Why are the OKC Thunder using so many lineups?

Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
Head coach Mark Daigneault of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are sitting at 3-3, riding a three-game winning streak which includes sweeping the L.A. Clippers in OKC on Tuesday and Thursday while beating Dallas on the road in overtime when Isaiah Joe went scorched earth to help get the job done. The OKC Thunder are still figuring out who they are, and how good they can be this season. With that, there has been a ton of lineup experiments.

Despite the season being just six games old, the OKC Thunder have already played roughly 105 different lineups for at least one possession according to Cleaning the glass, and Mark Daigneault has not been shy in talking about this unconventional style.

With over 100 lineups used, Mark Daigneault is showing the luxury of this OKC Thunder roster

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been tinkering with lineups all season long, even dating back to the preseason, and there have been a few reasons for that. One of them, is due to injury, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren all missing time during the regular season for various lengths and injuries, with only Holmgren set to miss the entire season.

The OKC Thunder have deployed five different starting lineups in six games, over 100 lineups overall, and even saw Mark Daigneault use 13 different players in under 14 minutes of play during the home opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves last Sunday.

So why? Or better yet, how are the Thunder using so many different lineup combinations?

Well beyond just the injuries, looking at this roster as a whole, it is just a deeper rolodex of players that the organization wants to develop long-term. It is no longer throwing the player into the deep end of the pool and seeing if they swim.

If a player does not have it on a given night, or against a certain matchup, the Oklahoma City Thunder can balance development vs trying a new look this year. Of course, you still want to play young players and see if they can play through adversity, but this year if you have to yank a player that is having an off night the other option(s) at Mark Daigneault are also prospects viewed as a long-term investment in Bricktown.

There is a huge difference between Mark Daigneault rolling out Darius Bazley or Aleksej Pokusevski two years ago, and them not having their best effort that night but allowing them to play the entire game because the alternative is…Tony Bradley, and now they have a plethora of young players scrapping for minutes all that the organization wants to develop and see if they can stick around long-term in Oklahoma City.

Of the 17 players on this roster, there are two, or at most three, players that you could say do not have a shot at a long-term future in Bricktown. So Mark Daigneault can afford to mix and match without compromising the mission of this season which is development.

Though this year, you are developing young players while also trying to twist and turn the Rubix cube and find the right combination on any given night that gives you the best shot against that night’s opponents.

So far, it has worked, to the tune of a spunky 3-3 record with the Magic, Nuggets, and Bucks on the horizon this week. What do you think about all these lineups Mark Daigneault is deploying?

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