Thunder have plenty of options at center

BY foxsports • July 24, 2013

The Miami Heat showed us a center is not a necessity to win an NBA championship.

For that matter, neither is offensive rebounding.

The Heat had no center and ranked No. 28 in the league, getting just 8.2 offensive rebounds per game. We all know what happened in June, too.

Now we have all this concern about the Oklahoma City Thunder not getting enough production from center Kendrick Perkins.

So why the heck would the Thunder have four centers on their roster when maybe they could get by with one or even none? Well, seems excessive, and by the time training camp gets going in October, there's no doubt the position will be thinned out, as OKC won't carry all four into the regular season. We know Perkins is the starter and we know Steven Adams will be on the team, as he was the Thunder's first pick in the June draft, but past that, there are no guarantees for either Hasheem Thabeet or Daniel Orton.

The Thunder hold the team option on both Orton and Thabeet heading into the season. Thabeet will earn $1.2 million. Orton is signed at $916,099, but salary won't be the determining factor for either.

It's apparent coach Scott Brooks is not all that comfortable with his back-up center situation, which is why Adams may get more of a chance this upcoming season. Brooks clearly was hesitant to play Thabeet and Orton when he had the chance a year ago. Thabeet played a total of 5 playoff minutes and none against Memphis in the second round. Orton didn't play at all in the postseason.

So, if Perkins and Adams are remaining, is it worth taking a chance on another? It is, but only if it's Orton.

And here's why:

Because we just don't know, at this point. Orton has been in the league for two seasons and has played a total of 29 games, getting just 10 minutes per game on average. Now, obviously if he was a pure talent, he would have gotten a lot more playing time, but plenty of players take time to develop. Orton could be that guy.

And here's why:

He can score. So while Brooks is always quick to come to the defense of Perkins, suggesting the Thunder don't need a center who can put up points, wouldn't it be a bonus if a center actually did? Orton has the potential, Thabeet does not.

As seen in the small sample size that is the Summer League, Orton can play. Yeah, it came against first and second year players and not the elite of the league, but Orton did what he was supposed to do, and when he was supposed to do it.

Thabeet has never done that.

In three games, Orton averaged 12 points on 67 percent shooting in just 16 minutes per game. He also averaged five rebounds and a 1.7 blocks per outing, too. Not great numbers, but not that bad either. Figure if Orton could play 10-12 minutes per game for the Thunder in the regular season and contribute eight points, it would be a huge offensive upgrade from Perkins who averaged just 2.2 points per game in 11 playoff games last year.

And the case for Thabeet?

His best season was his rookie season when he started 13 games and played in 68, averaging 3.1 points and 3.6 rebounds for Memphis. Since then, he has started only seven games and has never averaged more than he did last year in Oklahoma City when he played 11.7 minutes per game. In the five seasons since his rookie year, Thabeet has averaged more than two points per game only once.

Oklahoma City and the league don't know what Orton can do. At this point, everyone has a pretty good handle on Thabeet.

The good news is, regardless of whether the Thunder keep one or both centers, they will still be a team picked to win about 60 games and be at the top of the Western Conference. They don't need a center to be successful.

But if they have to choose, the best bet is Orton.

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK