The 2016-17 Thunder roster is set, well at least for opening night.
On Monday the Oklahoma City Thunder announced their final roster cuts, and among them were 3rd year forward Mitch McGary and veteran off-season pickup Ronnie Price. Instead, the Thunder signed Semaj Christon to their roster as the 3rd string point guard, behind Russell Westbrook and currently injured Cameron Payne. The decisions come as moderately surprising, given that McGary has long tempted fans with flashes of brilliance, and Price had been acquired because of his veteran experience and defensive acumen, while Christon had long been relegated to the Thunder’s Developmental team, the Blue.
McGary’s waiving is perhaps the most disappointing. He was the Thunder’s 21st pick in the 2014 draft, considered lottery-level talent but battled a back injury in college as well as a failed drug test which drove him to enter the draft. After an exciting rookie season, McGary was used sparingly last year under Donovan’s inaugural coaching campaign, and McGary left the team for undisclosed reasons at the end of the 2016 season. Coming into this year, McGary was already facing a 15-game suspension for two violations of the NBA’s Drug Program.
With Cameron Payne out for an extended time period with a foot injury, Price looked all but guaranteed to make the Thunder squad this year. He had been signed to a 2 year deal in August, but after five pre-season games, the Thunder opted to sever ties.
Instead, Semaj Christon (55th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft), beat out Price and was finally able to claim one of the 15 roster spots in OKC.
Christon didn't necessarily blow away the competition during preseason (7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 1 SPG in 18.4 MPG), but his ability to bring more on offense than Price (Christon shot 16-33 from the floor during the pre-season) was likely the deciding factor.
Payne’s absence has had an effect on the Thunder’s second unit play through the preseason. The hope is that Christon can at least replicate some of the playmaking and shot creation that OKC lost with Payne sidelined for an extended period.
Christon had signed a two-year contract in August with OKC. He has played the past three summers with the Thunder’s Orlando Summer League team and was a member of the Oklahoma City Blue in the 2014-15 season.