He came to town as an unknown on an unlikely mission.
Make the team — a championship caliber team — as a training camp invitee.
DeAndre Liggins did that and more, establishing himself as a tough and tenacious defender before briefly becoming a rotation player.
His next goal?
“I don't know if they want to bring me back,” the second-year Thunder guard said. “I would like to be in OKC. But of course, this is a business.”
The Thunder has the option to bring Liggins back on a non-guaranteed minimum contract worth roughly $884,000. Given the team's rising payroll, which is expected to be right at the tax threshold, it'd be surprising if Liggins didn't return.
After the way Liggins left his imprint, how could the budget-conscious Thunder not bring him back?
“When I displayed the grit, toughness, that's what this organization is about,” Liggins said. “Toughness. Grit. Professionalism. Character. I think I displayed that this year.”
Liggins averaged just 7.4 minutes in 39 games this season. But he made the most of his opportunities, averaging 1.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 steals. During a month-long stretch from mid-January to mid-February, Liggins joined Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet to form what became a gritty, defensive-minded second unit.
It was in that stretch that Liggins enjoyed his best game as a pro.
With starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha sidelined with a neck strain, Liggins stepped into the first five and scored 11 points with nine rebounds, both career highs, while playing a team- and career-high 39 minutes, 36 seconds.
“He wasn't coming out,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said that night. “We needed his energy. He showed that in training camp … that he can make an impact.”
The performance was memorable for Liggins in more ways than one.
Days earlier, his stepfather had passed away.
“I kind of wanted to get him that game and play well and just let it all out,” Liggins revealed after the season. “I think that game I had super confidence. I wasn't looking back. I wasn't over-thinking. I played like I belonged in the NBA that game. That was a great experience for me, too.”