The versatility of the Thunder's roster gives coach Scott Brooks plenty of options during the upcoming absence of Kendrick Perkins.
But among those expected to see an increased role, Steven Adams' bump in minutes seems the most concrete.
Adams will “likely” get the start on Sunday against the Clippers, according to Brooks, and is the Thunder's biggest rotation player during a stretch when they're set to face some prolific low-post scorers.
“There's going to be games where we can go with smaller lineups, games we can go with different guys in that five spot,” Brooks said. “But I think (Adams) has done well in the minutes that he has had. It's going to be another opportunity for growth in his development.”
After an accelerated start to his rookie season, which included an eye-opening 17-point, 10-rebound game in Detroit, Adams cooled off.
His production went down and, steadily, so have his minutes.
Since the new year, he has only played more than 20 minutes in two games, both against Memphis' mammoth front line.
But Adams said that he is becoming a better defender. And it's that side of the ball where he will matter most in the coming weeks.
“That's all I'm working on,” Adams said. “I'm getting a lot more comfortable and noticing stuff before it happens, whereas the start of the season they'll be doing it right in front of me and I'd be like ‘What is that?' I still have a long way to go.”
His first test comes on Sunday against the Clippers' pick-and-roll heavy offense.
With the minutes expected to increase for Adams, so too will the opportunities for him to foul.
And at times, that's been a problem. At one point in mid-January, Adams fouled out in three consecutive games despite playing limited minutes.
“Obviously we discourage any of our guys from fouling because fouling is a mistake in most situations,” Brooks said. “But we want to make sure he's aggressive and sticks with our game plan defensively and offensively. I think he's done a good job of developing in those areas.”
Clippers forward and former Sooner star Blake Griffin will always have a soft spot for his home state.
“I have great, great memories of playing at Oklahoma and in Oklahoma,” Griffin said. “Some of the funnest times I've had playing basketball. Getting to play with my brother, playing for Coach (Jeff) Capel at OU, in my home state in front of friends and family, it was a blast.”
But in recent years, Griffin has been welcomed with an increasingly loud chorus of boos. That hasn't changed his mind about OKC.
“Now when I go back to Oklahoma it's not quite the same,” Griffin said. “I'm kind of the enemy now. But those days are definitely something I'll cherish and never ever forget."
STAT OF THE DAY
At 43-13, the Thunder has its best record through 56 games since relocating to Oklahoma City. Last year, during the franchise's first OKC-era 60-win season, the Thunder was 41-15 at this juncture.