With the 2012-13 NBA season quickly approaching, over the next two weeks I am going to be previewing what we can expect to see from each Thunder player. This will only cover who I believe will make up the twelve man roster. Missing this cut included Lazar Hayward, Hasheem Thabeet, Hollis Thompson, and Daniel Orton. Just for fun I am going in reserve order of their #NBArank from ESPN.
Cole has had a disappointing career up to this point. He has had a difficult time living up to the hype, after the Thunder traded up for him at the number eleven pick in the 2010 draft. With the departure of veteran Nazr Mohammed, Cole could earn some rotation time this year. With potential playing time on the line, in the 2012 NBA summer league Cole looked like much of the same player as the last two years. Cole never scored more than ten points, or grabbed more than seven rebounds, against what would be considered sub-par competition for a player going into his third year. In addition he only averaged one block per game, and in only 16 minutes against the Pacers, he was charged with seven fouls. (You are allowed ten fouls in the summer league) Fouls have been a major concern so far in Cole’s NBA career, averaging 5.9 fouls per 36 minuets of play, and are more than likely a point of emphasis of the Thunder coaching staff going forward.
With the above concerns, you can tell why the Thunder signed Hasheem Thabeet, Hollis Thompson, and Daniel Orton. Cole’s role on this team is in no way safe. Unless Cole can show significant signs of improvement, I don’t expect the Thunder to pick up his 3.2 million dollar team option for the 2013-14 season(Over three times as much as Thabeet or Daniel Orton). Looking to save all the money they can to give to Harden, they will not be able to pay the 12th man on their bench over 3 million dollars. In addition, if Cole continues to under perform do not be surprised to see Thabeet or others dressing and possibly taking Cole’s spot toward the end of the bench. That being said, currently if coach Scott Brooks wants to go big with the second unit, Cole is the only viable option to replace Nazr. Of course with Dwight Howard coming to the Lakers, it would be ideal to have as many big bodies to throw at him as possible. Other than against the Lakers, I suspect the Thunder to play smaller and faster with Nick Collison playing minutes at center. Playing smaller allows the Thunder to play more up temp and play their best players, which does not include Cole.
Overall, Cole has above average athleticism and if he could ever put together the tools that made him the number eleven overall pick, he could play some significant minuets with the second unit. He has a good hook shot from the low block that he can perform with either hand, which is more than anyone can say about Kendrick Perkins. I suspect he will be able to get some time early in the season at center with the second unit. Hopefully Cole will be able to grow this season and fill the need of a backup center that the Thunder are searching for. In a month hopefully we will have a better idea of Cole’s role when we see the Thunder play a few preseason game. Until then, we are just left to wonder.