Orton has spent the first three games at the end of the bench in a sport coat, the 14th man on the outside looking in at a league-mandated maximum of 13 players who are allowed to dress for each game.
But Brooks also is banking on Serge Ibaka sliding over one spot in select situations. Nick Collison has manned the center spot, too, and frequently does in small-ball lineups such as the one Brooks trotted out for nearly 4 1/2 minutes early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 104-95 loss to the Hawks.
During that stretch, Brooks employed Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant and Collison and later replaced Maynor with Russell Westbrook. Those small ball minutes ended up being a plus-1 for the Thunder in the plus-minus category. Not bad on this ragged night of ball.
At some point, that might need to be the solution. For now, Brooks continues to throw out Thabeet, perhaps attempting to build his confidence early so he might be able to depend on him if need be late.
“We just feel that we have someone that can be a really good player for us,” Brooks said of Thabeet. “What he has done in the preseason; he's an exceptional worker. He covers a lot of distance with his size and length. And he's a pretty good athlete. But I like what he does. He's only going to get (more) confident. How we play I think can help him. He's a guy that can improve as we improve as the season goes on.”