Thunder

Nader Has Opportunity to Shine With Schroder Out

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The Oklahoma City Thunder may stand out among NBA teams with things like, for instance, the best clutch player in the league (Chris Paul), or running a three-guard death lineup with Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder.

But there are other things about this team that aren’t highlighted enough.

One of them is the second unit. The Thunder bench has been strengthening over the regular season. Dennis Schröder has become one of the (if not, the main) candidates to win the Sixth Man of the Year award. Nerlens Noel has proven to be a solid backup center to Steven Adams. Andre Roberson is back after two long years and has shown flashes of his elite defense in the bubble that every Thunder fan has missed (and he’s making threes too!).

Not mentioned is someone who has stuck with the Thunder for awhile and has had a solid start so far in the bubble. It’s none other than Abdel Nader, the 6’5″ small forward from Egypt, who has many things to prove in Orlando and wants to show Billy Donovan that he can be a solid and useful bench-booster for the second unit.

Pros and Cons

When Nader was acquired by OKC from the Boston Celtics in the 2018-19 season, he showed some flashes of success. He’s a talented offensive player who can finish through contact at the rim. Nader plays with a lot of heart, hustle (two reasons why the Celtics signed him and the fans liked him in Boston) and he brings a good spark of energy when he checks into the game.

On the other end, he can be a solid defender when he wants to. He’s a great shot-blocker and he can guard both guard positions and some small forwards as well despite being undersized for that position in the modern NBA.

His main flaws are shooting and efficiency. In 11.4 minutes per game last season with OKC, Nader shot 38% from the field and 32% from three. Thunder fans know that the search for a two-way guard has been going on for years, and the team still hasn’t been able to find a reliable option. Terrance Ferguson has yet to improve his shot from deep and Roberson doesn’t even have one where OKC can rely on, but Nader’s hard work has showed results this season.

Nader’s shot at the NBA Bubble

This season, Nader has improved from being a below-average three-point shooter. Averaging six points in 15 minutes per game, Nader is shooting 46% from the field and 38.5% from three-point land. Despite not having loads of minutes, Nader has shown some flashes of what can happen if he goes off. Back in November, he scored 23 against the Blazers and 19 against the Pelicans in back-to-back games.

In the three scrimmages OKC played before the restart, Billy Donovan surprisingly chose to allot more minutes to Nader over Ferguson. Donovan’s choice relied on Nader’s ability to create his own shot and facilitate the offense off the bench.

With Dennis Schröder outside the Bubble for awhile, Nader is set to get even more minutes. In the first game without Schröder, Nader scored 13 points on 83% shooting (3/4 from deep) in just 13 minutes. He also dropped 15 points in OKC’s most-recent game against Phoenix. He will have a chance to prove Donovan, his teammates and himself that he can be more than a solid contributor. If he plays well, we could see him in a truncated playoff rotation.

Nader has a big opportunity to ball out on these last seeding games. Ball’s in his court. Time to go to work.

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About Santiago Núñez

From Argentina. NBA lover. Journalist (in the process).

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