Kevin Hervey’s injury risk means he should be pursuing the newly open Thunder roster spot now rather than waiting a year.
On Thursday, the Thunder waived Kyle Singler, with intent to use the stretch provision on him and escape $23.4 million in salary and tax obligations for a player who, realistically, wasn’t going to see much playing time. It’s entirely possible they, like other tax or near tax teams, may choose to only carry 14 players under contract into the season rather than pay a premium for a minimum salary player. But Kevin Hervey, one of their three second round picks from this year, should aim to justify taking that spot.
Hervey, drafted out of small school Texas-Arlington, is an extremely talented player. At 6-foot-8 he possesses a 7-foot-3.5 inch wingspan, the fluidity to move with wings, and a projectable jump shot. He also performed well in the combine scrimmages, and practically speaking, is a lot more talented than you would expect the 57th overall pick to be.
There is a major reason he dropped: he has torn, separately, both of his ACLs. One in high school, and the other while at Texas-Arlington. While there has been little slowdown on the court as a result of the injuries, there’s absolutely reasonable fear that his career will have a clock put on it by his knees.
And if that’s the case, then Hervey can’t afford to wait a year playing in Europe or with the Oklahoma City Blue as a draft and stash. That extra year of mileage on his knees could mean that he never makes it to a second contract, which is the one that NBA players really make money on, or it could mean that even if he performs well, a re-injury could keep him from making typical second contract money.
Of course, Hervey only has some level of control over the situation. If the Thunder are dead set on running at 14 players on the roster, then there’s nothing he can do.
But there are a few things working in his favor. Out of three second round picks, Hamidou Diallo is already signed to a contract, and Devon Hall has signed with an Australian team in Cairns, meaning Hervey is the only player that the Thunder have invested assets into remaining unsigned.
Further, the Thunder are somewhat weak depth-wise at the forward positions. Paul George and Jerami Grant are the presumptive two best players at the small and power forward, but after that, it’s Patrick Patterson, who declined rapidly last year, and Abdel Nader, who didn’t play much last year and had a, putting it mildly, bad, statistical profile.
Those two should both leave places that Hervey can justify a roster spot and even a rotation spot over, and his agent should be pestering the Thunder as much as they’ll hear him for that.
Overall, second round picks, in general, want a roster spot sooner rather than later. Especially in the last ten picks, there’s a high chance they never make the league at all. But Kevin Hervey has both a higher incentive than most, and also a better opportunity than most, to push for one, so he should absolutely make every effort to get there this year.