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Player Grades: On the Bench

Player Grades: On the Bench

The Thunder have played 26 games and sit 1.5 from the bottom of the western conference standings with a less than appealing record of 8-16. But despite their lackluster win total, Oklahoma City hasn’t been as bad as you may think. Yes, I understand that might be a weird thing to say coming off a recent 73-point loss, but this season OKC has beaten the Lakers twice and maintained a competitive game against the Sixers, Warriors, Hawks and Jazz. The Thunder are not a team you can play without facing a challenge. We’ll be looking at how every Thunder player has performed thus far.

Paul Watson is in his third year on his third team and is clearly not an NBA quality player. He’s only appeared in five games for the Thunder, but at 27-years-old with no discernible skill set, he’s not going to last much longer in the NBA.

Starter grades: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander / Lu Dort: A- / Josh Giddey: B+ / Darius Bazley: D / Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Kenrich Williams: C+

Kenrich Williams has been about as expected. He’s a reliable player who can get a basket when needed and play solid on the defensive end of the floor. He’s likely not a part of the Thunder’s long-term future with this rebuild, but there is no reason he can’t stick around for now. He brings a composed presence to a young team, which can be important.

While he’s unlikely to have enough value to build a significant trade around, he would be an attractive piece to include in a larger deadline deal with a playoff contender.

Aleksej Pokusevski: D+

Pokusevski has seen a sharp decrease in minutes this year as he’s been relegated to a bench role. If we’re being completely honest here, the Aleksej Pokusevski experiment hasn’t made any real strides in Year 2. His comfort handling the ball is good to see, but outside of that he is still unable to consistently hit a shot, isn’t a reliable defender and sits among the worst players in the league for a second straight year.

However, I do believe it’s a bit unfair to cut the minutes of a player that you brought in with the intention of being a project. I would like to see the Thunder phase Bazley out of the rotation and give Poku more time to develop his game.

Derrick Favors : C+

Derrick Favors remains a very capable player in this league, a player that many teams would welcome off their bench. But in Oklahoma City, Favors knows his role isn’t to play and try to contribute to winning basketball, but rather to be a veteran presence for the developing young core. He has a reliable short-midrange jumper and can make a pass out of the high post. For any non-Thunder fans reading this, Favors would be a nice pickup for a team in need of a center off the bench.

Tre Mann: B-

By no means was I a Tre Mann fan after he was drafted, but I have come around over the first quarter of the season. His arsenal at his age (20) is impressive and while he lacks the ability to knock down the shot consistently, you can see the potential is there.

He has spent some time down in the G-League where he has been playing very well. In six G-League games he is averaging 15.8 points on 46.8% from the field and 36.7% from three.

His defense has been a welcome surprise as well. It was expected that he wouldn’t be a good defender coming into the NBA, but he’s held his own quite well. He’s quick on his feet and manages to stay attached to his man going around screens.

Plenty of reason to be excited for Tre Mann.

Mike Muscala: B+

Mike Muscala is the key veteran of this team. But beyond that, he’s performing very well and is a piece any contender would love to have. In limited minutes he’s averaging 8.1 points on 37.3% from three, a true stretch big.

Muscala has made his love for the organization well known, but I find it hard to believe he’ll be on the team post-trade deadline. He’s just a bit too good for the direction this franchise is going this season.

Isaiah Roby: B-

Isaiah Roby is not a bad player at all and I’m quite disappointed with the lack of minutes he is getting. In his second year with OKC, he’s continued as an efficient rim running big who can knock down the occasional three and pass out of the short roll. I’d expect him to see more minutes after the trade deadline with Muscala and Favors potentially out of the picture.

Theo Maledon: F

Look, I don’t want to be overly harsh, but Theo Maledon is not very good. At all. He was a starting guard for the majority of last season and was among the worst players in the league. This year he has seen a big step back in playing time as well as production. At just 2.6 points and 22.5% from the field, it’s easy to see why Mark Daigneault is favoring other guards in the rotation instead of Maledon. Unfortunately, he just does not do anything at the NBA level and will likely not see much more playing time in his NBA career.

Ty Jerome: C-

Ty Jerome isn’t that bad. He’s got a solid feel for the game and can get hot from three on occasion. But with a crowded guard position on this team, it’s not hard to figure out why he isn’t consistently in the rotation. He’ll continue to get some minutes here and there but barring injuries probably won’t be a consistent rotation fixture at all this season.

Gabriel Deck: F

Oh yeah, Gabriel Deck is still on the team. It’s been eight months since OKC signed the 25-year-old rookie out of Real Madrid to a four-year/$14.5m contract, yet I still don’t understand why it was done. Deck has played a total of 38 minutes across six games this season and has only recently been sent down to the G-League. Why is he on the roster? Did Sam Presti bring him over from Europe to become one of the best bench warmers in the NBA?

Vit Krejci: D+

Vit Krejci was a draft-and-stash who has now come over from Spain. He had worked his way back from an ACL injury that took his 2020-21 season from him in the Liga ACB. Across three games consisting of nine total minutes with the Thunder, Krejci has recorded just two points. He has had a solid showing in nine G-League games, averaging 6.9 points and 46.4% from three. I’m fine with keeping him around a little bit longer to see if there is anything there. Hopefully, he will have a chance to get a few more NBA minutes under his belt later in the year.

Aaron Wiggins: C-

Wiggins is another guy who hasn’t seen consistent rotation minutes this season, but in the minutes he has played, there have been some nice flashes. He’s hitting the three at a 37.5% rate and playing very solid defense. Across the last couple of weeks, he has begun seeing more minutes, even starting against the Utah Jazz. As a strong wing who can hit the three, he is someone I want to see more of.

Paul Watson: F

Paul Watson is in his third year on his third team and is clearly not an NBA quality player. He’s only appeared in five games for the Thunder, but at 27-years-old with no discernible skill set, he’s not going to last much longer in the NBA.

It’s been a very up and down year for the Thunder with varying levels of performance, but I think it’s safe to say it’s been a fun and intriguing season up to this point. The rebuild continues to march on.