Derek Fisher was supposed to be too old.
Jeremy Lamb was supposed to be too raw.
Steven Adams was supposed to be a stiff.
That's what the pundits and prognosticators pumped throughout the preseason, anyway, all in an effort to prove that the Oklahoma City Thunder bench would be bad this year.
But a funny thing has happened. Through the season's first five games, OKC's second string has been a surprising bright spot.
Among reserve units, the Thunder's ranks third in both field goal percentage (.485) and opponent field goal percentage (.376). It is in the top 20 in both rebounding (18.0 and assists (8.2).
The Thunder's bench is averaging 34.6 points, which ranks 12th, but of the 11 teams that are slotted higher at this point only Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas and Boston has scored more in fewer minutes.
Now, the same supporting cast that was so maligned a month ago suddenly is showing how it can be one of the team's strengths.
“Those guys are being aggressive and, to me, I think that group of guys have a chip on their shoulder,” said Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. “Everybody talks about how we don't have a bench and who's going to be this and who's going to be that. And I think, together, they're doing a good job of just playing basketball, making plays, doing everything that we need to do to win games.”
Many of the questions about the Thunder's depth, believe it or not, are lingering concerns that arrived when James Harden was traded. At the start of last season, few thought the second unit would be the same without its former sixth man. Harden's replacement, Kevin Martin, faced some of the same questions this year's group is facing. But now that Martin has moved on to Minnesota, many more questions have risen.
Entering the year, the Thunder faced valid questions about how the bench would score and which player would anchor that effort. So far, the answer has been a team approach that is showing potential of being as good, or better, than anything the Thunder has seen in the past.