Hello again Thunder fans! It’s been quite the eventful week, as the Thunder decided to shake things up near the trade deadline. As expected, Eric Maynor was traded away. Apparently he still wanted to be a part of the team, but because he refused to go down to the D-League, the Thunder were miffed and wanted somebody else. He was eventually dealt to the Trail Blazers for a trade exception, a long-forgotten European prospect, and some cap room. With that cap room, the Thunder did two things. First of all, they traded their second rounder next year for Ronnie Brewer, a defensive wing from New York. Second of all, they re-signed the living fossil known has Derek Fisher, for reasons that no one can possibly understand.
What do these signings mean? Well, with it being the middle of the season and the Thunder not wanting to deal any of their prospects, it’s impossible for them to make a big splash. Rumors said that J.J. Barea and Marcin Gortat were on their radar, but no team really valued Eric Maynor enough to give up a decent player. Basically, the Thunder gave Eric Maynor away for nothing, and the Knicks gave the Thunder Ronnie Brewer for nothing. That might sound like it doesn’t bode well for the quality of the player, but both situations were just good teams overloaded at certain positions. Just because Eric Maynor didn’t get minutes in Oklahoma City, it doesn’t mean he’s not capable. In fact, he will probably instantly become Portland’s 6th man, and contribute significantly to their team’s success. (Yeah, their bench is garbage.)
The addition of Brewer and Fisher is rather interesting for the Thunder. It leaves them with six or seven viable bench players, which means one of two things. Option one is that Scott Brooks becomes Gregg Popovich 2.0 and somehow works 11-12 people into his regular rotation, constantly throwing his opponent for a loop. Given Brooks’ total inability (or unwillingness) to make in-game adjustments, I seriously doubt the former is true. More than likely, somebody is going to have to lose minutes.
The intrigue lies in who loses those minutes. We’ve already confirmed that Fisher is going to get minutes in the rotation, and not serve as merely a mentor and towel-waver. I’m presuming that Brewer is also going to get minutes, given that he was a significant part of the defense-heavy Bulls bench mob last year. Also, if he wasn’t getting minutes, you’re facing the possibility of Fisher and Martin spending extended time on the floor together alone, which is a defensive disaster waiting to happen. Thus, somebody in the current rotation is going to have to get squeezed out.
Obviously, Liggins is probably the first to go. He was able to sneak minutes here or there based on his defensive prowess and offensive positioning, but his shot it just too inconsistent to allow him to get regular minutes at this point. The next to go? That’s the $64,000 question. Personally, I’d hope it’s Hasheem Thabeet. While Thabeet’s comeback from draft bust status is inspiring, the cold hard reality is that he’s not any better than he was in his rookie season statistically, and he’s hurt the Thunder on numerous occasions both offensively and defensively. I love him as a person and as on-court entertainment, but if the Thunder are going to win with their current roster, their best option has to be to go small. Let Collison hold down the post fort and slide guys like Durant, Brewer, and Sefolosha in at the PF spot. Allow Fisher to work off-ball as a shooting guard, and let Jackson continue to capably run the point. Let the team’s overall defense, athleticism, and shooting ability get opponents where it hurts them the most.
But, therein lies the problem. What I described above most likely won’t happen. Brooks has repeatedly insisted that the Thunder are a big team that dominates the post. He’s been extremely stubborn about playing traditional lineups in the past, and often doesn’t make necessary changes until it’s too late. So, do you know what’s probably going to happen? Brewer will be reduced to spot minutes, like Liggins. (Which, quite frankly, is a waste of his talent.) And Fisher, that crazy old coot, will take over for Reggie Jackson at point. Not only will the Thunder again tell Reggie that they don’t trust him, ruining their future. As an added bonus, Fisher will probably take minutes from Kevin Martin, who doesn’t get enough shots as it is. Blaaaaargh.
I hope I’m completely wrong. Either way, the Thunder are definitely a more talented and flexible team with the new additions. They aren’t quite at a San Antonio level, with the ability to mix and match players ad infinitum. But they do have the tools to adjust their lineup against a team that really gives them problems. Like, oh, I don’t know, the Miami Heat. Whether the Thunder use those tools correctly is entirely up to Scott Brooks. Here’s hoping he chooses wisely.
Random Thunder Highlight of the Week:
Nothing fancy here, but this highlight is a perfect example of how gamey Russell Westbrook is on fast breaks. Some might say that no Bulls went to defend the lane because they didn’t want to be embarrassed. But if you watch it in slow motion, you can see that Russell Westbrook slowed down just a tad near the three point line. This fooled Marco Bellinelli into thinking that Russ was going to set up the offense or dish it to another oncoming player. so while Bellinelli backed off, Russ re-ignited his jets and went straight to the rim. It’s a move he pulls off all the time, and it’s absolutely magnificent to see in action.
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