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OKC Thunder: Looking back on the starting stints for Andre Roberson and Steven Adams

Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha are back in the lineup for Oklahoma City, meaning Roberson and Adams are now at the end of the Thunder rotation. But their recent stint in the starting lineup came with plenty of positives.
by Anthony Slater Published: April 10, 2014

Kendrick Perkins made his return to the Thunder lineup late last week, sending Steven Adams back to the bench.

Then Thabo Sefolosha finally returned on Tuesday night, shipping Andre Roberson from the starting lineup to the inactive list.

And so it goes for the Thunder’s two rookies, with Adams expected to get spotty playoff minutes and Roberson expected to get next to none.

But before we spin this season ahead to the two months that will define it, let’s first look back at the interesting month-plus stretch that just preceded it. It was a hold the fort period for OKC, with two starters out and a third often joining them. But it also came with some collateral progress, particularly from the youngsters, with the Thunder becoming the first above-.700 winning percentage team in more than 20 years to start two rookies more than two games.

And really, that’s a stat that speaks to its rarity. Elite teams don’t play first-year players, particularly in meaningful games.

The Pacers and Heat don’t have a rookie in their rotation. The Spurs don’t have one on their roster. But from late February to early April, the Thunder had a pair in its starting lineup.

Overall, the results were expectedly inconsistent. But the experience could be invaluable.

“They've been in every situation this season,” Kevin Durant said. “As far as overtime games, winning by a lot, losing by a lot, close games…It's definitely going to help us down the line, and we're glad we have that youth on our team to help us and give us that depth.”

Every season, most of the NBA’s best rookies play on the league’s worst teams, a trend aided strongly by the draft process.

Michael Carter-Williams gets 35 minutes a night for the 17-win Sixers. Victor Oladipo averages 32 for the 23-win Magic. Durant started and starred for a bad Sonics team. Russell Westbrook did the same for a bad Thunder team.

“It was different for me,” Durant reflected, when asked to relate his experience to that of Adams and Roberson. “We were terrible. We won 20 games.”

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