Round Table Part II, OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz: x-factors, advantages, predictions

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- DECEMBER 3: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Russell Westbrook
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- DECEMBER 3: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Russell Westbrook /
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In part II of the Thunderous Intentions round table the scribes dive deeper into the OKC Thunder impending first round series.

As the OKC Thunder prepare to tip off their 2018 NBA Playoffs tipping the Thunderous Intentions writing team gathered for a two part round table session. In this segment the scribes offer their opinions on the coaches, x-factors, strengths, weaknesses and series prediction.

Question 5:

Presumably the OK3 will be fired up and ready to deliver on statements such as “we know when it’s time to perform” and ‘we’ll be ready when it matters”. Certainly Billy Donovan hasn’t shown a propensity to put much trust in his reserves given their inconsistent and limited minutes. Postseason play is notoriously the time coaches shrink their reserve minutes and total number of players to hit the hardwood.

Name the reserve player you think could be an x-factor either in the series or for a game.

Sinjin Snope:

This should come as no surprise to those who have followed the Thunder this season, but the role player that I think will have the most impact for OKC is Jerami Grant. The hyper-athletic forward/center has made a tremendous jump in his level of play this season. His ability to score of the dribble, draw fouls and finish at the rim are invaluable to this Thunder team who has a weaker than most bench unit. If Carmelo Anthony can’t handle Derrick Favors in the post, expect Grant to earn big minutes in this series.

Noah Schulte:

Jerami Grant. The former Syracuse forward is having a low-key, good year in OKC and his versatility on both sides of the ball could end up helping the Thunder win at some point in this series. Throughout the year, he’s brought an infectious energy and athleticism to the Thunder which has manifested in a .7 net-rating and a heavy increase in minutes. He’s not a star, but he could be just what the team needs to win a game.

Austin Sternlicht:

It has to be Jerami Grant. He’s been so vital off the bench these final few weeks. He can come in for Carmelo Anthony if Melo gets roasted on defense. He can also spell Steven Adams, which could help space the floor and drag Rudy Gobert out of the paint. Grant’s versatility as a small-ball big man will be vital to the Thunder’s success this season.

Wil Harrington:

Jerami Grant will likely be the popular pick here. His energy and athleticism bring something off of the pine that opposing bench squads cannot always match. Alex Abrines has been too inconsistent to receive an influx of playoff minutes. Raymond Felton was built for his role – take care of the rock, and do not back down from open shots.

Alex Mcewen:

The answer to this question is simple in this scribe’s opinion Jerami Grant. From January 28th until the end of the season Grant got progressively better.

Billy Donovan could use Grant to play small ball bringing Gobert out of the paint of forcing Derek Favors in a tough cover. Regardless of how Grant is utilized, I expect him to have a big impact on the series.

Jeremy Lambert:

Point Gawd Raymond Felton. I assume everyone is going to say Jerami Grant and that makes sense given his play this season. But remember last season. When Westbrook sat and they were forced to use Norris Cole or Semaj Christon, the whole thing fell apart. Having a backup point guard with Felton’s experience is a huge addition to this team.

Tamberlyn Richardson:

Kind of breaking my own rules here, because the directions handed out asked the team not to pick the same player as the Brewer replacement. But, a tiny technicality, if they moved Paul George to the shooting guard then it wasn’t Patrick Patterson replacing him.

Clearly it was going to be Jerami Grant who got the majority of the love in this question. That said, at this stage I’m not sure he’s the x-factor as much as an expected contributor. And, while I’m cognizant of the negative thoughts on Patterson to this point, he’s perfectly suited to face Utah’s slower half court pace especially paired with Adams since the big Kiwi will tackle Gobert while Favors will be drawn out to the perimeter to defend the floor spacing Patterson (who was highly efficient down the stretch). I’ve felt all season his minutes weren’t consistent enough to allow him to excel and get his timing and rhythm.

Jordan Buckamneer:

Without a doubt, OKC’s most important player coming off the bench is the versatile defender Jerami Grant. Similar to Andre Roberson, Grant’s length allows him to take the toughest defensive assignment and he hauls in rebounds. In 20.3 minutes he averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds.  In the final three games he scored double digits, including 17 points in the playoff-clinching win over Miami.

He’s shot a career-best 53% from the field, including  a season-high 20 points against the Clippers in mid March. In the opening series against Utah, Grant will come in and face the likes of pretty much everyone at times from Joe Ingles to Derrick Favors and maybe even Rudy Gobert. His length allows him to switch off on pretty much anyone and not be a mismatch. His shot isn’t the first option on the offensive end, but is certainly gaining more respect the more he’s left open.

Stephen Dolan:

Grant and Abrines are the obvious choices here. Grant has been a revelation of late, and his efficiency and free-throw rate have been a true difference-maker for the Thunder. Abrines, too, was really coming on strong before being sidelined by concussion symptoms. He seemed to have finally earned Billy’s trust, and was performing impressively on the defensive end. So, who do I think will be the x-factor off the bench? Patrick Patterson. Because, as the commonly, maybe overly-used cliché says, “Billy’s got surprises.”