(WTLC continues its annual player preview for the expected roster this upcoming season. Today is Steve Novak. Expect a player preview every day leading up to the beginning of the regular season.)
Steve Novak came to the Thunder last year as an afterthought. After being traded to Oklahoma City from the Utah Jazz, Novak was overshadowed by bigger names coming in at the same time. New center Enes Kanter was tearing up the scoreboard, while D.J. Augustin was bringing stability to the backup point guard position. Meanwhile, Novak sat on the bench, his best days apparently behind him.
Despite the fact that Novak hasn't regularly seen an NBA floor since 2013, Coach Billy Donovan isn't afraid of using him. Novak has logged time in all three of the Thunder's pre-season games so far. And despite playing only 18 minutes overall, Novak has taken 6 shots and made 4.
Of course, this is a very limited sample size. But Novak isn't on the floor with training camp invitees. Novak is seeing most of his time next to OKC's stars, like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But Novak has also seen time with the Thunder's bench stars, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters. In general, Donovan has used Novak mostly in situations where the Thunder are struggling to score. Novak, as an extremely reliable three point shooting power forward, forces the defense to play differently.
There are downsides to Steve Novak. Novak has barely any vertical to speak of, and isn't particularly fast or strong on an NBA level. As a result, Novak will often get outmuscled for rebounds or shoved out of the way on defense. Still, Novak makes up for that with consistency and craftiness. During the first pre-season game against the Timberwolves, Novak managed to turn his defender around on one play, and make two defenders collide into each other on another play.
Probably the most underrated ability of Steve Novak is his clutchness. Clutchness isn't something that can be taught, nor is it something that can be gauged effectively. But we all know that Novak has it. In this pre-season, Novak was able to hit a off-the-dribble buzzer-beating shot to win a scrimmage. During another game against the Timberwolves, Novak was able to hit a difficult buzzer-beating floater to end the third quarter. The history of clutchness is apparent throughout Novak's career as well. Check out this game winning shot Novak hit on February 13th, 2008. Novak was cold off the bench at the time.
Also check out this game winner Novak had a year later while playing for the Clippers:
No matter how you may view Novak's defensive abilities, I think we can all agree that it's awesome for the Thunder to have him as an option late in games. Many historically successful teams have had a Novak-like option on their roster. Robert Horry and Matt Bonner with the Spurs certainly come to mind.
Nevertheless, I must stress that Novak will not be a regular option. Because of Novak's severe defensive limitations, he's not sustainable on a night to night basis. It might not make sense to play Novak on a night where the opposing team is pounding the paint and OKC is shooting well. There will be some DNP-CDs, and Novak's averages certainly won't impress anyone.
But how we gauge Novak this year will really depend on how he performs in those crucial moments where we need him. Also, shots will be everything. As long as Novak can hit at a consistent enough rate to keep the opponent respecting his shot, he'll always have a place on the floor.
What do you expect out of Steve Novak's upcoming season? Drop a comment and let us know!