Does Former Top 5 Pick Have a Future with the Thunder?

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In case you missed my live blog from the Tulsa 66ers game on Sunday afternoon, The Tulsa 66ers have acquired the #4 overall pick from the 2004 NBA Draft, Shaun Livingston. Shaun Livingston is a 6'7" Point Guard who's career took a sharp downward turn when he tore 3 of the 4 ligaments in his left knee while attempting a layup off of a steal in a 2007 game against Charlotte. If you care to watch the horrific video of the injury, just head over to youtube and search for "Shaun Livingston Injury" and it'll be at the top of the list. His first attempt (which was a failure) at an NBA comeback came earlier this season as he made 4 appearances for the Miami Heat.

Before his injury he was a rare combination at point guard as he combined 6'7" height with ball handling and passing skills. As the #4 pick in the draft though, he wasn't living up to expectations because of his inconsistent shooting and poor decision making, and was already becoming prone to injury. That was before his big knee injury. So there is some question as to whether he can ever be an effective player in the NBA, even if he remains healthy.

He's once again making an attempt to get back to the NBA, and this time he's doing it with the Oklahoma City Thunder  owned D-League franchise, the Tulsa 66ers. He was acquired on Saturday, and got his first minutes with the team on Saturday night, followed by his first start on Sunday afternoon. In his debut appearance, he played just enough to get his feet wet, 18 minutes, and score 6 points to go along with 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot. On Sunday, he got his first start with the 66ers, and as the team fell behind early, he became the guy who knocked down a couple shots to finally get the Tulsa offense kick started. He finished with 24 minutes, 13 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocked shot.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti has been the guy making all the right moves, and although this move was made at the D-League level, who knows if Sam decided to make a phone call and get involved with a D-League project that is low risk, and high reward. After all, he was drafted #4 overall for a reason, he's gone a ton of potential, and although not setting the world on fire, was becoming more productive, and having his best season at the time of his injury, averaging 9 points, and 5 assists per game.

Next season is set to be Earl Watsons last in a Thunder uniform, and with the salary he's due next season, it might not be out of the question for Sam Presti to go ahead and move him either after this season, or early next season. $6.6 Million is an awful lot to pay a backup point guard who's having his minutes eaten up by younger players (Westbrook & Weaver). If they can move Watson, perhaps Presti might look over towards this new pet project and see if Shaun Livingston can be an effective guy off the bench for the Thunder at some point next season. He's still young, under 25, and although he suffered one of the worst injuries I've ever seen, there is no reason he can't come in and be a productive spell guy off the bench for the Thunder in the future, if he can stay healthy.

I think more than anything, his time with the 66ers is going to be an open audition to see if he can stay healthy, be productive, and show signs of the player he once was. He's stepping into a team that desperately needs help, so maybe that will play into his favor, but as he gets more minutes, we should start to see whether or not he is the kind of guy that we might look to bring up to the Thunder sometime next season. Time will tell.

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