Apr 7, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) Thunder forward Serge Ibaka (9) and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) wait for play to resume against the New York Knicks during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the OKC Thunder’s rotation, best lineups next season

The Oklahoma City Thunder will have a somewhat new look next season with the departure of Kevin Martin.

Martin’s absence will leave minutes to be picked up, either by new guys like Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones or more minutes for returners like Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher.

The new look will likely result in a change in the rotation.

Two seasons ago, James Harden would play with the second unit, running the show with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the bench at the start of the second and fourth quarters.

Last year, the same was tried to be applied with Martin filling in for Harden, but it didn’t exactly go as planned. Scott Brooks began sitting Durant with around three minutes or so remaining in the first and third quarters, and then would often start him in the second and fourth quarters with the second units.

I expect at the start of this next season, Brooks will stick with the same rotation plan for Durant, sitting him before the end of the first and third quarters.

At the start of the season, it may even feel like the Thunder don’t really have a sixth man in a way. The starters will probably play a ton of minutes to start each half together before the first substitution is made.

Nick Collison will be the first big man in for either Serge Ibaka or Kendrick Perkins and Jackson and Fisher will come in to replace Thabo Sefolosha, Westbrook and Durant.

The two other reserves who will get a lot of burn will be some combination of Hasheem Thabeet, Lamb, Jones, and possibly DeAndre Liggins or Ryan Gomes (assuming rookies Steven Adams and Andre Roberson are spending most of the season with the Tulsa 66ers).

If Durant is taking a seat before the end of the first and third quarters, you would think Lamb or Jones would be the one coming in to replace him, unless Brooks plans to play a three point guard lineup of Westbrook-Jackson-Fisher (and I wouldn’t put it past him).

So it feels like there will really be no choice for Brooks than to have Lamb or Jones getting a lot of minutes in the rotation, even from the start of the season. Brooks could go with Liggins here and I wouldn’t be totally surprised if he does, but Liggins may not even make the team.

I’m betting it’s Lamb coming in early in the game, probably after Jackson and Collison on most nights. Fisher and Thabeet will probably be the fourth and fifth subs. If Brooks is looking to go small, Jones or Gomes will be a good option as stretch fours.

Here’s an early prediction at MPG guesses for the Thunder next season (with last year’s MPG in parantheses):

Starters
PG – Russell Westbrook, 36 (34.9)
SG – Thabo Sefolosha, 28 (27.5)
SF – Kevin Durant, 40 (38.5)
PF – Serge Ibaka, 34 (31.1)
C – Kendrick Perkins, 23 (25.1)

Bench
Reggie Jackson, 18 (14.2)
Nick Collison, 19 (19.5)
Derek Fisher, 12 (14.4)
Jeremy Lamb, 15 (6.4)
Hasheem Thabeet, 8 (11.7)
Perry Jones, 5 (7.4)
Ryan Gomes, 2 (NA)

Second unit
PG – Reggie Jackson
SG – Derek Fisher
SF – Jeremy Lamb
PF – Nick Collison
C – Hasheem Thabeet

Lineup closing out games
PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Reggie Jackson
SF – Thabo Sefolosha
PF – Kevin Durant
C – Serge Ibaka

Thunder’s best plus/minus lineup
PG – Russell Westbrook
SG – Thabo Sefolosha
SF – Kevin Durant
PF – Nick Collison
C – Serge Ibaka

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