Thunder's Versatility Allows for More Lineup Combinations

One game into the regular season, and Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks finds himself with several options when it comes to shuffling minutes and lineups.

“I have some great choices to make,” he said.

With injured forward/center Nick Collison out, Brooks must find a way to disperse the minutes that would typically go to his veteran big man. Brooks used nine different lineups in Wednesday’s season-opening win against the Chicago Bulls, each one slightly different than the other, but nearly all with a pair of front-court players who could both stretch the floor offensively and bang down low against Chicago’s beefier frontline of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

Those lineup combinations – some featured Kevin Durant at power forward and others with three guards on the floor – worked on Wednesday, but Brooks said it can change on a game-to-game situation.

Tonight's opponent, the Detroit Pistons, for example, doesn’t have nearly as stout a front court; Jason Maxiell is undersized for his position while Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye are tall, lanky forwards. Ben Wallace is a bruiser and former Defensive Player of the Year. Rookie Greg Monroe is their closest thing to a true center but he did not play in the Pistons’ regular season opener.

“Just going into the game, looking at the game on paper, we can definitely go with a smaller lineup, but you never know how that lineup does,” Brooks said. “We have the ability to switch and I have confidence in all of our guys to come in there and play good minutes. But whether it’s Cole (Aldrich) or Serge (Ibaka) playing extra minutes or Jeff (Green) playing the 5, we have some good parts who can play some different positions.”

The Thunder’s versatility and interchangeable parts might be one of its greatest assets.

Reserve guard Eric Maynor, who ran the offense with two different reserve units, said the reserves got used to playing with one another during training camp and the preseason. Maynor was always one the floor with fellow guards James Harden and Daequan Cook.

“We’re basketball players and I felt like whatever position coach puts us in we’re going to go out there and play,” Maynor said. “He’s going to put us in the best situation and sometimes some guys might feel uncomfortable, but as long as guys go out there and give it their all, I think we’ll be OK.”

Cook echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve been playing all training camp with those guys and it’s important for us to come out there and pick it up from where the starters left off and keep the intensity, bring a lot of energy and keep the momentum going our way,” he said. “The starters depend on us a lot and we have to go out there and continue to do the things we do.”

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