How many guesses would it have taken you to land on Cole Aldrich if asked at the start of the preseason which Thunder player would be the biggest standout through the first two games?
OK, don't answer that.
But that's what the Thunder's second string center has become while starting in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins.
Aldrich has recorded two double-doubles and blocked six shots the first two games. His style hasn't always been pretty, but at the end of each game no one could argue that he wasn't effective.
“Cole and the word pretty, that's not a good combination,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Cole and solid is what we like. It doesn't look pretty, and that's probably saying it very nicely.”
Aldrich prides himself on doing the little things on the court, and Brooks said that's exactly what the third-year man out of Kansas has done thus far.
“What Cole does is he protects the paint, he sets screens, he makes the (opposing) offense work, he makes baskets around the paint and he has good hands,” Brooks said. “He's worked. He's worked for two years and didn't get a lot of opportunities. I'm glad that he's played well the first two games.”
DUAL POINT GUARD BACKCOURT MAKES ITS DEBUT
Midway through Friday's game at Utah, the Thunder debuted a dual point guard backcourt that featured Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor. It's a lineup that possibly could be used at times this season to take advantage of Jackson's athleticism along with Maynor's playmaking in the second unit.
Although the Thunder fell 97-81 to the Jazz, the offense had a nice flow with both point guards on the floor together.
“It went well,” Jackson said. “Whoever got the ball really just pushed it, and I think he did a great job getting us in sets. Even in free throws, we talked it over sometimes, maybe what we should get into. Sometimes he was calling my number and I was telling him ‘no, no, no, go ahead, you got it.' Other times, I was calling his and he was telling me it was my turn.
“I think we were just trying to work with each other and just get better at that. We know it's a possibility. We really don't mind. Sometimes it's good having two point guards on the floor to alleviate each other. You don't really always have to make the play, and you trust that somebody else can help you command the other three guys on the court so it really helped relieve some stress for me and for him.”
HAYWARD HAVING TROUBLE
Through two games, Lazar Hayward has struggled to make an impact despite receiving two opportunities to start and log significant playing time.
Hayward has scored just 14 points on 4-for-16 shooting and has had difficulty containing his man defensively — the two things Brooks said Hayward needs to supply.
“He has to just provide us some toughness on the defensive end, and he has,” Brooks said. “And be able to knock shots down. That's one of the things he has to be able to do. He does it. He has to be able to do it in games.
“He didn't get a lot of opportunities last season, and he's going to get opportunities this preseason. He knows what we do, and he has to knock down some shots and continue to play with defensive toughness.”
With Hayward continuing to struggle — and find himself on the outside looking in on the regular season rotation — it doesn't appear likely that the team will pick up his fourth-year option prior to the Oct. 31 deadline. If the Thunder decides not to, it could mean more than $2 million in savings, a substantial sum that could help keep the team's costs down now that contract extensions to its top players are kicking in.
Hollis Thompson made his Thunder debut Friday against the Jazz. He scored six points with three rebounds in 20 minutes…Andy Rautins made his first appearance Friday but went scoreless in three minutes, missing his only shot attempt…The Thunder had a “development day” Saturday and is scheduled to take Sunday off before resuming full practice Monday.