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The Search For A 15th Man

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: March 1, 2011
Shaun Livingston served as the 15th man for a time with the Thunder. Who will it be this year?
Shaun Livingston served as the 15th man for a time with the Thunder. Who will it be this year?

Days after Thursday’s trading deadline saw four players shipped out of Oklahoma City and only return three, effectively creating one open roster spot, speculation about which player might join the Thunder began to run rampant.

Corey Brewer and Jason Kapono were two of the early names the Thunder reportedly had interest in.

But on Tuesday, the team’s plans for the 15th position became a little bit clearer. And those plans don’t sound like they include Corey Brewer or Jason Kapono types.

“That 15th spot, nothing against that 15th spot because I was that 15th spot a few times in my career, it’s very slim that that spot plays,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It’s usually a high energy (player) that makes practices very competitive.”

Look back through the Thunder’s history and you’ll see that precise pattern.

During the 2008-09 season, the Thunder signed center Steven Hill to man that spot, then waived him when Nenad Krstic agreed to an offer sheet. Point guard Chucky Atkins was then acquired as part of a mid-season trade with Denver and assumed the role. Late in that season, Shaun Livingston was signed as the 15th man when Joe Smith was waived on March 1.

Last season, the Thunder started the year with Ryan Bowen as its 15th man. Bowen logged just eight minutes in one game before being waived. He was replaced by Mike Wilks in late November. Wilks played just 59 minutes over four games. When the Thunder acquired Eric Maynor, it had to take on Matt Harpring’s contract as well, forcing the team to waive Livingston and Wilks. The Thunder later waived Harpring (who was injured and never reported to OKC) and signed Antonio Anderson from the D-League’s Rio Valley Grande Vipers as the 15th man. Anderson played 15 minutes in just one game while lasting on two 10-day contracts. In mid-March, the Thunder replaced Anderson with guard Mustafa Shakur, first inking him to a 10-day contract, then for the rest of the season. Shakur never appeared in a game for the Thunder.

Going off the Thunder’s history, the current spot would seemingly be filled by a lesser known player, perhaps from the D-League or a veteran who can provide a stabilizing presence. A few of the more realistic names include: Leon Powe, Elijah Millsap, Dominic McGuire, Jannero Pargo, Devin Brown, Trenton Hassell, Da’Sean Butler, Kyle Weaver (yes, that Kyle Weaver) and Ime Udoka.

That’s all just more speculation, of course, as there is a chance, albeit remote, the spot goes unfilled.

“We’ve talked about it,” Brooks said. “It’s always a spot that can stay available. I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to figure out how we can integrate our players that we have now. I’m not sure if we’re going to use that or not. But if we do, I know it’s going to be another player that we can know what to expect from him. He’s going to be a good kid. He’s going to be a worker. And he’s going to have some good skill sets.”

And just because the Thunder now has a logjam at point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center doesn’t mean a more natural small forward is the target, Brooks said.

“We have a lot of options with our team that we can throw different lineups out there,” said Brooks. “Kevin (Durant) does not really have a true backup, but Daequan Cook can play there, Thabo (Sefolosha) can play there, we can throw James (Harden) there, we can throw Kevin at the 4. We can throw different lineups on the floor that if we pick up somebody it doesn’t necessarily (have to be) a 3.”


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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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