Grading The Oklahoma City Thunder Bench
Grading The Bench: The Oklahoma City Thunder
Before the start of the season, everyone knew that the Oklahoma City Thunder were in need of a third scoring option. Many predicted that Jeremy Lamb would be the guy to step up for the team. Although he has been very solid thus far, he hasn't been the only Thunder player not named Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook who has been playing exceptionally well early on in the 2013-14 NBA season.
The Thunder have gotten a lot of valuable minutes even deeper into the bench from players like Steven Adams and Reggie Jackson. Jackson was set to be the starter up until December, but an early return from Westbrook has him back playing his assigned role as backup point guard. Jackson has proven that he's expanded his game and become a better ball handler and scorer. He's averaging eight points per game and he's been big late in games.
You really can't ask for much more from a player like Jackson. No one gave him a chance before he actually got the opportunity to prove himself in last year's playoffs. He was seen as a player who'd fall in somewhere deep on the bench, picking up minutes in garbage time blowouts . His explosion in the playoffs has earned him solid minutes and respect from players and coaches this year. Everyone now actually expects good things from him when he steps on the court. His confidence is growing stronger with each game he plays.
Adams is still on the bench for now, but fans all over are lobbying for him to become the starting center in place of the struggling Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder surely won't be making any sudden drastic changes anytime soon as they are still trying to find out what players work best with what minutes and lineups. People seem to overlook that aspect of a head coach's job. It isn't easy for them sort out those minutes and evenly distribute them to the players worthy. I'm sure we'll eventually see some things get shaken up in the OKC front court, but not just yet. The bench is playing well and their focus is on getting better. Seeing as they're playing so well, I've decided to hand out some early grades on the Thunder's bench.
Derek Fisher - Grade: D+
After the Thunder's early and unexpected exit from the playoffs last year, I wasn't sure if we'd see Derek Fisher ever again. He did indeed return for the 2013-14 NBA season and he's yet to fit in with this young group of players. Fisher is averaging four points per game in 13 minutes of play, and he's been very inconsistent. One game he's in there for about 20 minutes and the next game he may see only five minutes on the court. Maybe I'm overlooking the fact that he's an older player and his minutes will need to be used wisely here early on. Fisher won't be asked to do much during the regular season. His heroics usually start showing when games start to hold more weight later in the season. I'd still like to see more of Fisher on a nightly basis.
Nick Collison - Grade: C-
Nick Collison is a very important player on the OKC roster. He's the longest tenured Thunder player, and he has an extremely high basketball IQ. When Collison is on the floor you know what you're going to get -- a high motor and great hustle. Players of his caliber are becoming hard to find, and that makes his presence even more valuable. He's a scrappy, smart and savvy veteran who will always make the most out of his role on the team. Collison is a fan favorite and one of my favorites as well.
Reggie Jackson - Grade: B-
Reggie Jackson has become an increasingly better player over the past two seasons. He earned a lot of respect after stepping up in last year's playoffs. He's started the year off on the right note, averaging 8.7 points, 4.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game through six games this season. Those are some really solid all-around numbers for any backup point guard. Expect those numbers to steadily rise as the season progresses.
Jeremy Lamb - Grade: B+
I've heard mixed reviews for Jeremy Lamb so far this season. That's something I don't understand because he's done everything asked of him and then some. People were expecting him to come this season averaging 15 or more points, instantly making up for loss of James Harden and Kevin Martin. The thing is he doesn't have to do that because the rest of the bench are doing their part as well. If Lamb had the ball more it'd just create more confusion for this Thunder team. Let him slowly progress and earn more responsibility as his gets more experience. Lamb is averaging 9.7 points and shooting .467 percent from the field; those numbers are easy to overlook if you haven't been watching him closely. He's been there every game and he's also hit some huge shots down the stretch. He has 360 degrees of room for improvement, and there's nothing negative to say about Lamb at this point.
Steven Adams - Grade: B+
Steven Adams is far better than his numbers let on. He's putting up six points, six rebounds and one block per game, but you'd have to watch him for yourself to truly understand his potential. He puts in around 20 minutes per game and shoots .520 percent from the field. He's a big guy who's learning more and more every day. He has a toughness about him that you just can't teach. Adams doesn't shy away from contact and he doesn't mind handing out some punishment of his own. He has the skills to be a good scoring big man as well as a great defender. Those are rare attributes nowadays in the NBA. The center position hasn't been as dominant in recent years giving Adams the chance to stick out like a sore thumb when the time comes.