In the 2017-18 season, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a very mediocre bench, to say the least. Obviously, the Thunder will look to improve upon these marks this season, as the bench’s ability to retain a lead while the starters rest is vital to regular season success.
He was acquired from the Hawks this off-season in the Carmelo Anthony trade. Schroder is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate that should bring a huge playmaking boost to the bench, something that Raymond Felton struggled with last season. The bench ranked 29th in assists last season. Schroder’s play in the pre-season should excite Thunder fans, as he averaged 15.2 points and 5.5 assists while showing excellent PnR chemistry with center Steven Adams.
Nerlens Noel signed a 2-year contract with the Thunder back in July that included a player option. Noel brings in a much needed second center to the Thunder, one thing that wasn’t present last season in Dakari Johnson. Noel is a stout defensive player that should be able to protect the rim. The shot-blocking duo of Jerami Grant and Noel should cause havoc for opposing players at the rim.
Grant was one bright spot for the Thunder off the bench last season, finishing at the rim and drawing fouls while being a great defender. He averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds on 53.5 percent shooting in 20.3 min in 2017-18. He should see an increased role and minutes this year with the departure of Carmelo Anthony.
The Spaniard returns for his third year with the Thunder, and also his contract year. Abrines started shaky last season because of injuries and lacked mobility. The main issue with him is his ability to find and take shots. He only attempted 2.9 three-pointers a game in 15.1 minutes last season, which is too little considering he’s on the floor to shoot 3-pointers and nothing else. If he can find shots this season and make them at a good percentage, he will be huge for the Thunder. If he can’t produce, he simply won’t be on the roster next season.
Diallo comes in as the 45th pick in this year’s draft. He had a great preseason, improving in every game and ending with a 19 point performance in a win over Milwaukee on 8-of-16 shooting while being 3 for 5 from 3. Diallo excels at grabbing rebounds on both ends of the floor, averaging 4.5 in the pre-season with 2.8 of them being on the offensive end. Diallo still a rookie however, and it’s not very plausible that he will be an impact player this season. He just needs to improve every day, because he certainly has the potential to be great.
Abdel Nader was brought in this summer in a trade with the Celtics, and he remains a mystery. Nader sat out all of the pre-season games with knee soreness, but is on track to be available for opening night. Abdel appeared in only 48 games with the Celtics last season, playing 10.9 minutes per game, and averaging 3 points on 3.1 field goal attempts.
TLC was the second part of the Carmelo Anthony trade that netted the Thunder Dennis Schroder. TLC is a player that the Thunder should know what to expect of for this season. He is a very average wing that can shoot a lick and play a little bit of defense. He averaged 5.8 points on 5.1 field goal attempts with three of them being from the 3pt line while playing 15.5 minutes per game. TLC is also still very young, with room to improve in all aspects of his game.
Felton was a fierce competitor for the Thunder last season, seeming like the reincarnation of Michael Jordan at the beginning of last season with how much better he looked than Semaj Christon. Felton averaged 6.9 points, 2.5 assists per game on 40 percent shooting in 16.6 minutes per game. He had a large number of isolation possessions, mainly because of the bench’s lack of shot creating and playmaking, something that should improve this season with the addition of Dennis Schroder. Less minutes will be had for Felton this season, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Felton’s veteran leadership in the locker room is invaluable to the Thunder.
Terrance Ferguson returns as a second year player looking to make a jump. Ferguson has been inconsistent throughout his young career so far, last season, in the Summer League, and pre-season this year. Ferguson played 61 games in the 2017-18 regular season, and was inserted as a starter for 12 games when Andre Roberson suffered a torn patellar tendon in January. Ferguson averaged 3.1 points on 41.4 percent shooting in 12.5 minutes per game for the season.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!