When the Thunder re-signed Nazr Mohammed to a contract extension last month, many wondered what that meant for center Cole Aldrich.
Some viewed Mohammed's deal as a reflection of the organization's opinion of Aldrich. But there is no correlation between the two.
Mohammed is a savvy veteran who provides leadership and experience in addition to underrated offensive and defensive ability. Aldrich, on the other hand, is a still-wet-behind-the-ears big man who is expected to blossom in due time.
But the plan for Aldrich hasn't changed. Expect the rising second-year center out of Kansas to be in town for the foreseeable future.
The Thunder dealt two first-round picks to trade up to snag Aldrich at No. 11 in the 2010 draft, and the organization hasn't put Aldrich on any sort of timetable for when he should sprout. If anything, though, Mohammed's presence should speed Aldrich's development rather than delay it.
But because Aldrich was limited to 18 games and only 7.9 average minutes in his rookie season, it becomes easy to view Mohammed's return as a detriment. A better way of looking at Mohammed's re-signing, however, is to focus on the impact he can have on a young player.
There is no guarantee that Mohammed remains ahead of Aldrich in the rotation. It's possible Aldrich bumps Mohammed next season and becomes the full-time backup center to Kendrick Perkins. But even if Aldrich doesn't crack the rotation, he'll have Perkins and Mohammed, as well as Nick Collison, to learn from in practice.
And Aldrich has proved to be a willing learner.
“He's a humble guy, he works hard and he can play,” Perkins said. “I think he's going to provide some good minutes for us next year. He's just got to be ready. One thing I've learned about Coach (Scott) Brooks is he's not just going to give you minutes. He's going to have to come in and earn his minutes.”
Aldrich has dedicated this summer to sharpening his skills. He said his main goal is “just to get better.”
“Just work hard and make sure that when the season does come around, whether it's in September or whenever it is, I come in in shape and make sure I've gotten better,” Aldrich said.