This is a continuation from OKC’s tier one evaluations that we published earlier this week. These are the four Thunder players that were active bench role players for the Thunder.
Terrance Ferguson | Grade: B | 6.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.0 assists.
After a challenging rookie season where he may have been thrust into something he wasn’t quite ready for, Terrance Ferguson had the opportunity to fold under pressure and let his career deteriorate. We’ve seen it happen plenty of times in the Thunder’s tenure in OKC.
But Ferguson didn’t let adversity get to him. He channeled his North Tulsa grit and found ways to be productive. He doubled, plus some, his point production from his rookie season from 3.1 to 6.9 points per game. Since seven points per game for a starter in the NBA isn’t ideal, Ferguson had to find something else that he’s good at, to make himself more useful for the Thunder. With Andre Roberson still out from his torn patellar tendon injury last season, Terrance had to pick something else up and that happened to be his defense. Roberson coached him throughout the season and we watched him become a trustworthy defender.
Ferguson still has glaring holes in his game. He needs to learn to defend without fouling and has to become more comfortable handling the ball and creating his own shot, but he’s headed down the right road.
Dennis Schröder | Grade: B | 15.5 points, 4.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds.
Oklahoma City’s bench had an abundance of athleticism heading into this season, but the lack of confidence from head coach Billy Donovan crippled most of OKC’s bench players minus a few. Dennis Schröder was the most reliable bench option by far but still struggled with some inconsistency in a new role.
While playing in Atlanta last season, Schröder averaged 19.4 points per game in 31 minutes per game. This season with OKC he averaged 15.5 points in 29 minutes. His stats weren’t vastly different from his last season in Atlanta but his three-point percentage actually increased from 29.0 percent to 34.1 percent.
The biggest issue with Schröder this season was his inconsistencies. He couldn’t string more than five games together all season where he was playing at a consistent level. You may be able to credit this season’s issues with him getting used to a backseat role to NBA all-star Russell Westbrook.
Nerlens Noel | Grade: B+ | 4.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals.
Nerlens Noel isn’t a stat-stuffer in the slightest but he helped the Thunder where they needed it this season and at times, may have been a better option for Oklahoma City ahead of Steven Adams, depending on the matchup. He has plenty of room to grow.
Noel was a vital defensive option for the Thunder, as they expected but he didn’t produce much of anything on the offensive end. That put Oklahoma City in a bind thanks to a lacking bench. If Schröder wasn’t having a good game, the bench often didn’t produce much of anything either.
Noel would perform better if the Thunder had a stronger bench. It would allow him to be his true self. There wouldn’t be as much pressure on him to produce offensively, for his role would be to serve as more defensive depth in OKC front-court.
Patrick Patterson | Grade: D+ | 3.6 points, 2.3 rebounds.
Patterson’s statistics have decreased steadily since the 2012-2013 season, his third season, with the Houston Rockets. This season with the Thunder was a bit of a travesty for him and that’s why this evaluation of him will be short. Right before the all-star break, the Thunder all but replaced him by acquiring Markieff Morris.
Neither performed well in their time to shine this season, but Patterson significantly lacked production. His role when picked up at the start of the 2017-2018 season was to be a reliable option from 3-point range. This season, he shot 37.4 percent from that range, which was middle of the pack on a poor 3-point shooting team.
Markieff Morris | Grade C- | 6.5 points, 3.8 rebounds.
Morris wasn’t what we expected. He was supposed to be a step up from a struggling Patrick Patterson but turned out to be just as ineffective as him. Morris only played 24 games with the Thunder, so this is also a narrow assessment but he was only a 33.9 percent 3-point shooter, worse than Patterson) and 39.1 percent shooting (also worse than Patterson).
Morris’ twin brother, Marcus Morris spoke on the record about the Thunder not utilizing Markieff’s grit, which they did not. But Morris wasn’t the shooter we expected him to be and was a step too slow on defense often times.
Maybe the Thunder give him another chance next season and honor his wish of giving him more of a role? We’ll see, but the way he played through 24 games won’t help get OKC anywhere.