NBA teams are allowed to carry fifteen players on their rosters.The Thunder currently have fourteen players, so who gets the final spot? A free agent? Someone we pick up in a trade? Or maybe a familiar face?
Of course, that's not to say that the fourteen players currently on the roster should even be there. Here's a look at who we have and what we need.
After last week's acquisition of F/C Etan Thomas for guards Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins, my projected depth chart would look something like this:
C: Nenad Krstic, Etan Thomas, Byron Mullens
PF: Jeff Green, Nick Collison, D.J. White, Serge Ibaka
SF: Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha
SG: Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, Kyle Weaver
PG: Russell Westbrook, Shaun Livingston
I think Robert Vaden will spend the season in Tulsa with the 66ers. Mullens and Ibaka will see some time there as well.
No one is going to pry the starting jobs from Durant or Green, so let's take a look at the logjam at the center and back-up PF spots.
We have six players vying for playing time. It's safe to assume the Krstic will start at center, and that Thomas will be his primary back-up. Krstic averaged about 25 minutes per game last year. Thomas logged about 12 minutes.
Green averaged 37 minutes, so that's another 11 minutes at the PF spot.
That amounts to about 22 minutes of playing time for Collison, White, Ibaka and Mullens.
What concerns me most about the situation is not so much the lack of minutes for those four players, but the durability of some of those players and the fact that none is a "true" center.
Thomas was brought in for toughness and veteran leadership, but really, he's a power forward playing center. Even more concerning, Thomas brings injury problems that have prevented him from averaging more than 20 minutes per game since the '04-'05 season. I have to wonder how much he can contribute over the course of an 82-game season.
As for the rest, Collison has been pretty consistent in games and minutes played, but after that, there are some worrisome numbers. Krstic hasn't played in more than 46 games since the '05-'06 season. White missed most of his rookie campaign because of jaw surgery. Ibaka and Mullens are rookies, and both of them are still projects, not full-time players.
On to the backcourt...
The addition of James Harden has solidified the SG spot, with Sefolosha and Weaver providing defensive depth, but the PG position could be a trouble spot. It's clear that the Thunder have decided on Westbrook as their starter, but with the trading of Atkins and the release of Earl Watson, the only true back-up left is Shaun Livingston. No one can deny that Livingston was a special player before his devastating knee injury, there are questions as to whether he will ever regain that form.
Harden and Weaver played minutes during Summer League at point guard, but I don't think either is a solution, should Westbrook or Livingston go down with an injury.
What does all this mean for the last roster spot?
Well, some have suggested that the Thunder re-sign Desmond Mason, but he doesn't really solve the problems of a true center or a point guard.
My thoughts on the situation would be to package Collison (or White or Ibaka or Mullens) with one or more of the 5 draft picks OKC owns for next years draft and trade for a player like Marcus Camby. This would allow Thomas to play at the PF spot as well, with Camby and Krstic splitting time at the 5 spot, and Green could spell Durant at the small forward position.
Secondly, I would sign a free agent like Ramon Sessions or Ray Felton to fill out the point guard spot. Either of these players would be a great insurance policy for Livingston, as well as allowing Westbrook time at SG.
Moves like these would push the Thunder into serious contention for a playoff spot in the West.