Bricktown Beat

With Moses Brown being upgraded, who should take the Thunder’s two-way spot?

With center Moses Brown snagging a four-year $6.4 million deal on Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder have opened their roster for yet another two-way contract if they so choose. And given that the franchise has steered to fully examine their youth-filled roster, Sam Presti may not be done making moves.

The NBA’s criteria on two-way contract’s have dwindled dramatically over the course of the season. Players this year can be eligible for up to 50 games and the playoffs, two-year players of the past got a mere 45 days, game-day or not, with their respective franchise. In other words — this is a one-year minimum contract stashed in a clearance aisle, you can’t beat the price.

Given that Oklahoma City has locked onto a distinguished set of guys thus far, a case can be made that there is hardly any room for another active player. Those with that train of thinking may find interest in the team’s second-round pick, Vit Krecji, a 6-foot-8 point-guard enduring a season-ending injury. However; nothing spells Sam Presti more than prospecting for hidden gems that can play right now.

Just looking back at Presti’s previous two seasons, the upgraded contract of Deonte Burton resulted in Oklahoma State alum Jawun Evans being pinned to a two-way contract, last year with Lu Dort’s opening, the Thunder signed Devon Hall in the same week. With that outlined, it’s smarter to bet a move is made rather than not.

Roster construction will mean a good bit in determining who is well-suited for the position.

For starters, guard minutes up for grabs are futile, to say the least. The quartet of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Theo Maledon, Ty Jerome, and Kenrich Williams essentially stuff the 96 minutes allocated — and with Svi Mykhailiuk running time at the two — it’s hard to picture another guard on the roster. Given that Shai may sit for the great portion of the season (plantar fasciitis), a signing at the point could be viable, but with a flurry of point-forwards in the making, it may be a longshot.

When it comes to small-forward, the rotation is crammed as is. Lu Dort takes up a minimum of 30 minutes for each appearance while names in Williams and Mykhailiuk flip-flop at the position. The man who any potential prospect would need to battle with lies in Josh Hall. Hall, the Thunder’s lone two-way contract, has been impressive since joining the rotation last week. As a forward who brings pristine ball-handling and finishing skills around the basket, it’s hard to picture Mark Daigneault throwing him to the wayside.

This essentially leaves the only option being the frontcourt — right? The answer to this is yes and no. Since the all-star break, the power forward position has been thoroughly ironed out with Aleksej Pokusevski and Isaiah Roby sharing time at the position, but the return of Darius Bazley will almost erase any opportunity for a two-way player. Bazley, age 20, manned the starting power-forward gig the entire first half of the season placing 30.7 minutes over 34 games (all starts.) Given that Pokusevski has emerged since his injury, it’s more likely that both parties will duke it out for minutes, leaving the scraps to Roby.

At the center position, there is a different tale. Given that Al Horford will be out for the season to further evaluate young talent, there’s a “golden ticket” for minutes at the position. Going under the assumption Moses Brown will be the team’s full-time starters from here on out there’s around 25-28 minutes bottled up. Outside of Brown, the only other true five is their newest addition, Tony Bradley. Bradley has seen a steady role of 11-14 minutes throughout his career but with his contract expiring after this season, there’s no certainty if he’s part of the roster’s future — if Isaiah Roby stays at the four, the five is open.

Now that we’ve dialed into where Sam Presti may need to bolster, the size of potential targets (Rob Edwards, Jaylen Hoard, Melvin Frazier Jr.) washes away, but even with that, there’s still two gems stuck on shore.

Omer Yurtseven became the Oklahoma City Blue’s second-best player on roster at the closure of the Orlando bubble, it may be worth evaluating if his play was no fluke. The 22-year-old posted averages of 15.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.4 blocks in his 14 games with the Blue — he did it almost entirely off the bench. Yurtseven played a paltry 21.1 minutes per contest, but when given the chance, the Hoya alum killed the competition. Among his best games, the center buried 26 points in 21 minutes, and in the very next game (only start of the year) he sent in 34 points in 35 minutes — Moses Brown’s highest point output was 26.

Yurtseven was very similar to Brown in statlines (ranked sixth and first in off. rebounding,) but play styles differed. Brown’s role stuck to setting screens, driving, or getting the ball down low for bully-ball possessions. Yurtseven lacks the speed and athleticism Brown has, but he had a solid pick-and-roll game, and expanded post-game, his money-maker came from downtown though. Yurtseven was never known for being a three-point threat, shooting just 21.4% in his senior season at Georgetown, but the tides shifted in Orlando. Yurtseven shot a blistering 38.1% from distance with the Blue, ending the year off on a 7-of-12 (58.3%) hot-streak from deep. Yurtseven blossomed as Oklahoma City’s top pick-and-pop threat by the end of the year, but with just 1.5 attempts per game and no prior history, Yurtseven’s shot is no done-deal. If it is, he bar none deserved a chance in the league.

Yurtseven doesn’t wow you like some centers do, but his patient playstyle around the basket coupled with his poignant shot looked very similar to how Al Horford has played this season, even surveying the floor at the free-throw line just how Horford does.

Donta Hall has received interest from multiple different franchises since going undrafted in 2019, maybe Oklahoma City could ground the sophomore stability. Hall has been the Christian Wood of the G-League these past two seasons, in the sense that he’s the bounciest big in the league. As a rookie, the 6-foot-10 big found himself as Long Island’s biggest lob-threat, posterizing defenders for a highlight reel that clocks in at nine minutes. Unlike Wood, Hall’s game is solely driven by slashing to the basket, but his 232-pound frame makes him a speedy big who will torch any larger defenders. Hall showcased his athletic advantage this season being invited to the G-League Ignite team, playing nine games with averages of 8.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 23.5 minutes before being signed by the Toronto Raptors for a 10-day contract. Hall surprisingly never laced up for the Raptors, but he joined the Raptors 905 for three games averaging 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks.

Hall’s unique blend of size, speed, and rim protection makes him an oddity for a G-League candidate as NBA GM’s highly value these traits — maybe Presti would too. In a situation where Hall is with the team, he becomes an immediate threat in setting high-ball screens for guards, and with a spring-to-his-step, snagging a lob should be no issue. Defensively, the center has been tossed around inside (once by Moses Brown) however his unprecedented 7-foot-5 wingspan makes up for it on opposing members’ drives.

With Moses Brown upgraded and an open two-way contract in play, Sam Presti may look towards collecting another asset. Make sure to keep these two names on your shortlist for contenders vying for a shot in the NBA.

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