Training camp is a time to figure out the little things. Coming in, you’re going to know most everything you need to about your team. But not everything. Maybe you need to answer a position battle. Maybe you need to figure out the last piece of your rotation. Maybe you need to define a role or two. Every team has the camp questions because hey, that’s exactly what camp is for. Here’s 10 questions the Thunder likely has coming in that hopefully will have answers (or close to at least).
Who is starting at shooting guard?
The biggest question. Thabo or James Harden? Obviously, Harden wasn’t drafted third overall to be a career bench player. He’s going to be a starter. But does he start the season as it? Does he take the job halfway through? Does he get it next year? Regardless of who wins starting honors, both are going to see extended minutes. If you ask me who will be starting alongside Russell Westbrook in the Thunder backcourt come Oct. 29, I’d say Thabo. Harden is the future, Thabo is the now. They are going to complement each other extremely well so it doesn’t matter a whole heck of a lot, but I bet Scott Brooks goes with the veteran.
Byron Mullens: In Tulsa or OKC?
I think you can bank on him and possibly Serge Ibaka, Kyle Weaver and maybe even D.J. White seeing time between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. But the question with Mullens is where he spends the majorityof his time. Bringing in Etan Thomas means that the Thunder has someone immediately behind Nenad Krstic on the depth chart now so Mullens isn’t a needed player right now. If he can show off some more polished skills in camp he may he a chance to start in OKC with the idea to drop him down to Tulsa a few times throughout the year. But if he’s still raw and unpolished, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see him start out with the 66ers.
Do any of the extra roster guys have a chance to make the squad?
Right now, four guys are fighting for one spot. And that spot may not even be open because Sam Presti may prefer to keep it available. Some of it depends on how they view Ibaka, White and Mullens and if the staff see them as potential contributors this year. If not, then they’ll likely keep Michael Ruffin or Ryan Bowen to add some depth on the front line. I doubt the two guards have much of a chance unless Shaun Livingston shows he’s not ready to play an 82 game season.
Is Serge Ibaka a rotation player? Or a Tulsa player?
I doubt we’ll have this answer right away. But he looked very good in the Summer Leagues and his game was much more polished than anyone expected. At 6’11″, he can play the four or the five, making him pretty valuable. Again, so much of this depends on how the staff sees White and Mullens. While Ibaka is extremely young, he has an NBA body and his skills could probably get hmi by. But camp will hopefully show if he’s ready to get 10 minutes in a meaningful game or not. He’s likely to see time in Tulsa, but just like with Mullens, the question is how much. I think that’s one reason management decided to bring him over this year and not wait another. With Tulsa just up the road, it’ll be much easier to oversee his development while also trying to get him time on the floor with the big club.
Likewise, where does D.J. White fit in?
Pretty much the same question and answer as Ibaka, but White’s got a leg up because he’s had a year in the league and he’s seen live game action. White doesn’t have the ability to bump up to the five, but he’ll likely be right behind Nick Collison in the rotation.
Is Etan Thomas healthy?
The Big Poet has battled some injuries during his career and he was never really healthy last year and wasn’t able to get a lot of time in Washington. But if he’s healthy, he’ll be a great backup behind Krstic, because he’s more physical and plays the rebounding/shot blocking role that Krstic doesn’t.
What does Thabo’s corner 3 look like?
He supposedly spent all summer working on this shot, so where’s it at? Can he hit it with any consistency? Because if so, color me stoked.
Can Shaun Livingston handle the backup load for a full season?
Hopefully camp will clue us in as to where he’s at physically. He said yesterday at media day that he’s night and day different in terms of explosiveness compared to when he was in Tulsa. He also said he feels like he’s about 95 percent and will continue to say that because he always wants to leave the door open to getting even stronger. The question isn’t if he can play and play well. The question is whether or not he’s going to be able to withstand the haul of a full 82-game tilt playing back-to-back games and the like.
Where does Kyle Weaver fit in?
Weaver is a nice player that always seems to do something well when he’s on the floor. But where does he fit in? He’s the kind of guy you WANT to get minutes, but how do you force them in? Really at this point, his minutes would likely come due to an injury to someone in front of him (which happens). Right now, he’s third at shooting guard behind Thabo and Harden and probably the fourth point guard behind Westbrook, Livingston and Kevin Ollie.
Has Kevin Durant’s added strength changed anything about his game?
He said yesterday that the added weight has helped him in controlling his dribble and not getting bumped off the ball as easily. But what about in the post? Or on the defensive end? Or with his sweep-across-the-arm-foul-me move? I’m curious to see the next evolution in the Durantula. If that muscle does what it’s supposed to, well, I’m so giddy I could pee.