Oklahoma City Thunder: DeAndre Liggins the biggest surprise in Thunder camp
The former Kentucky standout plays a tough brand of defense that might earn him the last roster spot
DeAndre Liggins made it crystal clear at Thunder media day why he came to Oklahoma City.
“I'm just trying to get a job,” he said. “That's all I'm trying to do.”
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After two weeks, he looks like the right man for the gig.
Liggins, the 6-foot-6 swingman out of Kentucky who played his rookie season with Orlando last year, has the resume, the references and the right skills to earn the 15th and final roster spot on the defending Western Conference champion.
Through three preseason games, last year's 53rd overall pick has been the most pleasant surprise of all 19 players in Thunder camp.
“He plays defense with everything he has,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “And you love guys that play with their hearts out every possession.”
Liggins is in a tightly contested, five-man race for the final spot. Joining him are center Daniel Orton and guards Hollis Thompson, Andy Rautins and Walker Russell Jr. If we don't assume he has secured the 14th spot, Hasheem Thabeet would be in the mix as well, making it a six-man battle for two spots.
Either way you slice it, Liggins has a leg up and one word explains why.
Asked before making his first start against Charlotte on Tuesday what fans should know about him, Liggins repeated “toughness” four times. It was only a six-word answer.
The other two words: “That's it.”
A quick check with the team's most trusted reference confirmed as much.
“He's a workhorse, man. I love him,” said Kevin Durant. “He's just quiet, comes in and does his job and plays hard every possession. You can tell he's a guy that's tough and has been that way his whole life. You can just tell by how he plays that he's been working from the bottom to get to the top his whole life. People have counted him out, I'm sure, but he continues to keep beating the odds and he's having a really, really good preseason.”
Liggins isn't just lodged in a numbers game. He's at the mercy of a coaching staff and front office that must choose what singular skill they feel is best to add to an already stacked squad.
Rautins is a pure shooter. Russell is a pure point guard. Thompson is a shooter with the potential to be a defender. Orton is an athletic space eater with good offensive awareness. Thabeet is a shot-blocker.
“We definitely have a lot of good choices,” Brooks said. “We have guys that can do things that the other guys can't … It's whoever plays the best … We're going to make the decision in a couple of weeks.”
In the meantime, Liggins has played like a man fighting to put food on his table.
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