After a regular-season campaign that saw the Oklahoma City Blue reach the highest of highs and the lowest of lows last season — Grant Gibbs’ squad is revving up for another year of G-League basketball.
The Oklahoma City opened last season’s “bubble year” on a high note, posting a league-best 7-1 starting record, however, a 1-6 dry spell to close out to season pushed the once championship contending Blue onto the outside — missing the playoffs after a wild series of events leapfrogged two teams into a playoff ticket in the final two days of the season.
Now, the Oklahoma City Blue are back into action. This time, they’ll be returning back to home turf, now at the newly coined Paycom Center — home of their NBA-team Thunder.
The Oklahoma City Blue have essentially reshuffled the deck heading into this season as Thunder members Aleksej Pokusevski and Ty Jerome look to have asserted themselves in the big leagues while two-way signee Josh Hall was waived by the franchise over the summer, prompting him to sign with the Toronto Raptors.
As for other notable members, Moses Brown played his way up last season after an impressive G-League campaign in which he averaged 18.9 points, 13.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks netted the 21-year-old All G-League First Team honors, and also a full-time call up to the Thunder. Brown made some noise with the Thunder logging 8.9 points and 8.6 rebounds across 42 games, however, the big man was packaged to the Boston Celtics over the summer, subsequently being dealt to the Mavericks in a later deal.
The Blue’s second threat in the frontcourt, Omer Yurtseven, has also moved up to the big leagues. After recording an impressive statline of 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks off the bench, Yurtseven inked a two-year contract with the Miami Heat in May. Yurtseven’s prestigious play at the Summer League further instilled his worth to the Heat organization, as the 7-footer is fully guaranteed for the season.
Other players in Antonius Cleveland, Ryan Woolridge, Chasson Randle, Phil Booth, and Vincent Edwards have also been swapped out in the Blue’s redux as most members listed have opted to go the overseas route for the upcoming season
The Thunder Troop:
As stated by Mark Daigneault, the Oklahoma City Thunder are planning on using the Oklahoma City Blue as an extension of sorts, allowing Thunder players to be placed on assignment, and reap the rewards of ample playing time.
The Blue currently hold four Thunder members on assignment:
Tre Mann cherishes the Oklahoma City Blue’s highest rank while on assignment. Though Mann expected to bounce between the G-League and NBA level throughout the season, Mann’s first pitstop comes just in time for G-League tipoff. Mann, the 17th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, logged 9 and 8 points, respectively in his first two Thunder appearances, toned back his stint in his last three games. The 6-foot-5 combo guard possesses a wide array of dribble moves, including a hallmarked stepback to cater his three-point prowess.
Vit Krejci, a member also on the Oklahoma City Thunder, wields a unique archetype within the Thunder organization. Krejci possesses a 6-foot-8 build while playing strictly at the point guard spot to this point. The 21-year-old flashed a plethora of playmaking and finishing skills overseas, and with no tape from the Czech in over a year — he carries boom-or-bust potential. Krejci was originally acquired by the Thunder on Draft Day 2020 with the 37th selection, however, with a torn ACL injury in September of 2020, he may utilize the G-League more than Mann.
Aaron Wiggins climbed up the ranks during the offseason as a two-way signee after being selected 55th by the Thunder, Wiggins averaged the second-highest point output in Las Vegas with 11.2 points while also spewing out spurts of glory in the preseason. Wiggins’ game gels well with the Thunder’s current mantra as the 6-foot-6 wing has the capability to take to 2-or-3, but also has looked solid on the catch-and-shoot, and as a slasher.
Paul Watson Jr. was a late two-way induction for the Thunder as following the waiving of Josh Hall, Watson Jr. filled in the gaps. The 26-year-old worked his way up to a full-time contract last season for the Raptors, marking averages of 4.1 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 0.6 assists in 27 games. Watson Jr.’s role hit its peak late in the season as the wing dropped 30 points shooting eight threes. Watson Jr.’s calling card has largely revolved around the three-ball to this point as he shot 46.9 percent from distance on 2.4 tries last season.
The Oklahoma City Blue have retained four players from last season’s active roster, of the grouping — an array of both starters and key role players can be found.
Rob Edwards rejoins the Blue as the centerpiece returning from last season. After being selected in the third round of the G-League Draft last year, Edwards turned into a gem establishing himself as Oklahoma City’s go-to scorer off the bench, and a primary bucket getter with the primary unit. In his 15 games with the Blue, Edwards gunned out 12.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists while shooting a team-high 44.0 percent from downtown. To put the icing on the cake, Edwards placed 11 games in double figures last season, including two performances breaking the 20-point mark.
Edwards garnered some buzz following his Summer League campaign with the Thunder as the 24-year-old became one of the team’s top options while hot, generating the team’s single-game high of 23 points not on one, but two occasions. After joining the Thunder’s training camp and dropping six points in four minutes, Edward was subsequently waived by the franchise — retaining his G-League rights in the process.
Jaylen Hoard returns as one of a few Blue players who also familiarized themself with the Thunder’s system last season. Hoard played the majority of his G-League season behind Aleksej Pokusevski off the depth chart, but his well-rounded slashing and defending garnered the forward a two-way contract, created in converting Moses Brown’s deal. In Hoard’s stint with the Thunder, he placed respectable averages of 6.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.3 assists across 19 appearances with the Blue.
Hoard’s contract is a bare-bones exhibit-10 deal, however, the Frenchman started last season in an identical situation — and he ultimately came out on top. Here’s to hoping the 22-year-old can rekindle his success.
Zavier Simpson rejoins the Oklahoma City Blue as the lone returning starter from last season’s group. Simpson was selected in the first-round of the 2020 G-League Draft, entering Grant Gibbs’ gauntlet as one of his top passers. Simpson contended, and in some cases, outclassed Thunder assignee Ty Jerome throughout the season. By the end of the season, Simpson placed averages of 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and a team-high 6.1 assists.
The former Wolverine experimented with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Summer League-roster during the offseason, but a lack of an offer led to the 24-year-old signing a deal with the Blue. Simpson is expected to play a hefty role in Oklahoma City’s backcourt.
Melvin Frazier Jr. placed an end-mark on Oklahoma City’s quartet of returns. Frazier Jr. dominated in the 2019-20 season placing numbers of 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists with the Lakeland Magic. In Frazier Jr.’s first season with the Blue tallying 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.
Frazier Jr. never quite fit in with Grant Gibbs’ rotation last season, however, the 25-year-old slots nicely into Sam Presti’s typical prototype wing multi-versed on the defensive end while also being able to contribute as a spot-up scorer.
New Kids on the Block:
The Oklahoma City Blue have slotted seven new faces into gameday rotation this season, electing to scrap together a new core of veterans and youngsters, alike.
D.J. Wilson tacks on a much-needed frontcourt presence to the Blue, but also a shooting ability that may help separate himself from the pack. Wilson, the 17th pick in the 2017 Draft, has struggled to cement himself into a nightly rotation to this point as in four seasons, the Michigan product has placed 142 career NBA games. Wilson’s 6-foot-10 height coupled with a 7-foot-3 wingspan make him a competent five in the G-League, and with a career 32.9-percent clip from distance — he could become a key cog in Oklahoma City’s pick-and-pop efforts.
Lindy Waters III may ring a bell for some Okies — and that it should. Lindy Waters III played a large role as an upperclassman with Oklahoma State, establishing himself as one of the team’s top sharpshooters on the roster. Waters III briefly played with the Enid Outlaws last season, and with the new opportunity with the Blue — he’ll continue to stay in-state.
Olivier Sarr sources Oklahoma City a true five on the roster, who also brings an edge of athleticism. After a full four seasons of college between Wake Forest and Kentucky, Sarr marked averages of 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds in his college days, however, his elite-level of athleticism makes him a dark horse double-double candidate in the G-League ranks.
Anthony Roberson makes his second stint with the Blue for this season, filling in at the wing. Roberson played a lone season at Central Oklahoma before going undrafted and subsequently signing with the Oklahoma City Blue in 2018. Roberson’s single season with the Blue was rather inglorious averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds in 16.8 minutes, however, Roberson models a defensive-oriented playstyle. Anthony is the younger brother of former Thunder guard Andre Roberson.
Justin Jarowski adds an additional floor spacer to the Blue with shades of playmaking ability. After playing a full four seasons at Lafayette, Jarowski dominated in the Patriot League, logging 21.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists across 15 games. Jarowski neared the 50/40/90 club in his senior season as the 22-year-old shot 46.3 percent in all, 39.8 from distance, and 91.3 at the line, attempting 15.1 shots per game. Jarowski sparked limitless range for the Leopards letting 6.5 tries fly per night, canning 2.6 on average. Jarowski operated as his best crossing the timeline, as he feasted pulling from the top-of-the-key, but given his disparity of dishes, it’ll be interesting to see if he works off-the-ball.
Scotty Hopson clocks in as the oldest player not just on the Blue, but also when taking the Thunder into account. At age 32, Hopson has been playing professionally for 10 years, playing for 15 different franchises across multiple continents. Hopson partook in a two-year stint with the Blue from 2018-2020 averaging 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. Hopson may be Oklahoma City’s most decorated player on tap playing in high-tier leagues such as the Liga ACB, the NBL, and the Euroleague.
Michael Gbineje juices the Blue’s core of shot creators even further. After an explosive senior season averaging 17.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists for Syracuse, Gbineje bumped his stock to become the 46th selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. Gbineje has played a mere nine games in the big leagues, however, he has played four seasons in the G-League allotted between the Grand Rapids Drive and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Following a two-year run in Germany and Lithuania, Gbineje is back in the G-League looking to assert himself as a scorer.
The Oklahoma City Blue tees off play on Thursday, October 5, against the Salt Lake City Stars.
The complete listing of the Oklahoma City Blue’s schedule can be found here.