The OKC Thunder currently have 21 players on standard NBA contracts. While they still have two two-way spots available, the OKC Thunder must cut down the rostered players to 15 standard contracts by the start of the regular season in October.
There will be some hard decisions that have to be made by the OKC Thunder front office, and some good players will have to be let go or traded. However, with three months remaining until the season opener, there is still work to be done for the Thunder roster to prove their skills.
Which three OKC Thunder players have to take the biggest leap this Summer?
This year, Aleksej Pokusevski, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Tre Mann must take a leap. Specifically, they must show more juice during training camp and preseason games to avoid the franchise eventually moving on from them.
Make-or-break summer for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl did not play for most of the summer league due to an ankle injury, an issue that kept him out for most of his second season. The ankle injury caused many of his struggles this past season, and he wasn’t the same player when he tried to come back.
He was attempting to build off the promising rookie season for the first 26 games. Robinson-Earl shot 57 percent inside the arc, 38 percent on triples, hoisting three shots from beyond the arc per game, and 79 percent at the charity stripe.
Robinson-Earl, pre-injury, was a good role player who hit spot-up threes but struggles to finish around the basket, shooting just 55 percent around the rim ranking him in the 5th percentile for his position according to cleaning the glass.
The question remains whether the ankle will continue to bother him or not; if it does, he will likely be a roster casualty. If he can return to who he was in the first 26 games, he will take the leap needed to help the OKC Thunder win games.
Potentially the last go around for Aleksej Pokusevski.
Aleksej Pokusevski injured his arm in early June from an offseason workout and was declared out for four to six weeks, the OKC Thunder announced last month. This is supposed to be a big offseason for Pokusevski after being injured just before January, like Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. He was doing the little things well, being a connective piece on offense and playing high-level defense for his role. Especially as a help-side rim-protector.
The flashy plays weren’t there, but a productive NBA player was. He tried to come back from his injury in late March and wasn’t the same player. The game moved too fast, and so did Mark Daigneault’s rotation as the team prepped for the postseason. Pokusevski was good in November, averaging 11 points, 5.4 rebounds, and swatted away two shots per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Pokusevski has yet to get a contract extension this offseason as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The OKC Thunder should be providing an update on his injury soon, but because he’ll have missed at least six weeks, that could hamper his development.
We will see if the shooting is real this year, but I believe he can be the backup center for Chet Holmgren with a leap forward this summer. Though, he is in for a tough battle with second year big man Jaylin Williams in a crowded Oklahoma City rotation.
Tre Mann needs a strong Summer.
Tre Mann is entering this year as an OKC Thunder guard and, before the summer, was seen as someone who could be traded during this roster crunch. Since then, Tre Mann has dominated Summer League and has left fans torn on his eventual fate.
He only played four games between Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, but his numbers were great. He averaged 20.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor, 43 percent from three, and 76 percent from the free throw line.
He was aggressive on the offensive end showing self-creation for himself and his teammates. He had one of the best dunks in the summer league in the first game vs. the Utah Jazz. The defense is still a question for him, but his confidence on the offensive end looked more like him in his rookie year than his sophomore year.
The question remains whether his defense has improved enough for Mark Daigneault to give him substantial minutes off the bench. His summer league performance should be a launching point for the rest of the summer and into training camp.