OKC loves their rookies, and there should be no reason to dump the versatile rookie Roberson. Originally drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves (Minnesota traded his rights to Oklahoma City for a conditional draft pick), Roberson could eventually provide some meaningful depth behind Kevin Durant and Thabo Sefolosha because of his excellent length and rebounding ability. He could see the floor later this year, but don't expect to see him much from the start.
13. Hasheem Thabeet
The former no. 2 overall draft pick is a complete bust, but the Thunder have plenty of weapons in their arsenal, so there is no pressure on the 7-foot-3 Thabeet. All he really has to do is be the defensive force and great rebounder which he was in college, and it'll only benefit Oklahoma City.
12. Jeremy Lamb
Acquired in the James Harden trade, the 6-foot-5 Lamb was excellent playing off of Kemba Walker in college. The Thunder are hoping his sharp perimeter shooting ability can kick in soon to help take attention away from Durant and Russell Westbrook. The sooner the better, because remember, Kevin Martin is no longer around in OKC either.
11. Steven Adams
Cole Aldrich didn't work well in Oklahoma City, so the Thunder took a gamble with the 11th overall pick in this year's NBA Draft, selecting the big 7-foot center from New Zealand (Adams played college basketball at Pittsburgh). Adams could potentially become Kendrick Perkins' successor in the future, so expect Adams to play more than the other rookies on the roster this season.
10. Perry Jones
The 6-foot-11 Jones has a similar body type to his superstar teammate, and he has always had incredible star potential dating back to his freshman year at Baylor. The Thunder selected Jones with the 28th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft possibly because he was always regarded as a top-10 talent that could become a nightmare matchup due to his super athletic abilities. For a guy with so much upside and potential, only Jones has the potential to not benefit from this situation in OKC.
9. PG Derek Fisher
A fan favorite and a veteran leader wherever he goes, Fisher isn't starting material but he is an excellent mentor on and off the basketball court. Nothing more, nothing less.
8. Reggie Jackson
Besides Westbrook, Jackson is the other player who could benefit from Fisher's tutelage. Jackson has potential to become a dependable sixth man off of an NBA bench, but he will get a golden opportunity early this season with Westbrook still sidelined with his knee injury.
7. Ryan Gomes
Gomes was part of the Los Angeles Clippers' insane talent off of the bench last season, and his role will be very similar in Oklahoma City. Gomes is similar to Thunder rookie Andre Roberson, as both players are versatile forwards who have incredible length and rebounding ability. Roberson could take some tips from this NBA veteran.
6. Kendrick Perkins
A brute force in the middle, the Thunder can always guarantee a physical presence and non-stop mentality in the paint with Perkins. The veteran center has the right attitude for a Thunder team hungry to take the final step as a franchise.
5. Nick Collison
Collison has provided great versatility in the frontcourt off of the bench in relief of Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in what seems like decades now. Collison is great in his role as a hard-working presence on the floor with a consistent motor. Every elite team needs a role player like Collison.
4. Thabo Sefolosha
Sefolosha has been a steady player in Oklahoma City and with the loss of veteran guard Kevin Martin in free agency, Sefolosha could be averaging more than 7.6 points per game this season, especially if Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb can't provide a scoring threat in the backcourt in the wake of Russell Westbrook's absence.
3. Serge Ibaka
Serge "I-Block-a" improved his scoring and rebounding last season compared to the 2011-12 season. His blocks per game average dipped from 3.7 per game to just over three blocks per game, but expect same old Serge to wreak havoc in the paint again this season. And what is most scary? Ibaka turned 24-years old in September, meaning he is only getting better.
2. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is the most criticized player on the Thunder roster, but fans and pundits should lay off the young veteran. Oklahoma City, the best regular season team in the Western Conference last year, finished 3-6 in the playoffs without Westbrook and saw an early quarterfinals exit. Kevin Durant can't do it alone, because Westbrook is truly that valuable to the success of the Thunder.
1. Kevin Durant
Durantula is back and will likely be better than ever. Durant turned 25-years old in September and with the loss of last year's third-leading scorer Kevin Martin (free agency), it is safe to expect the 6-foot-10 superstar forward to average at least 30 points per game this year. He can't do it alone though -- he needs Westbrook just as much as Westbrook will need him.