Big, super big news here people: The Thunder exercised options on James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, Cole Aldrich and Byron Mullens.
The options for Harden, Ibaka, Maynor and Mullens are the final fourth-year options for the players and Aldrich’s was a third-year, meaning he’ll have one more (well, assuming the new CBA doesn’t change that.)
I’ve already heard some saying, “What, why Mullens?” It’s true: The Thunder’s 24th pick in 2009 that turned into Mullens hasn’t panned out yet. The seven-foot big man from Ohio State has gone up and down between the Thunder and the D-League, hasn’t ever come close to sniffing the rotation and has largely disappointed.
But he was a project from day one. There was never any expectation of him than to get into the program and see if his raw talent could develop. So far, not so much. But he’s extremely cheap (his option will cost OKC just about $1.2 next season) and in terms of a roster spot, I think he’s worth it.
Keep in mind, Mullens is just 22 and despite what you may think of him and his awkward haircut, still has a ton of upside. He has a pretty solid jumper, crazy athleticism for his size and the desire to get better. He just has to figure out how to help defend, rebound and make an impact.
He has ability. I’ve seen it. He can play. He just lacks a little feel for the game and isn’t entirely sure of himself. But it’s hard to really prove much when you’re lucky if you get two minutes in a 25-point game. Clearly though he hasn’t made the strides in practice quite yet to please the Thunder.
It’s a no-brainer to exercise his option and see if he can progress a bit this year. Yeah they could’ve declined it and opened up an extra roster spot and a sliver more of cap space, but in my mind, the risking missing out on Mullens’ raw, undeveloped potential isn’t worth that.
I don’t know that he’ll necessarily ever make a real impact for OKC. I have a hard time picturing him in the regular rotation. But Sam Presti hasn’t built his franchise around the idea that you give up on young players that are willing to work hard. And that’s why you don’t give up on Mullens.