The Rookie and his new team: Mitch McGary and the Oklahoma City Thunder


Mitch McGary is never lacking in enthusiasm. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan and Michigan State had five players taken in the 2014 NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. This series will look at how each player fits with their respective teams. Mitch McGary is the featured player. 

Chesapeake Energy Arena has only been the home of the Thunder since 2009, but it already has a reputation for being the loudest venue in the NBA. With no other pro sports teams to save their lungs for, fans let loose when they get to the place known as “Loud City.”

Many announcers have commented on the college feel of the OKC crowd, which will suit Mitch McGary. If you watched Michigan play last season, you noticed the huge human being flying around the court wildly gesturing upwards with his arms. Mitch McGary loved doing anything he could to rile up crowds, and the video below shows his trademark sprint back on defense after a made bucket. He’ll bring that same energy to his new team. But where will he fit in?

The frontcourt of the Thunder is pretty set in stone, and has been for several seasons. Serge Ibaka is an athletic force to be reckoned with, and his offensive game is slowly but surely catching up to his defensive ability. He appears to be the future of the power forward position in Oklahoma City.

His frontcourt mate is Kendrick Perkins. Perkins has been called a bruiser, enforcer, and everything else used to describe tough players with limited abilities. Coach Scott Brooks still uses Perkins frequently, even as local sportswriters call for the big man to play less. He is still effective against teams with a traditional post player, but anything else exposes his limitations. This was shown in the 2012 finals against the Miami Heat, when the Heat small-balled the Thunder to death.

The other big men to receive playing time are Nick Collison and Steven Adams. Collison is the bench version of Perkins, an enforcer that comes in for dirty work and rebounds. Collison is quicker than Perkins, and he is one of the best in the league at drawing charges. He is a lifelong Supersonics/Thunder player, and fan favorite. However, he is going into his 11th season and will probably see his minutes continue to fall.

Being groomed to take his place is Adams. Adams is a native New Zealander who played at the University of Pittsburgh. Despite only a decent season, he declared for the draft after one college season. He impressed enough in workouts to become the 12th overall pick, and quickly established himself as one of the most annoying players in league. He frustrated opponents with physical play enough that Grantland’s Jason Gallagher wrote an article about it. The link to the article, titled “Who Will Punch Steven Adams in the Face Power Rankings” is below.

McGary will likely serve to help cut down on minutes for Perkins and Ibaka. Neither are that old, but saving their legs for the playoffs will be important. He and Adams would form a bruising tag team of energy off the bench, one getting in opponents’ heads while the other helps the rally the crowd. McGary will have a great mentor in Collison, whose influence on Adams is already clear.

The question for many is Mitch McGary’s ceiling. Many see him as a David Lee-style player, with better defensive identity. Others see him having a big minutes back-up role like Collison. If he turns into the next Lee, he may be able to supplant Perkins in the lineup. For the time being, he will be another spark off an Oklahoma City bench full of them.