The Thunder got down to its final 15-man roster Saturday by waiving center Daniel Orton, guard Andy Rautins and forward Hollis Thompson.
“All three of them were very good,” coach Scott Brooks said. “They really gave us a great showing in camp. They made my decision very tough. It's not easy to do. Obviously, we couldn't keep 18 guys. … I would not be surprised if they were all back in the NBA soon. They were all good in their own way and they all brought something very unique to the table.”
Guard DeAndre Liggins filled the lone available roster spot and joined rookie forward Perry Jones III and free agent center Hasheem Thabeet as the only newcomers to this year's team, which opens the regular season Thursday at San Antonio.
“With DeAndre, we felt that his size, his athleticism, his defensive toughness is something we are intrigued with and we like,” Brooks said of the 6-foot-6, 209-pound Kentucky product, who spent last season with the Orlando Magic. “He brought it every day in practice. Every game we threw him in there, he made something happen. He's a rebounder, he's a defender and he plays with a lot of toughness.”
The 22-year-old Orton, who starred at Bishop McGuinness High School and spent two seasons with the Magic, appeared in one preseason contest for the Thunder, finishing with 13 points (5 for 6 from the field) and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
“There's always a chance,” Brooks said when asked if he feared another NBA team acquiring the 6-foot-10, 255-pound Orton. “They're in this position because they're right there to be an NBA player. … He's a talented guy with great hands, a big who can play.”
Rautins played in four games and averaged 7.0 points, 1.3 rebounds and 11.5 minutes. Thompson was in three games and averaged 2.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 9.7 minutes.
With final cuts out of the way, the Thunder's most pressing deadline now becomes 10:59 p.m. Wednesday.
That's the last allowable moment for guards James Harden and Eric Maynor to sign contract extensions, and also is the deadline for Thunder general manager Sam Presti to exercise team options for center Cole Aldrich, guard Reggie Jackson and forward Lazar Hayward.
Players who have their options picked up are guaranteed next year's salary. Those not picked up become unrestricted free agents and are free to join any team.
Extensions seem likely for Aldrich ($3.25 million salary in 2013-14) and Jackson ($1.26 million), but not for Hayward ($2.12 million).
The Thunder had a brief, 45-minute workout Saturday morning and will not practice Sunday. “A lot of running (Saturday),” Brooks said. “It was short, but a lot of good things we got accomplished. It was short, but it was good.” … Brooks attended Saturday night's Oklahoma-Notre Dame football game as a guest of Thunder owner chairman Clay Bennett. … Projecting the top 20 rivalries in the NBA this season, The Basketball Jones put the Thunder vs. Miami Heat at No. 3, Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers at No. 6 and Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs as No. 13.
Brooks' reaction to Russell Westbrook being picked by NBA general managers as the league's fastest player with the ball: “If there's a guy faster than Russell, it's going to be hard to do, unless (Olympic sprinter Usain) Bolt comes on an NBA team and runs against him. Russell's as fast as anybody who ever played the game. He has the speed.”