Today, we take a look at the Thunder's living Thabo Sefolosha insurance policy, Royal Ivey.
Royal Ivey has always been one of those guys that NBA buffs never take too seriously. He's never been a main factor while bouncing between four teams, but he has managed to stay in the NBA year after year. He was an unheralded draft pick out of Texas in 2004, after being a major contributor to two Sweet 16 teams and a Final Four team. But he managed to find his way with the Atlanta Hawks, starting 5 games in his rookie season and becoming a regular starter in his second season, having a Thabo Sefolosha-like role. Unfortunately, he played on some pretty horrific Hawks teams, so the Hawks didn't renew his contract after his third year, and he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for the 07-08 season. He got some time as a starter there as well, but he failed to produce offensively, so he signed with the Philadelphia 76ers in a back-up role during 2008-2009. He proved to be more effective as a backup, and the team achieved a .500 record. In 2009-2010, he saw even less time with Philadelphia and was traded to Milwaukee, where he functioned as an emergency defender on the end of the bench. Out of options, Ivey signed with the Thunder as a deep backup for the 2010-2011 season.
There were very few, if any expectations for Royal Ivey. Nobody really expected him to see time, as he was in a Kevin Ollie-like role. He basically was signed to serve as a mentor to the younger players and as an insurance policy in case one of our guards were to go down. It was a great signing, as Ivey is one of the best insurance policies you could find. Essentially, were Ivey to play, he was expected to be a decent enough defender without screwing the team up too much on offense.
Regular Season Grade: C
I don't really see how you could give any other grade for Ivey. In all fairness, he only played significant minutes in a significant game twice, both times when the team was facing injuries to Jeff Green and Kevin Durant. His minutes during those games were decent, as he hit a couple of important threes against the Celtics and had two steals against the Bucks. Otherwise, he was the human victory cigar, inserted into games only so the fans could cheer and the starters could rest. He served well in that role, hitting threes that kept the crowd pumped late into irrelevant games. Lastly, he did play in that joke of a game against Milwaukee at the end of the season, but he mainly served as part of a terrible offensive collapse.
Post Season Grade: C+
He played twice, both times against the Memphis Grizzlies. He gets a C+ because he was perfect from the field, hitting two threes, one in each game.
Most Memorable Game:
Though I mentioned all of his significant games above, his most significant game had to have come against the Boston Celtics on November 19th. He hit a three in the second quarter that extended the Thunder's lead to four, the largest of the game at the time, and he blocked a Paul Pierce layup later in the quarter. He hit another three at the end of the third, extending the Thunder's lead to 10. In a game with little offense, Royal Ivey provided that extra offensive spark that helped the Thunder win the game.
Most Memorable Single Moment:
I'll remember this moment forever. The Thunder are tied 2-2 in the series against the Grizzlies, and things are looking tough. But the Thunder seal an emotional win at home, causing Royal Ivey and Nate Robinson to trot out on the floor. And just to make the game even greater, they both hit threes, causing the crowd to erupt in excitement. Enjoy the ridiculously silly video of what I just described.
I'd honestly be really surprised if Royal Ivey re-signed with the Thunder. The Thunder only have three free agents next year, freeing up only three spots. Nazr Mohammed saw much more time than Ivey, so he's a likelier re-sign. Additionally, the Thunder are actively looking into their D-League pool and still hold a late first round draft pick, so they'll probably use the remaining two spots for prospects. The only way I could see Ivey getting re-signed is if a trade were to take place where we lost somebody like Sefolosha or Harden. But even then, I could see them going for a younger option.
Ivey will probably see at least one more season in the league, but his stock has fallen over the past couple of years, especially after his bench stint with the Thunder. He may find himself having to spend time in Europe to improve his stock, or waiting until mid-season before he's signed. In any case, Ivey has found a way to stay in the NBA before, and I have no doubt that he'll find a way to do it again.
A: Far exceeded expectations
B: Exceeded expectations
C: Met expectations
D: Did not meet expectations
F: Fell far short of expectations