Roster Cuts Coming Today For Thunder
By Randy Renner, Senior Writer
The Oklahoma City Thunder have to at least be down to the NBA roster maximum of 15 players by 4 o’clock this afternoon which means four players will need to be cut from the roster.
The most obvious choices are training camp invitees Kaleb Tarczewski and Chris Wright. Each will likely be offered roles on the D-League’s OKC Blue. Wright is owed $100,000 and Tarczewski has $75,000 guaranteed.
Alex Caruso, the rookie from Texas A&M was cut a few days ago and had been guaranteed $50,000.
The difficult decisions will be between point guard, Semaj Christon and forwards Joffrey Lauvergne and Mitch McGary.
Christon was signed to a $543,000 deal with $200,000 guaranteed and the assumption was he would end up with the Blue again.
But Christon has been impressive in camp, averaging seven points on 48.5 percent shooting and 2.4 assists in five preseason games. His shooting percentage is better than starter Russell Westbrook’s (42.3%) and backup Ronnie Price’s (15.4%).
With normal backup Cameron Payne out until at least the end of November and probably until mid-December, some fans and even media have wondered if Christon might be the way to go.
But head coach Billy Donovan has praised the play of Price and his veteran leadership. Price also has a 2-year deal worth $5 million.
Then what to do at power forward?
Lauvergne, whom the Thunder acquired from Denver, will be owed $1.7 million if he lasts through the day and $854,000 if he's cut according to The Vertical's Bobby Marks. McGary is owed $1.5 million no matter what.
Lauvergne has gotten rotation minutes during the preseason and has responded by averaging 8.8 points on 50 percent shooting while pulling down five rebounds.
McGary, who is suspended the first 15 games of the regular season, didn’t play in the preseason. He was out the first four games with an injured foot and then stayed on the bench after being cleared to play in the last two games.
McGary has admitted to problems with marijuana and has also had trouble staying in shape during his time in OKC. The Thunder have been actively pursuing trade possibilities for months but so far nothing has developed to the Thunder’s liking.
The only thing that could prevent the Thunder from cutting ties with McGary is the chance of a hardship roster exemption they could receive for the final 10 games of his suspension. That would allow them to bring Christon, provided he hasn’t signed with another NBA team, up from the Blue to help out at point guard while Payne is out.
But that temptation may not be enough to keep McGary around with all the promise Lauvergne has shown.
It will be fascinating to see how the Thunder roster shakes out. We’ll update you on our Twitter feed page and will post an updated story when the final roster is announced.