You’re probably already following along with ESPN.com’s fun yearly #NBARank project, but let’s add a little Thunder twist to it with a preseason power ranking of Oklahoma City’s current roster.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to drag this thing out over two weeks just to tell you that Kevin Durant is the Thunder’s best player. Just two days. So every 30 minutes or so for the rest of the day the next player will be added. Have that refresh trigger finger ready and of course, make sure to tell me how wrong I am. Here’s 18 through 11.
18. Andy Rautins | G | Age: 25 | #NBARank: NR
I’ve always kind of been a Rautins fan. He’s like Steve Novak lite. Or a really bad version of J.J. Redick. He doesn’t have much of a chance to make the Thunder’s roster and he’s honestly not as good a shooter as advertised, but I do think there’s something there with him.
Rautins has only appeared in five total NBA games in his career and spent last season overseas. He seems like a match made in heaven for the Tulsa 66ers. But with Daequan Cook’s contract expiring at the end of this season, the Thunder are in the market for a new specialist, so Rautins is going to get a look.
17. DeAndre Liggins | SF | Age: 24 | #NBARank: 465
One of a couple non-guaranteed camp invites, Liggins is entering his second season in the league. He was taken 53rd overall in the 2011 draft by the Magic and made their roster, appearing in 17 games last season. Liggins plays three seasons at Kentucky, averaging 8.6 points per game his junior season. He then made an unwise decision to go pro.
He’s a 6-6 swingman that doesn’t do anything especially great, while doing a lot of things fairly well. He’s an okay shooter. An okay defender. An okay athlete. He’s just a solid player. Kind of like a minor league version of Lazar Hayward. And I’m pretty sure the Thunder doesn’t need two Lazar Haywards.
16. Daniel Orton | C | Age: 22 | #NBARank: 426
Think back to the 2010 draft. There was a growing buzz that the Thunder were interested in OKC native Daniel Orton and a lot of the fanbase was fully on board with the idea. Orton was a bit of mystery. He sat most of his senior season at Bishop McGuinness due to an ACL injury, then played sparingly at Kentucky because of DeMarcus Cousins. Instead of doing the wise thing and establishing himself as a solid college player, Orton declared for the draft and barely made it into the first round, being picked by Orlando 29th.
He was almost immediately sent to their D-League affiliate, where he promptly blew out a knee again. He finally made his NBA debut last season, playing in 16 total for the Magic, including a little time in the playoffs. The book on Orton is this: A potential-filled big guy that could be a really solid post defender and rebounder. He’s had an extremely unlucky few years, but if he gets healthy and realizes a little of that talent that had some buzzing about him before the draft in 2010, the Thunder might have themselves a decent contingency plan if amnestying Perk becomes reality.
15. Hollis Thompson | SG | Age: 21 | #NBARank: 496
The hunt for the next shooter, part two. Thompson went undrafted, but that was largely because of a groin injury that nagged him and prevented him from working out for teams much before the draft. And in reality, going undrafted is often a blessing because it frees you up to find a team that fits and wants you back.
Thompson’s a pretty prolific shooter, hitting 43 percent from 3 last season at Georgetown. He’s got some nice size at 6-8 and is definitely more versatile than Rautins. What has given a little extra value to Daequan Cook is the fact he can fit into some smallball lineups. Thompson certainly would be a candidate for that. Any kind of player that has a very specific skillset can fit well into a team looking for those type of things. The Thunder don’t need stars — they have those. They need help on the edges, players that can fill certain roles. And Thompson has the potential to do exactly that.
14. Hasheem Thabeet | C | Age: 25: | #NBARank: 443
No one is pretending that Thabeet is good. Nor should they. Because he is not. At all. I honestly kind of think Thabeet (and the Grizzlies) have somehow gotten a major pass for him being one of the biggest draft busts ever. The guy was the No. 2 overall pick! But because the Grizzlies recovered well with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and turned into a playoff team, people seem to sort of forgotten what a monster whiff that was.
Having said that, the move made sense for OKC. The Thunder have always been intrigued with Thabeet and fancy themselves as the developmental superstore, a place that can turn coal (or carbon, whatever) into diamonds. Even if it’s a synthetic process that turns him into cubic zirconium, that’s perfectly fine. Fake, manufactured is completely terrific. Thabeet doesn’t need to validate his No. 2 overall selection. He just needs to be of value to a team. And the Thunder can certainly use size, rebounding and shotblocking. It’s a low risk, probably low reward move. But there’s some upside. Always upside.
13. Lazar Hayward | SF | Age: 25 | #NBARank: 383
As typical with Lazar Hayward, I really have nothing to say here. As he showed in Summer League, he’s a pretty solid basketball player. Works hard, plays tough, rebounds his position, passed well, can hit an open shot, knows how to get to the rim. But like the headband he wears on his head, he’s so straightforward. Nothing explosive, nothing eye-catching. Basically, he’s a perfect 13th man.
With role players, I think the best way to evaluate them is to ask, if someone got hurt in front of them and they had to fill extended minutes, how would you feel? I think Hayward would do fine. Probably something like eight points, four rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes. But you’d forget his performance before you got in the car.
12. Cole Aldrich | C | Age: 23 | #NBARank: 390
It’s a really big season for Aldrich. By all appearances, it’s finally his time to see regular rotation minutes. But after a pretty meh stint in the Orlando summer league, the jury is still out. Entering camp, I’m sure the job will be Aldrich’s to lose. He’s opened the door for a conversation. I expected a much better performance out of him over the summer and didn’t see anything that would necessarily cinch the thing up.
We forget that Aldrich was drafted 11th overall. The Thunder made a fairly big move to jump into the lottery to grab him. That was two seasons ago when the consensus was the Thunder needed a big man. And two seasons later Aldrich has yet to have any kind of impact. There have been some minor flashes where his energy is obvious, where his rebounding instincts show. But for the most part, he hasn’t impacted anything. This season, he’ll get his chance. If it doesn’t happen now, then it probably won’t ever.
11. Reggie Jackson | PG | Age: 22: | #NBARank: 343
Jackson still has the unknown factor working in his favor. We didn’t get a chance to see much of him during the season and when we did, he was essentially thrown into the fire. He was tasked with playing backup to Russell Westbrook for a title contending team. Basically, his job was “Don’t you dare screw this game up in the six minutes you play.” Not an easy job for a rookie trying to learn his way and in Jackson’s case, get totally healthy. Remember: He didn’t get a full training camp. He barely got any practices. It was a unique season for everyone, but especially rookies.
The question about Jackson is his future. He showed it in Orlando — he has talent. He’s an explosive player. And with Eric Maynor’s situation very unsettled, Jackson might be headed for a return to his brief role as backup. He should be completely healthy this season and while his role will likely be limited again, he could still have a bright future ahead with the Thunder.
10-1 coming tomorrow.