An unproven center, a backup journeyman and two shooting guards at career crossroads. That's the collection of talent the Oklahoma City Thunder added this offseason.
And yet this is a team believed to be deeper than a year ago.
Whether that notion remains perception or becomes reality will play out in time, but for now the Thunder is confident in siding with the latter.
"Yeah," said veteran forward Nick Collison, one of last season's few rock-steady reserves. "More guys are getting more experience. Our younger guys feel more comfortable. So without making a lot of personnel moves I do think it's a little deeper because we got guys that were inexperienced last year who are more able to fulfill a role and play if their number is called."
While another year of seasoning should indeed supply better results, there is no guarantee that the newcomers are capable of contributing if called upon. There is no doubt, however, that the Thunder needs more production. Oklahoma City averaged 26.1 bench points per game last season, the third lowest in the league, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
This summer, the team acquired rookie Cole Aldrich from New Orleans in a draft-night trade. After three seasons at perennial power Kansas, the 6-foot-11 center is expected to transfer his same defensive tenacity to the NBA level. Adding his skills could be a huge coup considering the Thunder is building a team in which offense stems from defense. But it's anyone's guess how long Aldrich's transition might take.
OKC also acquired shooting guard Mo Peterson, a 10-year veteran, in that same deal with New Orleans, while receiving a second sharpshooter, Daequan Cook, in a salary-dump deal with Miami. Peterson's game has been in decline since he posted a career-high average of 16.8 points in 2005-06, and Cook's production took a major nose dive in his third season with the Heat last year before falling out of the rotation.
Six-year veteran Royal Ivey, meanwhile, the Thunder's lone free agent signee, is a point guard who figures to see playing time only through someone else's misfortune.
Still, it wouldn't take much to convince anyone that the quartet is certainly more skilled than the foursome it replaced in Etan Thomas, Kyle Weaver, Kevin Ollie and Mustafa Shakur. And with 11 players returning more experienced and presumably better, coach Scott Brooks will have some difficult decisions to make if any of the new four prove deserving of even the slightest playing time.
"When you're a good team, that's what happens," Brooks said. "We have depth that's going to help us. It's going to help us get better in practice, and it's going to help us in the games. I think it's very healthy. It makes my decisions tough, but I'm looking forward to them. I'd rather have that decision than not have any players that can help you win."
Brooks has yet to settle on a rotation. But on the second day of training camp he said he already is contemplating units that he might go with. Brooks thinks his team's multiple interchangeable pieces will allow him to act and react based on any situation.
"Depth is always the best thing for a coach," Brooks said.
But how much better has it made the Thunder?
"It's too soon (to know)," Collison said. "I think what we do have is the energy and the concentration. Those are the two things that we can control every day and we need to have at a high level to get better. And I've seen that in the first two days."