What's the Ceiling for Each OKC Thunder Youngster?
The Oklahoma City Thunder's General Manager Sam Presti has long been known as a man with an eye for talent, building up one of the NBA's legitimate championship contenders by using his draft picks well and cultivating a stable of young talent.
Obviously, the big names like Kevin Durant (24), Russell Westbrook (24) and Serge Ibaka (23) have all proven that OKC knows how to develop their young guys into superstars.
However, what about the players who are even younger than the main three?
Just how far can guys like Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson go?
Daniel Orton hasn't done much in his limited time in an Oklahoma City Thunder jersey; however, he's produced solid minutes for OKC's D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers.
Obviously, D-League production has to be taken with a grain of salt, as the competition is much lower than in the NBA.
However, one of the biggest things working for Orton right now is that you can't teach size, and he has that in spades.
The young man stands at 6'10", but it's his physical strength that makes him an attractive option off the bench if he can improve his game.
Luckily, he plays for Oklahoma City, a franchise that excels with young talent.
For now, Orton will only see time as an extra body off the bench to rough up guys like Dwight Howard, but with some hard work on Orton's part, he could develop into a legitimate bench player.
It's unlikely that he'll ever become a starter in this league, but Orton has a big body, which could lead to him having a good career as a role player.
Best Case: Role Player
DeAndre Liggins' offensive may leave something to be desired, but his effort and ability on the defensive end could make a big impact on the Oklahoma City Thunder's rotation in the next few years.
We've seen plenty of guys like Liggins start on NBA rosters.
Thabo Sefolosha and Tony Allen immediately come to mind as guys who get by on effort, smarts and their ability to defend.
Liggins won't be stealing any minutes from Thabo this season, but if he improves his shot over the next few seasons, he could become a major factor when Sefolosha's contract is up.
Of course, that requires that Oklahoma City keep him under contract, which is something they should plan to do, if possible.
Every team needs a defensive spark plug off the bench and Liggins has the potential to be that, and more.
OKC just has to find a way to get him minutes.
Best Case: Defense Stopper (think Tony Allen or Thabo Sefolosha)
Reggie Jackson officially beat out Eric Maynor for the Oklahoma City Thunder's backup point guard spot once Maynor was traded, and then the Thunder added veteran Derek Fisher to their roster.
Adding a battle-tested guy like Fisher can help a team as it moves toward the playoffs, but it's unfortunate for Jackson that he now has to share backup duties again.
Fisher is still a good shooter and obviously has a very high basketball IQ; however, he simply can't keep up with the younger, quicker guards of today's NBA.
Jackson, on the other hand, does play solid defense and, given his build, could become one of the better defenders at the point guard position.
He still has a way to go, but Jackson has the makings of a floor general who plays good defense
Think Mike Conley, but bigger.
Jackson's athleticism and size are already elite, he just needs his overall game to catch up.
When that happens, it's going to be scary.
Best Case: Future NBA Starter (likely not with the Thunder)
Hasheem Thabeet came into the NBA as the second overall pick, who looked to have the potential to become an elite defender.
Coupled with that was a very raw offensive game and questions about Thabeet's work ethic.
As you know, Thabeet never really put it together during his time with the Memphis Grizzlies and bounced around a bit before becoming a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
That could be the best thing to ever happen to the young center because the Thunder employ three good defensive bigs.
If Thabeet can learn from Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, he could become a force for OKC off the bench.
We've already seen this at times in 2013, as Thabeet's been slowly stepping up his game.
He still has a long way to go before getting anywhere close to scrapping his potential, but Thabeet has shown that we might've given him the "bust" label a little too soon.
Thabeet is going to be an effective role player for the Thunder and could become a starter if he keeps improving and Perkins leaves OKC in the coming years.
Best Case: Defensive Specialist/Starting Center (if and when Perkins leaves)
Perry Jones III
Athletically, Perry Jones III might be the best player on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster.
You just don't see prospects like him very often.
Jones' game is a rare combination of size, ball-handling and finishing ability. He could easily become the biggest steal of last year's draft.
However, there are a few concerns about his knees, as well as any real go-to part of his offensive game.
He's a "high risk, high reward" player if there's ever been one, but luckily for him, he landed with the Thunder.
OKC is the perfect place for Jones to develop his game because he's not asked to contribute immediately, just work on developing his game.
Plus, he gets to practice with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, something that will greatly improve his defensive game, while possibly helping his offense, as well.
The only real problem is that Oklahoma City doesn't really have any minutes to give him consistently.
Look for Jones' game to take another leap this offseason, forcing head coach Scott Brooks to insert him into the lineup more often.
He's still a few years away, but with Jones' potential, it's only matter of time before he finds a consistent place on an NBA roster.
Best Case: OKC Thunder's 2013-14 Do-Everything Bench Player/Future NBA Starter
Out of all the players on this list, Jeremy Lamb is the one that could see the greatest rise in playing time next year.
That's because Lamb can do almost exactly what Kevin Martin does, but he is younger and cheaper.
No one has ever questioned Lamb's proficiency at putting the ball through the hoop and his ability to score from all over the floor largely makes Martin expendable, if Lamb continues to improve this offseason.
I mean, there's a reason Lamb went 12th overall in last year's draft.
His production at the college level, coupled with his huge potential, made him one of the best shooting guard prospects in his draft.
Martin's contract is up after this year and, while he's already stated that he wants to play for the Thunder beyond this season, the Thunder can't afford to go very far into the luxury tax.
Because of that, GM Sam Presti might decide that Lamb is the future at the sixth man position, especially if he continues to dominate the D-League.
Best Case: 2013-14 OKC Thunder 6th Man/Future NBA Starter