Over the last six years, the backup shooting guard position has been an issue. Oklahoma City have not been able to find options who can work well for the Thunder. In recent years, Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Abdel Nader have all played the position with varying success.
Ferguson looked like a promising 3&D wing in his sophomore season but that growth has fallen off a cliff in his third year in the NBA. Hamidou Diallo has brought athleticism to the position but his defense is suspect and Diallo cannot be relied upon to knock down outside shots.
The best player of this grouping has been Abdel Nader. Nader made serious strides in his game as he became a tidy shooter from downtown and a crafty defender. Nader can play at the two but I personally believe that he is more suited to the backup small forward role. His lack of foot speed is hidden when he guards small forwards.
It is an open spot in the rotation and I do not fancy playing Terrance Ferguson or Hamidou Diallo extended minutes at the 2. There are options in free agency who could slide into a reserve role and play well.
Height - 6’5
Weight - 209 lb
Age - 27
Pat Connaughton is not the first name that I thought of when I started researching players who would fit well with the Thunder. However, Connaughton started to stand out as an option as I dug deep into the statistics. Connaughton is a viable option for the Thunder off the bench.
Connaughton came into the league and played limited minutes during his first two seasons in the NBA. It was only in his third season that he started to show his ability. Connaughton became a useful player for Terry Stotts due to his energy on offense and defense.
Connaughton was excellent at finishing inside and he was a surprisingly effective defensive player. His ability to play defense well meant that he carved out a bench role on the Milwaukee Bucks last year.
Contrary to popular stereotypes, Connaughton is not a great shooter. Pat only shot 33% on 2.5 3PA last season in Wisconsin. 33% is not terrible but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to knocking down the long ball.
Connaughton’s inefficiency from behind the arc was compounded by his shot diet. 56% of Connaughton’s field goals attempts came from 3-point territory. In most cases, we would praise a player for focusing on efficient shots but Connaughton is not most players. In his case, I would prefer to see him finishing around the rim much more.
Connaughton shot 70.5% on all looks inside of 3ft in his last season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He is very efficient from this zone and his efficiency stems from his athleticism. Connaughton is a superb athlete who is explosive around the rim. Connaughton has a vertical jump of 44 inches. He is more than able to dunk the ball at will.
Connaughton combines this athleticism with a good feel for the game. Connaughton is proficient at cutting into open space and catches the defense off guard with his movement. Connaughton’s movement and athleticism means that it is difficult for a defense to stop him.
Connaughton could develop into being a useful off-ball threat if Coach Mark spends time working with Connaughton on his shot diet. I would like to see Pat lessen his 3-point field goal attempts and work closer to the rim if he signed for the Thunder.
Connaughton is also an excellent rebounder for his position. Pat’s rebounding ability is closer to a big wing or a stretch big than a shooting guard. Connaughton pulled down 11.3% of all available rebounds when he was on the court. He has a voracious appetite for securing boards.
When you put those statistics in context, you realise how good Connaughton’s production is. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler both average around 11.3% when it comes to rebounding. Connaughton is adept at using his leap to get to the ball before it can come back down to Earth.
Moreover, Pat is a sound perimeter defender. He is not the fastest guy in the world but he hustles hard and makes life difficult for the opposing team. Connaughton buzzes around the court and plays hard at the unglamorous end of the floor. His defense is why Connaughton is valuable. There are very few shooting guards who have a defensive rating of 104 in a reserve role.
Connaughton would be a genuinely interesting signing for the Thunder. However, he does have limitations. Connaughton does not really have an outstanding skill in terms of the technical aspects of basketball. His value is derived from his athleticism and work rate. Pat could struggle hard against quality opponents who know how to beat his hustle.
Height - 6’5
Weight - 195 lb
Age - 34
Garrett Temple is one of those good veterans that every young team wants to have on the roster. Temple has developed a reputation around the NBA for being an intelligent, thoughtful veteran who takes an active role in the education of younger players.
Temple is a good mentor and a leader in the locker room. Last season, we saw the Thunder’s young players flourish under the wing of Chris Paul. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley both seemed to grow on a weekly basis with Paul providing the advice.
Garrett Temple is not Chris Paul by any means but he can impart the wisdom that a veteran knows and can help establish good habits for younger players. Little details like eating well or getting enough sleep often go unnoticed when considering a player’s development. However, it is these marginal gains that can make all of the difference.
Guys who have been around the block and understand what it takes to survive in the NBA are so valuable. They are the teachers for the next generation of players. Temple is well-suited to this role given his experiences in Memphis and Sacramento.
In terms of on-court contribution. Temple is strictly a 3&D wing. Temple takes 65.8% of his looks from outside. Temple’s shot profile has matured nicely as he enters the twilight of his career. Temple has started to play the maths and reduce the number of looks that he takes at the rim.
Garrett Temple is not an efficient 3-point shooter, he shot just 33% on 6.2 3PA last season for the Nets. In isolation, his efficiency is rather poor. It is a different story when you consider his volume of looks. 6.2 attempts per game forces a defense to respect his shot.
Temple’s inefficiency from outside is offset by his volume; the volume stretches out the defense and would allow Shai to get to the rim without a help defender sitting in the lane. Temple’s decision to adjust his diet was a shrewd move by the veteran.
Despite being out of his prime years, Garrett Temple is still an effective wing defender. His defensive real plus minus was 0.56 last season. That is a strong return for a player at the point of his career where defensive effectiveness starts to fade away. It is an unusual stat when you consider the fact that he is not particularly lengthy or athletic.
Temple’s impact on defense comes from his strength and his sound fundamentals. Temple is a physically strong defender who is capable of absorbing hits and sticking with his assignment. The pressure does not relent when he is guarding an opponent.
In a straight comparison, Pat Connaughton looks to be a better fit than Garrett Temple. Connaughton’s elite finishing and gritty perimeter defense would give the Thunder a player who can fill the backup shooting guard role without much fuss. However, I really like Temple’s impact off the court.
Temple is a leader and a mentor. Young rosters need players who they can learn good habits from. Garrett Temple is as good as any when it comes to leadership. Moreover, there will be times when heads drop and the Thunder do not play well at all.
Good veterans keep the team on an even keel and moving in the right direction. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may have a few issues as the leader of the Thunder next season. It would make a lot of sense to put a wise head next to him who Shai can consult.