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2020 Free Agency: Small Forwards

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A small forward could be on the cards in free agency for the Thunder

Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Maxey Pro Day at The Sports Academy Photo by Jim Poorten/NBAE via Getty Images

With the inevitable departures of Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder, the Thunder will need to make up those 40 total shots per game lost with their departures. Gallinari, Paul and Schroder were huge parts of the Thunder’s offense last season.

The Thunder are entering a period of time where they will spend less time hunting down talented players and more time taking fliers on cheap, young guys to see which ones work out for OKC.

Darius Bazley will likely occupy one of the two starting forward positions. However, the bench is a concern. Oklahoma City do not have any depth.

Hamidou Diallo and Deonte Burton all have team options and there is a real possibility where only one of those players get their option picked up by the team. Mike Muscala has a $2.3M player option that he will most likely exercise.

As things stand right now, Oklahoma City’s wing depth consists of Muscala and one, maybe two at best, of those three players mentioned before. The bench is thin and there is not much quality to write home about. An addition in free agency could provide the Thunder with a decent contributor off the bench.

In free agency, there are a couple of guys who I think the Thunder should look into signing as low risk, high reward guys; Josh Jackson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should be considered by the Thunder.

Josh Jackson:

Height — 6’8

Weight — 207 lbs

Age — 23

The former fourth overall pick in 2017, Jackson has had a bit of a career renaissance in Memphis last season after Phoenix gave up on him. Jackson seemed to grow as person and seems to be taking the game more seriously.

In his two seasons with the Suns, Jackson struggled hard in terms of adjusting to the NBA on and off the court. Jackson found himself in trouble with the law a few times. Jackson had a decent rookie season; he averaged 13.1 points in 77 games. However, his shooting struggles smeared his sophomore campaign. His scoring and shooting numbers worsened significantly.

Jackson also could not resist taking bad shots. It seemed like he was making life hard for himself on offense. Moreover, his ball security was not good; his assist to turnover ratio stood at an ugly 1.9 : 2.0.

The combination of Jackson’s lack of progression and off-court issues meant that Phoenix gave up on him and sent him to Memphis. Jackson was humbled in Memphis. He started the season playing on their G-League affiliate, the Memphis Hustle.

The fall from grace was huge. Josh went from being the fourth overall pick in a loaded Draft to the G-League in a two year span. That kind of fall would have destroyed the confidence of most players. That fall usually results in a ‘bust’ label being attached to a player.

Jackson made the most of his opportunity with the Hustle. It was a fresh start for him. Jackson was fantastic with the Hustle. He averaged 20.4 points, 4.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds on an efficient 44.7/ 38.2/ 62.7 shooting splits in 26 games.

In the G-League, Jackson shot over 38 percent on 6 3PA. In his two seasons with Phoenix, he shot 29.4 percent on a mere 2.8 attempts. His stroke was efficient and Jackson was letting it fly from deep. Jackson was called up by the Grizzlies on January 27 and he averaged a respectable nine points on 54.7 TS% in 22 games off the bench.

Josh Jackson is still only 23 years old and would be the type of player I could see the Thunder going after. The Thunder could place Jackson in a rotation role and see if this turnaround is for real or if it was just an anomaly.

The only reason as to why I could see the Thunder not being interested in the former Kansas Jayhawk is his off court issues. Jackson was arrested in May 2019 for escaping and resisting arrest at a music festival. Jackson was also suspended by the Hustle for missing a team meeting in December 2019.

It is important to note that outside of missing a team meeting, Jackson has managed to stay out of trouble in Memphis.

The market for Jackson should be fairly low and the Thunder should be able to sign him for close to league minimum. The value for money makes the deal even sweeter. Providing that Jackson has turned the corner, then it will be a steal of a deal. Oklahoma City would have added another young player to their growing core at little cost. Jackson not working out is not an issue either, OKC can move on easily.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson:

Height — 6’6

Weight — 217 lbs

Age — 25

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson began his career with the Nets and called Brooklyn home for his first four seasons. Hollis-Jefferson travelled north of the border last offseason and signed with the Raptors.

RHJ’s player profile is an athletic, undersized frontcourt guy who can defend at a respectable level but struggles to shoot the ball efficiently.

47% of Hollis-Jefferson’s career shots have come from within three feet of the basket. This is not surprising for a player who really struggles with outside shooting; RHJ is a career 21.3 percent shooter from deep. Hollis-Jefferson rarely takes outside shots, his career high in 3-point attempts per game in a season is just 0.9.

Hollis-Jefferson is the type of player who is great depth on the bench but he is also a below average starter. It is a strange spot for RHJ to be in but it could mean a good bench piece for the Thunder.

On the character front, Hollis-Jefferson is not a guy the Thunder will have to worry about. Rondae knows his role on the team and is self-aware. He also stays out of trouble on and off the court. RHJ would be a great locker room guy for the Thunder. He could take young talent like Lu Dort under his wing and work with Dort when it comes to improving as a technically sound perimeter defender.

There is not much upside in Hollis-Jefferson but he brings stability. Oklahoma City will know know what they can expect from him this upcoming season.

Moreover, Hollis-Jefferson is only 25 years old; he could have value to contending teams down the line. A good season in Oklahoma City could have teams interested in acquiring his talents and Sam Presti should have no issue flipping him for assets.

It is possible that the Thunder will lose Nerlens Noel this offseason. Noel is one of the best backup bigs on the market and will gather a lot of interest from teams. I believe RHJ could play the role of a small ball five in the fast-paced lineups that Coach Mark Daigneault has described.

RHJ reminds me a lot of a cheap version of pre-injury Andre Roberson. An athletic wing who can defend really well but his inability to shoot limits his role in half-court sets.

Josh Jackson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson exemplify the type of players that the Thunder should look into signing. The former being a low risk, high reward question mark and the latter being a safe hire who knows his role on the team and can be a stable force in the locker room.