Thunder Young Guns Reloading
By Randy Renner
This will be the biggest season yet for Thunder's group of young veterans. Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson are all believed to be in the mix for the starting shooting guard spot. Each brings his own set of plusses and minuses.
Jones Unique Athlete
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant called Jones, "the best athlete in the league," last spring during his MVP acceptance speech. The best athlete label would be impressive enough if Durant had just been talking about the Thunder much less the entire NBA. So far though Jones has not lived up to the hype.
There have been flashes certainly where it would seem Jones was poised for a breakout. Most recently his dominating performances at the Orlando Summer League may finally serve as the springboard he needs. Jones says he's more confident in his game now than ever before.
"Every time I took a shot (in Summer League) I was confident I was gonna make it, no matter what it looked like I just knew it was goin in. And that's the way I should play, just be confident."
Jones' coaches would agree, they've preached to him over the last couple of seasons not to turn down good shots. In Summer League Jones fired up threes and ran the floor finishing with slams. Because of his 6-11 frame and his huge wingspan, Jones could be both an outstanding defender and a guy who can stretch an opponents defense with his ability to knock down long balls.
He and several of his teammates are in the running for the open shooting guard spot.
"I do feel like it's an opportunity for me," Jones told reporters this week. Jones has had opportunities since he was drafted. It's time now to seize one.
Could This Be Lamb's Year?
Thunder third year guard Jeremy Lamb is pretty much in the same boat as Perry Jones, full of promise and potential but also inconsistent.
Last season Lamb started great, given an opportunity to fill Kevin Martin's shooting shoes he had some big games early and was averaging double digits scoring for the first part of the season. Then the misses came more often than the swishes, Lam lost confidence in his shot and that affected his defense and before you knew it has was back on the bench and the Thunder had brought in Caron Butler.
Now Lamb again has a chance to assert himself and perhaps even take over as the starter at shooting guard.
"I'm definitely working hard but that's not a focus of mine. My focus is just to get better and whatever role I can play so we can be the best team we can be, that's the role I'll play."
Lamb has worked hard over the summer to improve his defense, something he admits he didn't even really care about his rookie season, and he's worked on his shooting skills too.
"Hard work pays off," he said.
Roberson Could Be The Favorite
Thunder GM Sam Presti dropped some pretty strong hints last week about what he and head coach Scott Brooks are looking for when it comes to that open shooting guard position and "shooting" isn't at the top of the priority list. Defense is. And defense is what second year guard Andre Roberson is all about.
"I feel like I'm ready," Roberson said on media day when asked about possibly being the starter at that open position. "But it's not up to me whether I've got it or not, it's up to Sam Presti and Scott Brooks, that's their job."
Roberson could make it easy on Brooks and Presti if he shows he can at least hit a shot or two when he has an open look on a corner 3 or has a chance at a backdoor cut or a putback slam. Even though defense is the main thing the Thunder brain trust wants at the 2 guard spot they also can't have a guy who goes "oh-fer" every night.
"I feel a lot more comfortable now, I've been workin hard in the gym over the summer. I think I've come a long way with my shot, it's gotten a lot better."
The Thunder would love for Roberson to become a "3-and-D" guy, someone who can shut down an opponent's shooter and then create space on the other end of the floor.
If he can do that, look for Roberson's name to be called with the starters on Opening Night.