Losing Eric Maynor for the season is a major blow to the Thunder. No matter what happens, any time you lose a player of his caliber, it hurts. But you have to move on and you have to keep playing. But without a major rotation player and one with a good amount of playoff experience, the Thunder are going to have to keep going. How should they handle it though? Keep it in house, go outside or get creative?
1. Who should back up Russell Westbrook now?
A. Reggie Jackson
B. Royal Ivey
C. James Harden
D. Free agent
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: A. Not just because he played well in his first game, but you have to at least give Jackson the chance. You never know, you might have a diamond in the rough. You might have the next Eric Maynor. You draft players to develop, to build depth and to have ready when needed. Jackson is needed now and it’s time for him to play. Sure, I’m concerned about a rookie possibly playing 15-20 minutes in the Western Conference Finals, but you just have to hope he’s ready.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder: A. Easy to say now after Sunday’s great start against the Spurs, yeah. But the answer, at least in the short term, would have been A from the moment Jackson got drafted. I think Ivey can give 10 minutes of low turnover basketball, hit open shots, run the offense and do his job as a man and team defender. But Maynor was a true playmaker in addition to being a steady hand for the Thunder, and Jackson has the potential for that added dimension. He’s a different kind of player, but it’s the potential for that extra edge that’s important, not the kind of package the edge comes in. Jackson is the rookie with the longer contract who could use the chance — and almost a full season of experience before the playoffs — so he should play with Ivey always there if things go south.
J.A. Sherman, Welcome to Loud City: A. You draft players to use them, right? In the past draft, the Thunder took Jackson with the 24th pick, a semi-controversial selection when such players as Jordan Hamilton were still on the board. This is Jackson’s moment to prove that he was worthy of the selection. Also keep in mind that Maynor played heavy minutes as a rookie himself, which is what allowed him to become such an organic component of the Thunder’s make-up.
2. If the Thunder were to sign someone, who do you like?
A. Carlos Arroyo
B. Acie Law
C. Aaron Brooks (available in March)
D. Earl Boykins
E. None of the above
Royce Young: E. Aaron Brooks is mildly intriguing to me, but I wonder about trying to fit in a new piece that late. I’m not even answering my own question here, but I just don’t think looking at the free agent market is the way to go. Unless Reggie Jackson gets hurt or really struggles to the point it becomes painfully obvious it’s hurting the team, bringing in someone from the outside doesn’t seem like the answer to me.
Patrick James: E. Brooks would be great, but someone will probably pay him more than the Thunder would want to unless he wants to take a half-season flyer on a contender before hitting the open market in the summer during the traditional free agent period. The flexibility that comes with not having signed one of the other guys is probably more valuable to the Thunder having any of them playing from zero to 12 minutes per night. Ivey seems more than capable of giving you whatever those guys would, and he’s already on the roster if Jackson doesn’t end up being a season-long solution somehow. Unless something goes really wrong with the backup point guard position, the ability to react to another future problem is probably a better card in the deck with Ivey already on the bench.
J.A. Sherman: E. The Thunder don’t need to sign anybody, because I don’t think there is anyone currently available who is demonstrably better for the Thunder than who they have already. From a pure talent standpoint you could argue that someone like Aaron Brooks is more game-ready, but that discounts the value of the Thunder culture and how it fosters team cohesiveness.
3. How much does Maynor’s injury affect the Thunder’s chances of winning the West?
A. A whole lot
D. Not at all
Royce Young: B. Possibly more though. You can’t forget how Maynor played the entire fourth quarter in Dallas against the Mavs in Game 2 of the WCF. Can you picture Jackson doing that? Scott Brooks doesn’t have the luxury of a steady, even-handed point guard to play behind Russell Westbrook now. You win in the postseason because of two things: Stars being stars and depth. The Thunder still have the big names like Durant, Westbrook and Harden, but without Maynor, that depth will be tested.
Patrick James: C. There’s just no way it can’t affect the Thunder. Maynor is the best backup in the league and a guy who could start for a mess of NBA teams. That’s a tough guy to lose. And the Thunder players are, by all accounts, as tight-knit as it gets in pro sports. There’s no way it doesn’t factor on and off the court. But there’s plenty of time for Jackson to learn and blossom on his own. Maynor himself was a rookie when he came in and showed he was a keeper during the Thunder’s run to 50 wins and six games against the Lakers in 2010. Jackson is athletic, talented and reportedly a hard worker, and he’s been promoted into the rotation of a Thunder team that is better than that one. If Jackson can play in control and do his job, it’s easy to let Kevin Durant and the Thunder’s other weapons help him look good.
J.A. Sherman: B. Maynor’s injury could have some impact on the team’s chances because a) they do lose a proven performer who can step into clutch situations (Game 2 of WCF); b) clearly Maynor has a close relationship with his teammates; and c) his loss thins out the bench. OKC still has sufficient talent to compete with anyone, but without him the margin for error shrinks. That said, I think that the team is going to rally around the guys they have and work hard to minimize the loss.