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Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC getting younger again

by Berry Tramel Modified: June 28, 2013 at 11:00 am •  Published: June 28, 2013

The Thunder got younger Thursday night. Three 19-year-old draftees, plus 21-year-old Andre Roberson.

I don’t expect second-round pick Grant Jarrett of Arizona to make the roster, but Steven Adams and Roberson will unless there’s another (unlikely) trade.

So that means the Thunder roster apparently will include these opening-day ages:

19: Adams.

21: Jeremy Lamb, Roberson.

22: Perry Jones.

23: Reggie Jackson, Daniel Orton.

24: Serge Ibaka.

25: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, DeAndre Liggins.

26: Hasheem Thabeet.

29: Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins (Perk actually turns 29 on Nov. 10).

33: Nick Collison.

OK. What does that all mean? “Thunder U.,” which was the old term resurrected Thursday night by assistant general manager Troy Weaver, is back in business.

That’s 10 players 25 or younger.

“Once again, Thunder U. is served,” Weaver said. “We feel it’s a night continuing to layer the team with good young prospects.”

On a night when the Netropolitans traded for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry (combined ages: 109), the Thunder’s youth once again became a focal point.

Most solid organizations build around stars, and they build with young talent.

“In order to maintain and build and enhance an elite organization, it’s imperative we continue to layer young talent into our organization to move forward,” Presti said. “Tonight was another opportunity to do that.”

Young talent is cheaper. Hungrier, too, but mostly cheaper. And the more young talent you acquire, the better the odds of a strike.

In other words, the more you can draft a Jackson (24th overall), a Roberson (26th), a Perry Jones (28th), the better chances you have of finding a player.

The more fliers you take on international players (Ibaka 24th, Tibor Pleiss 31st, Alex Abrines 32nd, the latter Thursday night), the better chances of hitting on a star.

So the 2013-14 Thunder roster almost certainly will be younger. With 11 guaranteed contracts, there’s room for four other plays. But very little room under the luxury tax threshold, which means OKC is likely to pick up the contracts of Thabeet, Orton and Liggins.

Liggins is a defender who can help. The Thunder used him at times in the playoff rotation. And Thabeet and Orton are serviceable backup centers.

It seems most likely that the Thunder keeps those three to make its roster 14, then leaves a spot open for a possible minimum-wage veteran. Someone like Derek Fisher. Maybe even Fish himself.

Fisher would raise the average age of ThunderU. quite a bit.

Of course, the Thunder could cut Orton or Thabeet. But it’s not like that would free up money to go find a $5 million-a-year free agent. The Thunder needs minimum-wage contracts. Orton and Thabeet are valuable in that regard.

That’s the best guess on what the Thunder will look like in 2013-14. So the rotation seems to be:

1. The starting lineup you’ve come to know and mostly love.

2. Collison playing most of the interior bench minutes, supplemented by Thabeet or, I suppose, Adams.

3. A new twist on the sixth man, where Jackson figures to be sixth man/backup point guard…

4. …Which means an expanded role for a designated shooter like Lamb. Part sixth man, part Daequan Cook. The addition of a Fisher-type could change this, but for now, it’s Lamb.

5. Liggins the 10th man, unless Roberson really develops. In the old days, the 10th man was Cook as a sharpshooter but now could be a defensive stopper.

It’s not a great bench on paper. It’s a young bench. Thunder U. is back.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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