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Oklahoma City Thunder: Breaking down OKC's options for a lineup change

A look at the Thunder’s options if coach Scott Brooks decides to change the starting lineup for Game 3.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 24, 2014

A look at the Thunder’s options if coach Scott Brooks decides to change the starting lineup for Game 3.

CARON BUTLER

Position: Small forward.

Who he could replace: Thabo Sefolosha.

Why you would: Butler is shooting 37 percent from 3-point range this postseason, a career best. His perimeter shooting must be accounted for, and that means San Antonio would have one less defender to focus on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Thunder coach Scott Brooks also replaced Sefolosha with Butler in Game 6 against Memphis and watched that move play a small part in helping the Thunder advance to the semifinals.

Why you wouldn’t: Butler has struggled to defend. The same can be said about everyone on the Thunder roster in this series. But swapping Butler for Sefolosha means Westbrook will have to take the challenge of slowing Spurs guard Tony Parker, and Butler will have to find a way to keep up with Danny Green, a task that could entail chasing him off multiple screens on each possession. Additionally, there’s no guarantee Butler is the offensive threat the Thunder sorely needs. He’s shooting 32.3 percent this postseason and has proved to be ineffective if his shot is not falling.

STEVEN ADAMS

Position: Center.

Who he could replace: Kendrick Perkins.

Why you would: Adams gives the Thunder athleticism it has never had at the center position. His dexterity makes him dangerous both in transition and in the halfcourt on putback and catch-and-finish opportunities. It also makes him a quality rebounder and shot-blocker. Those skills make Adams an impact player who requires more minutes no matter how they come.

Why you wouldn’t: Tim Duncan. Lest you believe a 20-year-old rookie is equipped to contend with arguably the greatest power forward of all time, Adams might be better suited coming off the bench. Perkins has done a decent job on Duncan defensively, and sitting him risks eliminating his effectiveness. But it’s not just that. Adams’ inexperience can get exposed in pick-and-roll situations whether he’s covering Duncan or Spurs center Tiago Splitter. That’s not something the Thunder can live with considering the Spurs already are carving up its defense and scoring with ease in the painted area.

JEREMY LAMB

Position: Shooting guard

Who he could replace: Thabo Sefolosha

Why you would: The possibility of a surprising spark. Lamb, remember, shot about 36 percent from 3-point range in the regular season. That ranked him fourth on the team behind Butler, Durant and Derek Fisher. He’s much more of a scoring threat than Sefolosha, and his presence in the starting lineup could kick start a unit that’s been reliant on Durant and Westbrook offensively.

Why you wouldn’t: Lamb’s production plummeted after the All-Star break. He was ineffective as a scorer, which is what he does best, and his defense has long been a question mark. If he’s not supplying at least one of those things, there’s no reason to play him. Lamb received meaningful minutes in the first half of Game 2, and his ineffective defense perhaps showed why he hasn’t been playing. Calling on a second-year player in the West Finals who has just 41 career postseason minutes on his resume might not be the best strategy.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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