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Oklahoma City Thunder preview: Why Scott Brooks could be forced to expand his bench

SCOTT BROOKS — The Thunder's coach cast aside his beloved nine-man rotation last last season when Daequan Cook started hitting 3-pointers. The condensed NBA schedule could prompt Brooks to go to his bench even more this season.
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY AND JOHN ROHDE Published: December 18, 2011

2010-11 stats: 5.6 ppg; 1.7 rpg; 13.9 mpg; .436 FG; .422 3FG; .800 FT; 0.5 apg; 0.3 spg;

Niche: The team's lone 3-point specialist. Cook was brought back solely to stroke it off the bench. He shot a career-high 42.2 percent from that range last season. Of his 181 field goal attempts last season, only 27 were 2-pointers.

Opportunity: After an early-season stint stuck on the bench, Cook finally proved himself worth of cracking the rotation. Cook's shooting was largely responsible for forcing Thunder coach Scott Brooks to expand his rotation from nine to 10 players. When defenses key on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, look for Cook to get the call and keep them honest.


Position: Forward

Height/Weight: 6-6/225

2010-11 stats: 3.8 ppg; 1.7 rpg; 10.0 mpg; .357 FG; .283 3FG; .786 FT; 0.7 apg; 0.3 spg; 0.2 bpg (with Minnesota)

Niche: His impressive 7-foot-1 wingspan will come in handy at the wing position. Tremendous attitude, hard worker, aggressive defender. Might be used in certain defensive situations. Good basketball IQ. Puts the team first.

Opportunity: Though there won't be much practice time because of the condensed schedule, Hayward will be up close and personal with Kevin Durant, doing all he can to challenge the two-time scoring champ. Hayward and rookie Reggie Jackson are the only two players not familiar with the Thunder playbook. Opportunities figure to be limited.


Position: Point guard

Height/Weight: 6-4/210

2010-11 stats: 1.6 ppg; 0.6 rpg; 6.2 mpg; .421FG; .438 3FG; 1.000 FT; 0.3 apg; 0.2 spg; .04 bpg

Niche: Veteran leader who brings great locker room presence. Expected to play in emergency situations in the event of injuries or foul trouble. Won't make mistakes. Defensive mindset, limited offensively.

Opportunity: Ivey proved last year that he can have an impact in short stretches. Go back and review his 10-minute performance at Utah from last November. Ivey's problem is that he's now got rookie Reggie Jackson to compete with as well as Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor.


Position: Point guard

Height/Weight: 6-3/175

2010-11 stats: 4.2 ppg; 1.5 rpg; 14.6 mpg; .402 FG; .385 3FG; .729 FT; 2.9 apg; 0.4 spg; 0.1 bpg

Niche: Solid as they come at backup point guard. Can hold down the fort, but also can supply a lift. Scored in double digits in three playoff games last year. Had nine assists in Game 5 win vs. Memphis.

Opportunity: It was Maynor, not Russell Westbrook, finishing the Thunder's lone playoff victory against Dallas. That game thrust Maynor into the limelight while Westbrook got ripped mercilessly. Being reliable and dependable always works when you're a backup point guard. Maynor and Westbrook are a terrific combination of calm and combustible.


Position: Center

Height/Weight: 7-0/275

2010-11 stats: 1.9 ppg; 1.8 rpg; 6.5 mpg; .321 FG; .000 3FG; .500 FT; 0.0 apg; 0.2 spg; 0.2 bpg

Niche: Good practice player. Above average mid-range shooter for a big man. Expected to display more of a low-post game this season but focuses on face-up game. Defense and rebounding are spotty and need work.

Opportunity: Mullens starts the season fourth on the depth chart behind centers Kendrick Perkins, Nazr Mohammed and Cole Aldrich. He might get the nod some nights over Aldrich, depending on matchups. With offensive firepower throughout the lineup, the Thunder needs its centers to be defensive-minded. Mullens must improve there if he wants significant court time.


Position: Center

Height/Weight: 6-10/250

2010-11 stats: 6.9 ppg; 4.8 rpg; 17.9 mpg; .573 FG; .000 3FG; .625 FT; 0.7 spg; 0.4 bpg; 0.3 apg (with OKC)

Niche: Elder team statesman at age 34. Spent his entire career posting solid numbers in very few minutes. Outstanding stabilizer off the bench. Team sage. Has been integral in team development since he arrived from Charlotte.

Opportunity: Mohammed can lend a hand from multiple directions – leadership, rebounding, scoring. There will be times when he'll be relied upon for minutes (see Denver and Memphis playoff series). There will be other times he might not come off the bench (see Dallas playoff series). Solid reliever for Kendrick Perkins and valuable asset for youngsters Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich.


Position: Point guard

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 208

2010-11 stats: 18.2 ppg; 4.3 rpg; 34.1 mpg; .503 FG; .420 3FG; .796 FT; 4.5 apg; 1.1 spg; 0.5 bpg (at Boston College)

Niche: Unselfish and anxious to contribute. Will gladly pass up a layup to give a teammate an assist. Student of the game who said he already had learned a great deal from the three point guards in front of him. Already has bonded with Royal Ivey.

Opportunity: Teammates quickly took a liking to Jackson. Enters the league during a difficult transition period. Limited training camp should be offset somewhat thanks to time he spent with teammates at voluntary camps during the lockout. Slowed by groin and abdominal strain before camp. Jackson said he's not much into his own stats and cares more about helping teammates succeed.