Who is going to step up for the Thunder off the bench?

Who is going to step up for OKC off the bench next season?

7/8/13 in NBA   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Over the past few seasons, the Oklahoma City Thunder have had a rare weapon in their arsenal - a dynamic sixth man who can take over a game for stretches at a time. Two seasons ago, that player was James Harden, who averaged 16.8 points per game and won the award for Sixth Man of the Year. Unfortunately, the Thunder were unwilling to dip into the luxury tax to give Harden a contract extension, so they traded him to the Houston Rockets. In return for Harden, the Thunder received a new viable scorer off the bench - Kevin Martin. While Martin was serviceable in filling Harden's shoes, he became an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and has since signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Although those two players have only started a combined two games for the Thunder over the past two seasons, they each finished third in scoring (behind perennial All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) during their seasons as the sixth man in OKC. With Harden now in Houston and Martin in Minnesota, the Thunder will be forced to find a new source of production off their bench.
Blog Photo - Who is going to step up for the Thunder off the bench?
The first player that comes to mind as a guy who could step into the big shoes left behind by Harden and Martin is point guard Reggie Jackson. Though he averaged only 5.3 points per game last season, he did so in a mere 14.2 minutes - projected over 36 minutes per game, Jackson would have averaged 13.6 points (on 45.8% shooting), 6.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Though he didn't get a single minute of playoff action as a rookie during OKC's journey to the NBA Finals in 2011-12, Jackson was called upon to play a huge role during the playoffs in his second year. Starting point guard Russell Westbrook injured his knee in the second game of the postseason, and Jackson was next in line to step up as the starter. In nine postseason starts, Jackson never failed to reach a double digit point total. He averaged 15.3 points per game (47.2% shooting) with 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists. The 23-year-old proved that he could handle an increased role, and though he won't be a starter with Westbrook back in the picture, he is a favorite to lead the team in minutes off the bench.

While Jackson has proven himself on an NBA court against top-notch competition, the Thunder also have a sleeper for heavy minutes off the bench in Jeremy Lamb. As a jump shooting two-guard, Lamb's game is much more similar to Martin's than Jackson's is. Lamb barely played as a rookie in 2012-13, but made the most of his 147 minutes, scoring 71 points. It's obviously a very small, unreliable sample size, but those numbers equate to 17.4 points per 36 minutes, for what it's worth.

It should also be noted that the Thunder have seemingly been force feeding Lamb through two Summer League games thus far. In 60 minutes of Summer League action, Lamb has taken 32 shot attempts - 13 more than anyone else on the team. Though he has only made nine of those shots (28.1%), he did knock down the game-winner over the Orlando Magic on Monday. The fact that the Thunder are giving Lamb a lot of looks in Summer League could indicate that they have plans to increase his minutes during the regular season. He'll have to start shooting a better percentage if he wants that bump in minutes to be significant, but regardless, it looks like he has a good shot at seeing the floor regularly.
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