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News » Thunder 'long' on versatility

Thunder 'long' on versatility

Thunder 'long' on versatility
Take a close look at this year's NBA playoff rosters and a strong similarity can be found between the postseason rotations and the Thunder's developing young core.

Oklahoma City's length at all five positions compares favorably to successful teams like Boston, San Antonio, Denver, Houston, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And if general manager Sam Presti's maneuvers have told us anything, it's that the Thunder could become even lankier this off-season.

Last summer, Presti unsuccessfully tried to pry rangy 6-foot-6 shooting guard C.J. Miles away from Utah. In February, Presti nearly acquired gangly 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler before the trade with New Orleans was rescinded.

But judging by recent postseason history, the Thunder's current long-limbed starting lineup of Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha, Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic could be the foundation of a roster capable of creating match-up problems offensively through its versatility while also providing the upper hand for lock-down defense.

"I think teams are looking to get any advantage that they can," Presti said. "And they're looking to put different combinations out on the floor to give coaches different options and variations on their rosters.

"Certainly athletes - and long athletes - are guys who have impacts on both ends."

Before writing off all NBA players as "long" athletes, consider the size differences seen on the Thunder's roster alone - Westbrook compared to Earl Watson at point guard, Sefolosha paired with Damien Wilkins at shooting guard and Kevin Durant against Desmond Mason at small forward. The longer players cover more ground, can more easily get into passing lanes for steals and deflections, challenge more shots and, as we saw all season with Durant, rise over the top of the defense when shooting jumpers.

Opposing players began picking up on how the Thunder's roster was being constructed back when Chandler was thought to be headed to Oklahoma City.

"They're starting to look like Portland looks," said New Orleans forward David West on the February day the Chandler trade was announced.

"It's not going to be too many teams that can match up with them athletically."

The Trail Blazers - often compared to the Thunder because both franchises boast a talented young nucleus - can trot out lineups that include Brandon Roy, Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden.

The Nuggets have benefited from a rotation that includes Dahntay Jones, Carmelo Anthony, Nene Hilario, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen, J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza, all of whom have long wingspans.

Last year's champion Celtics gave the Lakers fits with their long-armed rotation of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, James Posey, Tony Allen and PJ Brown. And this year's Lakers, with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, a healthy Andrew Bynum and new addition Trevor Ariza, are expected to roll to the Finals and provide similar headaches.

"I wouldn't say that we're just driven by looking to get guys who have great length," Presti said. "I think it's definitely a benefit for us. The versatility is definitely something that we like about the direction that we're headed in.

"But we want to have good Basketball players. We want to have Basketball players that are going to play both ends of the floor. We've been fortunate that we do have some length and (coach) Scott (Brooks) can use it in different ways. But we want to get guys that fit the direction we're going in and not all of them are great, long athletes. But certainly the ability to add length to our team can be a positive that fits what we're looking for overall in a player."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 6, 2009


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