The Thunder have announced their roster for the 2015 Orlando Pro Summer League, slated to begin on July 4th. The roster only includes one player whom is guaranteed a contract on the Thunder next season, Mitch McGary. The other big names on the roster are Dakari Johnson, the Thunder's second round pick this year, and Samaj Christon, a all D-League 3rd team point guard from the Oklahoma City Blue.
The Summer League roster also includes some other names hardcore Thunder fans will recognize. Richard Solomon and Talib Zanna were on the Thunder's pre-season roster last year, and spent all year with the Oklahoma City Blue. Additionally, Frank Gaines and Marquis Teague played with the Blue last year. That leaves eight gritty basketball journeymen whom have had no connection to the Thunder yet whatsoever.
Notable absences from the roster include first round draft pick Cameron Payne. A fractured finger will keep Payne out of Summer League festivities this year. Another notable absence is Josh Huestis, whom played for the Blue last year and was selected by the Thunder in the first round of the 2014 Draft. No reason was given for Huestis' absence.
Third year players Steven Adams and Andre Roberson will also not be participating in Summer League this year. It's not uncommon for third year players to skip Summer League generally. But it is rather uncommon with the Thunder, whom have had Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Reggie Jackson, DeAndre Liggins, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Kyle Weaver, and D.J. White all participate in the Summer League prior to their third year in the NBA. In rare cases, players will enter the Summer League later in their careers. Shaun Livingston and Daniel Orton have both gone this route. Livingston was recovering from major injury, while Orton was a project big from day 1.
For the most part, Summer League is a forgettable experience. You get some idea of what the higher end players can do, but it's extremely rare for a gem to rise up out of nowhere and make an impact. The closest a Thunder Summer League team has ever come to finding a gem was in 2013. A player named Dwight Buycks turned in a 12 point, 13 assist game out of nowhere, and had a couple more solid point and assist heavy performances. Before the Summer League was up, Buycks had a guaranteed contract with the Raptors. Kent Bazemore also got his start as a Thunder Summer League nobody in 2012. But Bazemore never even got a chance to play!
So in breaking down this year's roster, I decided to make it short and sweet. For each player on the roster I'm going to list one strength, one weakness, and one cool fact. Let's get crackin'!
#23: Bader, Travis, G, 6'5", 190, Oakland University
Strength: Shooting. Set the NCAA Record for three pointers made in a career, surpassing J.J. Redick. Also was second in the NCAA at free throw shooting percentage during his senior year.
Weakness: Consistency. Will have bad shooting nights, doesn't bring much else to the table other than the occasional steal.
Cool Fact: Coming out of high school, Oakland was the only Division I college that would give Bader a scholarship. Bader ended up making the All Summit League team in his junior year, and the all Horizon League team his senior year.
#7: Christon, Semaj, G, 6'3", 190, Xavier
Strength: Speed and quickness. Can get past his defender for an easy shot at the rim or open two point shot. Also killer in transition.
Weakness: Perimeter shooting. Shot just 25% from three for the Blue last year.
Cool Fact: Christon played with Mitch McGary, T.J. Warren, and JaKarr Sampson at Brewster Academy in the year after his high school graduation.
#41: Cobbins, Michael, F, 6'8", 230, Oklahoma State
Strength: Blocks. Got 1.83 blocks a game in his senior year. Also very adept at protecting the rim.
Weakness: Foul trouble, offensive awareness. Sometimes fouled out of OSU games, and terrible when trying to execute the pick and roll.
Cool Fact: He's never in a bad mood, and he knows how to cook!
#11: Cook, Quinn, G, 6'2", 185, Duke
Strength: Decision-making. According to Draft Express, he turns it over only 9% of the time. Furthermore, cook always knows where to be and how to hustle on defense.
Weakness: Athleticism. Lack of size hinders his ability to get to the basket, contest jumpers, and play the passing lanes.
Cool Fact: Won a national championship last year with Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones.
#26: Cotton, Tekele, G, 6'2", 202, Wichita State
Strength: Defense. His steal and block numbers won't wow you, but he can disrupt the other team's best player. Two time Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year.
Weakness: Shooting. Shot 28.9% from three in his senior season.
Cool Fact: Named the funniest person by his teammates at Wichita State.
#18 Esho, Maxie, F, 6'8", 215, Massachusetts
Strength: Dunking. Flies high above the rim, and was especially fond of transition lobs. Definitely likes a faster pace.
Weakness: Consistency. Has problems with foul trouble, and will check out for long stretches of games.
Cool Fact: The first thing he'd do if he were president is take Air Force One to Brazil. He patterns his game after Wesley Johnson.
#30: Gaines, Frank, G, 6'3", 195, IPFW
Strength: Scoring. Averaged 22.4 PPG during the 2013-14 D-League season, while shooting 39.7% from three.
Weakness: Ball skills. Too small to be a SG, and doesn't have the passing repertoire necessary to be a PG. Did improve his assist to turnover ratio last year with the Blue, though.
Cool Fact: Was named the 2014 D-League Most Improved player, and wears shorter shorts because big shorts hold him back and limit his quickness.
#44: Johnson, Dakari, C, 7'0", 255, Kentucky
Strength: Being large and in charge. Dominates the paint with his large body and isn't afraid of contact. Length isn't there but size definitely is.
Weakness: Athleticism, offensive ability, awareness defensively near the rim. He's a project.
Cool fact: Did all of his off-season training at the Pratt institute in Brooklyn, NY. His family has strong connections to the small university, which has nationally acclaimed programs in interior design, industrial design, and architecture.
#16: Jones, Kevin, F, 6'8", 260, West Virginia
Strength: Double-Doubles. Averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds in his 2011-12 senior season with West Virginia. Led the Big East in those categories.
Weakness: Undersized, not athletic, and can't shoot the three consistently.
Cool fact: Played 32 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2012-13 season.
#33: McGary, Mitch, F, 6'10", 255, Michigan
Strength: Speed and athleticism. Perfect big to score on the break or the pick and roll.
Weakness: Defensive discipline. Needs to get a better sense of how to stay on his man and read the floor on D.
Cool Fact: An avid unicyclist.
#31: Randolph, Levi, G, 6'4", 205, Alabama
Strength: Creating his own shot. Was frequently called on to score in ISO situations during his college career.
Weakness: His jumper can be inconsistent at times.
Cool Fact: Also an avid unicyclist. Was named the 2015 SEC Scholar-Athlete of the year. Lost his best friend to a drunk driver before his senior year of at Alabama.
#15: Solomon, Richard, F/C, 6'11", 230, California
Strength: Rebounding. Ranked 7th in the D-League in rebounding percentage last season.
Weakness: Foul trouble. Had 13 games with at least four fouls last season.
Cool fact: Used to see Kevin Durant as a role model. Recovered from disciplinary and academic issues in his Sophomore season to get back to good standing.
#40: Southerland, James, F, 6'8", 225, Syracuse
Strength: Shooting. Averages 39.8% from beyond the arc in his senior season with Syracuse.
Weakness: Creating his own shot. Can't do much when he's forced to put the ball on the floor at all.
Cool Fact: Scored 10 points against the Thunder on April 11th, 2014. He was a member of the Pelicans, and it was garbage time.
#25: Teague, Marquis, G, 6'2", 225, Kentucky
Strength: Speed, allowing him to score easily in a pick and roll or transition situation.
Weakness: Struggles to hit the three, poor decision-making in half court. Failed to register an assist/turnover ratio over 2 for the Blue last year.
Cool Fact: Easily the player with the most NBA minutes on this roster. Younger brother of Jeff Teague. Won a national championship in 2012 with Kentucky.
#42: Zanna, Talib, F/C, 6'9", 230, Pittsburgh
Strength: Double-Double Machine. Averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Blue last year. Nabbed a spot in the D-League All-Star Game. Excels around the rim when set up by teammates.
Weakness: Can't create his own shot, has basically no jump shot to speak of.
Cool Fact: Originally from Nigeria, Zanna came to the United States as a teenager. Lost his Nigerian father while living thousands of miles away in the States.
What prospects are you excited to watch on OKC's Summer League roster? Drop a comment and let us know!
Stay tuned to WTLC as we have Justin Danziger and Joey Conger credentialed at the Orlando Summer League. They will certainly be providing first class first hand analysis.