The Oklahoma City Thunder are due for a rotational ripple.
With the Thunder onboarding four rookies, including three Top 12 selections, the organization is due for a shuffled deck in the rotation. After the waiving of forward Isaiah Roby in July, the franchise holds a standard roster of 18, three spots above the league maximum. Upon the franchise’s duo of two-way signings and pair of Exhibit-10 additions, they currently hold a roster of 22 – exceeding the training camp maximum of 20.
In preparation for the 2022-23 season, roster turnover is a given for the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, their tip-off time will help show their finished product from the offseason.
Throughout the week on Inside The ThunderI will be assessing what I imagine will be the Thunder’s opening rotation for the regular season.
For purposes of articles on the topic, Josh Giddey will be listed as a shooting guard based on the franchise’s starting lineups during the 2021-22 season.
Additionally, these minutes will be solely based on my projections for the Thunder’s day-one rotation. As showcased in years prior, the franchise has altered rotational minutes based on performance and injuries accordingly. While changes are to be expected, these minute allocations will not take into account potential injuries or forthcoming rotational adjustments.
Here is the breakdown on the Thunder’s projected center rotation:
Chet Holmgren – 29 Minutes
Since kickstarting their rebuild two seasons ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder have needed touch-ups, notably in the frontcourt and three-point shooting departments. Chet Holmgren should aid these factors while adding much, much more.
As a 7-foot center, Holmgren took over the Salt Lake Summer League posting 23 points and a Summer League record six blocks in his debut. In his lone season at Gonzaga, Holmgren ascended to one of the top shot blockers in the nation while shooting a near 40% from deep from both on-ball and off-ball conversions.
Holmgren is slated to be the peanut butter to the Thunder backcourt’s jelly. With on-ball threats in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Tre Mann, adding a lethal pick-and-pop threat with playmaking ability is a match made in heaven. Even on his own, Holmgren carries his weight as a star-studded piece in transition and a good decision maker in the halfcourt.
While Holmgren should be seeing plenty of 30+ minute outputs, starting the season with a less-extensive minute average should give insights into fatigue while also dishing out rotational versatility.
Mike Muscala – 14 Minutes
After an impressive 2020-21 campaign for the Thunder, Mike Muscala looked to be on the way out in free agency. However, his appreciation towards the franchise led to a re-up last season. Following last season, he re-upped again, inking a two-way $7 million deal.
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At age 31, Muscala is one of the clear veteran leaders on the roster. While his development curve may be on the decline, his current skill set makes him a no-brainer to net minutes for the season’s onset.
Muscala carried a positive plus/minus in the last two seasons, amplifying his teammates with his team-best 42.9% three-point clip last season. At 6-foot-10, Muscala had grounded himself as a trusty stretch five who opens up interior cavities that simply wouldn’t be there without his presence.
While there are a plethora of prospects hoping to earn minutes, establishing the best potential rotations are a must to open the season. Mike Muscala is most definitely thrown into those assortments.
Jaylin Williams – G League
As the No. 34 pick, Jaylin Williams’ energy permeated onto the Summer League floor. Entering his rookie season, he’ll be looking to make an impact in the big leagues.
Williams checks the boxes for the Thunder as a hustler, notably leading D-1 Basketball in charges drawn last season. While averaging a near double-double with 10.9 points and 9.8 rebounds, Williams has a solid feel for the game around the basket, but he still needs some additional reps.
Due to limited minutes at the NBA level, Williams spending the months of November and December in spurts with the Oklahoma City Blue will hand him valuable opportunities to orchestrate the pick-and-roll, establish a mid-range game, and continue his energy- heavy play.
Williams is a prime candidate for minutes to cap the season. However, in its onset, he’ll be awaiting an opportunity.
Derrick Favors – Fringe Roster
Acquired in the moments after the 2021 NBA Draft, Derrick Favors has added a veteran presence to the Thunder.
Favors did his part last season for the Thunder, averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds across 16.7 minutes. He started in 18 of his 39 appearances.
With the Thunder filling the center spot with Chet Holmgren, Favors, a former top 3 pick himself, would be a perfect mentor for the Gonzaga Bulldog. However – the Thunder’s looming roster crunch could nab Favors before the season start.
While he’s still an NBA-level talent, the Thunder’s abundance of new faces and perimeter play move Favors outside of the desired archetype at the five.