John Lucas' Chances
I’m often asked whether John Lucas has a chance to make the team. My answer usually is it’ll be tough.
You never want to count a guy out, and Lucas is a player who has proven he can play in the NBA. In his first preseason action with the Thunder on Saturday against Golden State, Lucas scored six points with a team-high-tying four assists, two rebounds and one steal in 16 minutes.
But Lucas seems caught in a numbers game with the Thunder, which currently has 14 guaranteed contracts or one below the maximum a team can take into the regular season.
Teams generally prefer to leave a roster spot open when possible to allow maximum flexibility in the regular season. What is “maximum flexibility?” It’s something that allows teams that are below the roster max to sign a player in mid-season in case rampant injuries set in. It’s something that allows teams that are below the roster max more options in trade scenarios, granting teams an opportunity to take more players back in a trade than they’re sending out if need be because of the finances.
Helping Lucas’ cause is that teams usually want to have three point guards, and Lucas is more than capable of being a third-string point guard in this league. Earl Watson and Russell Westbrook, however, will command so many minutes at point guard that a third point guard is not high on the team’s pressing needs list, which brings up another problem for Lucas.
The Thunder is so thin in the frontcourt with injuries to power forwards and centers that any addition likely will be made with those positions in mind. Guards and wing players, however, are the Thunder’s deepest positions right now.
If Lucas doesn’t make the team, the Thunder can’t just stash him in Tulsa like some people have asked. Lucas would no longer belong to the team and he can sign wherever he wants, whether it’s another team, overseas or with a D-League team. If Lucas made the team, the Thunder couldn’t send him down to Tulsa anyway because he’s already amassed two years of experience. The NBA’s farm system setup is for players with no more than two years experience.
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