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Thunder Journal: Projecting OKC’s Bench

Thunder Journal: Projecting OKC’s Bench

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[Serious drama TV show narrator voice] “Previously on DT Journal…”

My official guess for the 2021-2022 Thunder starting lineup: SGA-Dort-Giddey-Bazley-Favors

Compared to the bench, sorting out the starters is relatively easy. Attempting to work out how the Thunder are going to give Theo Maledon, Ty Jerome, Tre Mann and Kenrich Williams (and maybe Josh Giddey) backup guard minutes would stump Will Hunting.

But because there’s nothing else to ponder for now, I’ll take my stab at the bench rotation in my next journal.

Not to diminish the interest in this article from the outset, but I don’t think even Mark Daigneault nor Sam Presti could write an accurate journal entry based upon what the bench rotation will look like for the Thunder at the moment.

I must abide by the starting lineup I constructed in the prior journal. And I’m projecting Gabriel Deck and Vit Krejci to make the team and Charlie Brown Jr. to get good griefed out of OKC.

For the purposes of this exercise, I’ve restricted the reserve rotation to only five players to mock up a typical 10-man game night team. Given that all 10 bench players have an argument for minutes, the realistic outcome is that Daigneault expands to a 12 man rotation or alternates his bench nightly. But that’s boring. You’re here for a flawed but concrete bench squad and I’m gonna give it to you.

But first, my ranking of how OKC will likely prioritize bench minutes in 2021.

  1. Aleksej Pokusevski. Poku should be in the starting lineup. Star potential is locked and loaded in his fanny pack as the Thunder’s best prospect utside of SGA and Giddey.
  2. Tre Mann. On a rebuilding OKC team, mid-1st round picks don’t spend time in the G League. A scorer, shooter and shot creator with enormous upside who needs all the NBA minutes possible.
  3. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Don’t let the rookie label fool you, this man is more NBA ready than both of OKC’s incoming sophomores. And he’s one of the team’s only bigs.
  4. Theo Maledon. An up and down rookie campaign showed off Theo’s maturity and potential, but also warned of possible scoring inefficiency. Still only 20 years old, OKC will give Maledon every opportunity for growth.
  5. Ty Jerome. Sure, he’s old for a third-year player, but he’s still a young sharpshooter with unlimited range, a high basketball IQ and playmaking ability. He’s already a viable role player in this league and has room to improve. Ty is only capped by his lack of athleticism.
  6. Kenrich Williams. Winner of the just now made-up Thunder Best Bench Player 2020 Award, Kenny Hustle needs minutes despite his advanced age of 26.
  7. Gabriel Deck. La Tortuga crossed the ocean and took 19 COVID tests and played Fortenite at The Skirvin for four fortnights while in quarantine just to play limited minutes in 10 Thunder games to close last season. Though his contract isn’t guaranteed, it seems like a lot of trouble for everyone involved to sign him and keep him but not play him. But I have no idea how he cracks the top five of this reserve rotation.
  8. Isaiah Roby. I really do like the president of The Breakfast Club, but as a 23 year old tweener, how does he win rotation minutes over Bazley, Poku or JRE? Derrick could do Roby a big Favors by going the second half Horford route.
  9. Mike Muscala. Moose is probably the second-best player at the moment from the entire bench squad. Which is why we can’t guarantee this man any minutes.
  10. Vit Krejci. Coming off an ACL injury, Vit will likely redshirt his freshman season spending most of his time knocking off rust in the G League.

Combining the minutes prioritization along with positional fit, everything becomes clear besides the blurry boatload of guards. How do you play Theo, Ty, Tre and Tenrich? Unfortunately, you don’t. Mann is 100% in the rotation. Kenny is the best suited for the small forward spot and his leadership and skill will be rewarded with playing time. The last spot comes down to Theo and Ty. Ugh.

My official guess for the 2021-2022 Thunder starting lineup: Maledon-Mann-Kenrich-Poku-JRE

Don’t worry, despite analyzing this impossible task for two journals, Jerome is going to play for this Thunder team.

Then again, according to Vegas odds, there’s a 12 to 1 chance Ty may be included in a trade package for Ben Simmons. In that hypothetical, obviously OKC will have their super tall Australian point guard run the Thunder bench unit. And Josh Giddey will still start.