The deadline for NBA teams to set their rosters is Monday at 4 p.m., but Thunder coach Scott Brooks said before Tuesday's preseason game at Phoenix that cuts likely will be made before then.
Oklahoma City still has 16 players on its roster, one more than the league allows for the regular season. But the Thunder is unlikely to carry 15 players into the regular season, meaning two players would need to be waived in order for the team to ensure it stays under the tax threshold and maintains flexibility for potential midseason moves.
It appears the final spot will come down to forward Ryan Gomes and point guard Diante Garrett. Gomes has the advantage of being a seven-year veteran, but Garrett plays a position at which the Thunder currently lacks depth due to the injury to starter Russell Westbrook.
If preseason playing time provides any indication of which direction the Thunder is leaning, Garrett had appeared in all five contests prior to Tuesday night, logging 38 minutes, while Gomes had appeared in only one game, playing 12-first half minutes.
“It's coming down,” Brooks said of cut day. “The next three or four days. Just get by these next couple of games and then we make a decision shortly after.”
With Garrett, a 24-year-old Iowa State product who appeared in 19 games as a member of the Suns last season, Brooks said he's mostly looking to see how he commands the floor.
“I'm not looking for a guy that's going to come in and score a bunch of points,” Brooks said. “But he has to be sharp with his decisions and lock in on the defensive end. That third point guard spot has to be a player that's just going to play hard and not make a lot of mistakes.”
Brooks said Garrett gives the team good energy and also praised his confidence on the court.
“He has a way about himself that I like,” Brooks said. “I think he can be a good player in this league. He can make shots. He sets the offense up. At this point, we don't know exactly what we're going to do. But he's made a good impression in the time that he was here.”
KENDRICK PERKINS RETURNS
Starting center Kendrick Perkins on Tuesday rejoined the lineup for the first time since the preseason opener on Oct. 5.
Perkins had missed the previous four games with a dislocated left ring finger, an injury he sustained just before halftime in the opener.
As a 10-year veteran, Perkins has established himself and the coaching staff knows what to expect out of him. Still, Brooks said playing in the team's final two preseason games will be beneficial for Perkins from a conditioning standpoint.
“So it's just good for him to be on the court,” Brooks said. “No matter what you do — and I think our guys do a great job of keeping guys in condition — when you have nine other players running around you, it's a different part of conditioning that needs to take place.”
Kevin Durant, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher were all held out of Tuesday's game. Each was given the night off. Durant will play Wednesday against Chicago in Wichita. … Westbrook did not accompany the team on this two-game road trip. But he is expected to travel with the team during the regular season. … Thabo Sefolosha is not expected to play against the Bulls.