The Oklahoma Thunder bench went from bad in 2017 to serviceable in 2018, but still left a lot to be desired. OKC is directly addressing these shortcomings and upgraded the bench. With the new addition of Dennis Schroder, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and Nerlens Noel they are boosting the bench power. What does this mean for them? On paper they could be producing a high end back up squad, however how will the backups and second squads fit into the Thunder game plan? Will there be a noteworthy leader when the first team sits out entirely? Lets consider some things.
First, let’s take a quick look at who really stands out as key bench players over the years. Some of the standouts include Manu Ginobli, Andre Iguodala, and Eric Gordon. Manu has been the legendary second squad man for the Spurs for years. A player who could start anywhere else and put up historical numbers but chose to be a spark off the bench towards the end of his career. Why? Because of the selfless systems that Gregg Popovich put into place years ago.
Then there is Iguodala, who was a former starter before he came to the Warriors. What I like about Iguodala is the energy that he shows on and off the floor. He seems to have as much fun as any of the starters and proves to be a spark to his surrounding players.
As for Gordon, he put up numbers that reflected a starter role and may have been the team’s 3rd best player after James Harden and Chris Paul. His numbers were produced because all the pressure was taken off of him and his role as a sixth man ignited his production.
Each of these three types brought to the table table something different. A bench player can settle in his role knowing he serves his team best by being a non-starter like Manu, can be an energy booster and supporter to starters like Iggy, and can put up high output numbers that only come from a sixth man type role like Gordon.
Adam Fromal from the Bleacher Report has an insight from Kyle Korver of the Cavs last season. When Dwayne Wade was still with them before he was sent back to the Heat, he apparently served a key role to the second squad. Korver says:
”...there’s no doubt he’s (Dwyane Wade) done a great job of leading that second unit. And I think there’s been growth in a lot of areas with that second unit. We just got tons of motion going on. Tons of movement. But you can’t just have five guys doing that. You got to have someone in that group who is making that pass or commanding that double team or getting the ball into the paint and then with the movement and pieces that we have, kind of making it fit together well. So, I really think the way I look at it, we have two of the greatest basketball minds in the history of the game and one is leading the first unit and one is leading the second unit.”
Having that one player step up to take the lead over that squad is as important as Westbrook taking charge of the starters. It can’t be just bunch of random backups thrown together and hope to get chemistry and order. Wade obviously did it so well because he took the lead for so many years with the Heat. In a way this could have happened with Melo of a year ago had he taken more of a sixth man like role, but yeah yeah, we know happened.
I think Schroder has the potential be play a critical role. He can really do some damage for the Thunder as a sixth man, especially being that he is a similar player to that of Westbrook. This quick slashing point guard can exhaust defenses when these two guards share the floor. He may not be another superstar added as was the dream a year ago with PG and Melo, but he might be an additional wrecking ball that continuously puts pressure on defenses. It wouldn’t be too far off to consider him as a potential sixth man award winner. Given that he has put up decent scoring numbers and may be bumped down as a sub it will be interesting to see how he shares the ball with the likes of PG and Westbrook.
Noel is another high energy player when he is at his best. As I wrote in my previous post Noel will add depth to their roster. As Schroder should add an additional scoring dimension to the offense Noel should at least give solid relief to Adams. Like Schroder, he might offer another diverse angle for the Thunder if he is to play alongside of Adams. Both of these additions should enhance their play.
So what is it going to be, Thunder? Are these new acquisitions in Schroder, Cabarrot, and Noel going to boost the whole moral of the their bench? Who will step up to serve as the leader of the 2nd unit? Last year, Ray Felton had that role, to mixed results. Will they except their roles and serve the greater good of the team like Manu has done for years? Or will one of them sulk at being a backup when why he knows he qualifies to be more of a standout? Well, let’s get these newcomers into training camp and start prepping with the Thunder!
Who will be the bench player who leads the 2nd unit?
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