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.
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