After a season filled with injuries, youthful integration, a pile of 10-day contracts and a midseason veteran signing, the dust is beginning to settle.
The Thunder’s postseason rotation is starting to take shape.
And if you’re a Thunder fan who advocates a youth movement at the back end, you might want to look away.
With Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha back in the fold, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks has all the veteran options he could dream of at his disposal. And it’s looking like a majority of the allotted on-court time is going to be filled with them.
In the Thunder’s 116-94 win over New Orleans on Friday night, all 13 active players got in the game. It was a laugher from start to finish. But come playoff time, there aren’t going to be many — or likely any — blowouts like that.
So the better case study came on Wednesday night in Los Angeles. It was a meaningful game with a playoff feel. And with the entire roster available, it gave a brief peek into what we’ll likely see during the two-month trek that begins next weekend.
Against the Clippers, Sefolosha got 24 minutes and Perkins got 22, a combined 46 of an available 240 that weren’t being taken up as recently as last week.
And beyond those two, Brooks gave his three stars a combined 104, his sixth man 24 and his three bench vets 47. That’s the expected nine-man rotation: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Perkins, Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler, Derek Fisher and Nick Collison.
Beyond that, Steven Adams looks like the 10th man. Among the Thunder’s five first- or second-year players, he seems the most likely to carve out time in the playoffs. Needing more size and athleticism, he played the leftover 20 minutes in that Clippers game. But it’s night to night with him. Adams didn’t enter until mop-up time against the Pelicans on Friday.
So that leaves Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and Andre Roberson on the outside looking in. The postseason marathon is all about matchups and in unique cases –Miami, for example – youth, length and speed would seem to be of greater need. So Lamb and Jones could find some time there.
But in the games and moments that define NBA seasons, rotations historically tend to tighten up. The cornerstone guys play nearly full games. The veterans are trusted more. The fringe guys get relegated to a greater degree.
This season, the Thunder has shown more roster versatility than ever. Brooks has never had more proven bench options.
But barring some unforeseen circumstances, the youngsters look buried in a playoff numbers game.