As mentioned in the Small Forward piece, the Thunder do not have much frontcourt depth heading into next season. The starting three and four looks to be Darius Bazley and Kelly Oubre Jr.
It is also entirely possible that Kelly Oubre Jr is traded before the December 22 start. On the bench, the only forward who is contracted for next season is Isaiah Roby. Mike Muscala has a player option for 2020-21 that he is likely to opt into.
In a similar vein to the other positions, a free agency acquisition will be relatively cheap. Oklahoma City will be looking to find role players who can fill a reserve role off the bench. In this exercise, I have excluded RFAs. I doubt the Thunder would be interested in starting a bidding war with the team who holds the right to match a contract sheet.
Considering all of these factors, John Henson and Noah Vonleh are two names that the Thunder should consider signing. Hendon and Vonleh are vets who know their role and responsibilities. They are capable of playing to a good standard. The Thunder need quality backup fours and both these guys can fill that role.
Height — 6’9
Weight — 219 lbs
Age — 29
Henson finished last season in Detroit. He was traded to the Pistons by the Cavaliers in the Andre Drummond deal. Over the course of his career, Henson has averaged 7.6 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 1.4 blocks on a nightly basis. These numbers are even more impressive when Henson’s role is considered.
John Henson has been a backup big off the bench for the entire of his career. His career average in minutes per night is just 19.7. He is very good at stuffing the stat sheet in time that he is on the court.
Henson profiles as a throwback power forward. He is a big who eats up boards and scores in the paint on dunks, layups and put backs. Henson cannot shoot the ball and he is a poor free throw shooter. John Henson would not contribute anything to the Thunder’s floor spacing.
There is nothing too special about Henson’s talents but he is a lunch pail guy who will come in and do his work.
On the defensive side, Henson seems to have a knack for racking up blocks. A skill that is necessary for a good backup big. A big who could intimidate and dissuade guards from going to the hole for looks is always useful.
Henson will turn 30 this season. I would not expect his stay in Oklahoma City to be a long term solution. Henson would be a stop-gap for this rebuilding period . If he performs well, the Thunder could potentially flip Henson at the trade deadline for assets.
Height — 6’10
Weight — 257 lbs
Age — 25
The 9th overall pick in 2014 has bounced around the league. Vonleh has played for six teams in his six seasons. Vonleh has not lived up to his potential or pre-Draft expectations but he has carved out a nice career as a backup frontcourt big.
Vonleh scores the majority of his buckets in the paint. His rebounding is a little underwhelming and his shooting is historically nonexistent. Outside of his 2019 season where he shot 33.6% from three on two attempts a game, Vonleh does not provide much in terms of spacing. He has decent skills but Vonleh is not elite at any one skill.
It is difficult to get a good read on what Vonleh is as a player because he struggles to get on the court at a consistent basis. Vonleh has averaged just 16.9 minutes per game. His lack of minutes is an alarming flag. It could indicate that Vonleh has not adjusted to the NBA level or is uncomfortable in the NBA.
But even with that information on hand, I would still like to see the Thunder take a chance on the 25-year-old. There is the off chance that they strike gold with him. In New York, Vonleh looked like a promising young player. Continuity and a stable environment may bring out the best in him.
Vonleh only played in 36 games and averaged just 10.5 minutes a game last season on the Wolves and Nuggets. Oklahoma City will not need to worry about a crowded market for Vonleh’s talent in free agency.
This signing may not work out but that is not an issue. Moving on should not be a tough pill to swallow for the organization. There is little cost in giving Vonleh a shot at training camp and see how he performs. A good performance from Vonleh would earn his way onto the Thunder’s roster.
As you can tell from these selections, the power forward market is pretty dry this year if you are a team trying to go bargain shopping. There is not much to offer when it comes to finding good, cheap vets or young players with the potential to be a low risk-high reward additions.