The Oklahoma City Thunder’s preseason came to a close on Tuesday with a road win over the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder finished the preseason 3-1, losing only to the Houston Rockets in their first preseason game. Also of note in that game was the fact Russell Westbrook did not play.
In the games where all the starters played, the Thunder went undefeated, ushering the era of the Thunder’s Big 3. When it comes to the preseason though, each team has a different objective for what they want to garner out of these practice games. For the Thunder, it was clear they wanted to build chemistry between Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. And they wanted to see what they had in a couple of their young guys.
There’s not a lot that can be extrapolated from four games. The Thunder likely won’t win 75% of their games this season. And the Big 3 likely won’t average just 21 minutes a game. With that said, there were some takeaways I noticed from this past week. Some are positive. Others are worrisome. Here are five takeaways from this preseason. Continue reading Five Takeaways From the Preseason
The long-standing national nightmare is finally over. On of all days to sign his extension, Russell Westbrook chose to sign his 5-year Designated Veteran Player Extension (DPE) on Kevin Durant’s birthday. Some may call that petty. I call it military grade psy-ops genius. Including this season’s salary, Westbrook essentially signed a 6-year, $233 million deal. This deal goes through the 2022-23 season.
Westbrook was eligible to sign the deal on July 1st, but instead chose to wait because of scheduling conflicts. Westbrook has been on a bit of a world tour this summer, going from MVP recipient to fashion icon. During media day, Westbrook was asked why he hadn’t signed the deal up to that point. “Man, it’s been a long, long summer. Had a baby, so I’ve been working on a little fatherhood. But like I said before, man. This is the place I want to be.”
As the summer progressed, there were questions whether Westbrook was going to sign the extension. Even with the acquisition of Paul George, many thought George’s cloudy future could have been giving Westbrook pause in signing such a long extension. But the mood during media day felt like this union, to include Carmelo Anthony, could be something that goes on longer than a year. With Westbrook’s extension in hand, that reality is that much closer to coming to fruition.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” A simple exchange in what was basically a blowout in February, set the stage for what we’ve seen this offseason from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder could not do anything when Kevin Durant left them on July 4th, 2016. By the time he made his decision, most of the top notch free agents were already off the board. Instead, the Thunder strategized from that point forward and hoped opportunities would arise from a turbulent NBA landscape. And arise they did.
The summer of 2016 basically set the stage for what happened in Oklahoma City this offseason. When every team was infused with an extra 20 million, moves were made that were almost immediately regretted once the ink dried on those contracts. Finding an extra $20 million in your team’s salary cap is like finding $1000 in between your couch cushions. Some people will make wise decisions with that extra money. But others will treat it like house money and YOLO the hell out of it. Many teams made bad decisions that summer that eventually led to their salary caps being tied up for the next 2-4 seasons. Continue reading “I’m coming!” – The two words that galvanized a franchise.
After getting rebuffed by Trey Burke on Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder shifted course and signed Isaiah Canaan, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical. The offer is non-guaranteed. This was the issue with Burke, who decided not to sign the Thunder’s offer when they would not budge on the “non-guaranteedness” of the deal.
The 6’0″ combo guard out of Murray State played for the Chicago Bulls last season, where he averaged 4.6 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.9 assists on 36/27/91 shooting splits in 39 games. Last season was the guard’s worst season in terms of shooting. He’s a career 35% three-point shooter and the Thunder probably hope they are getting this guy:
Canaan likely heads into camp battling Semaj Christon for the 3rd point guard spot. Raymond Felton is likely the back-up point guard, having signed for the vet minimum earlier this offseason. With Russell Westbrook likely taking it easy this preseason due to a recent PRP procedure on his right knee, look for the other three point guards on the roster to get extended minutes in the preseason.
Previous Player Rankings: 20-16 | 15-12 | 11-8 | 7-5 | 4-3 |
Think back to last season. The Russell Westbrook show. What an amazing ride! The 42 triple-doubles. The insane finishes. The record usage rate. Another MVP season for Oklahoma City. But with all the beauty, you also had to take the ugliness. The packed paint. The box-and-1 defenses. The clanging of long-range jump shots. A first round exit. The dependency on just one player.
Last season was great on an individual level. Westbrook had a season for the ages. But it was a season that was necessitated by the departure of Kevin Durant. If Westbrook doesn’t got supernova, the Thunder likely struggle to make the playoffs. And thankfully for the Thunder, Westbrook is not one to go quietly into the night. But last year’s team was not for just Westbrook. It was designed for both Westbrook and Durant. With one of those components gone, the Thunder were a walking identity crisis for 87 games. Continue reading NTTB Rank: Top 2
Previous Player Rankings: 20-16 | 15-12 | 11-8 | 7-5 |
We’re into the heavy hitters now. The top four players on a team usually establish the foundation for the team. Show me a team whose top four guys aren’t necessarily established, and I’ll show you a team that has a shaky foundation. Show me a team that has a strong foursome, and I’ll show you a team that has a strong foundation and is likely a top-10 team.
The craze nowadays is to accumulate a big 3. Get three superstar-level players, and the rest will work itself out. But, on all of those teams, there was a fourth player that was usually the glue between the superstars. For the Boston Big 3, Rajon Rondo served as the glue between Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett. For Miami, it was Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier alternating as the fourth guy during different seasons. And most recently, Klay Thompson has been that guy for the Golden State Warriors. Have a strong no. 4 guy and your team is destined for great things. Continue reading NTTB Rank: 4-3
Previous Player Rankings: 20-16 | 15-12 | 11-8 |
Now we get into the meat of the rotation. From here on out, these are likely the players that will eat up the bulk of the minutes played and will likely be the ones finishing out games. Injuries to any of these players will have a big effect on the team moving forward.
7. Enes Kanter
Continue reading NTTB Rank: 7-5
Player Rankings: 20-16 | 15-12
I have one amendment to an earlier list.
20. Rashawn Thomas
Earlier this summer, it was reported the Thunder had agreed to a partially-guaranteed deal with Thomas. My thinking was that it was just for summer league and possibly for the G-League when it came time for that. But it still stuck in my head whether he would be with the Thunder during training camp or not. So I decided to ask the source, himself. Continue reading NTTB Rank: 11-8
On Friday night, Nike, in conjunction with the NBA, unveiled their Statement jerseys. Each team had a representative to show off their team’s new alternate jersey. Paul George held the honor for the Thunder. The video focused on the Thunder from 5:55 to 6:55. Enjoy!
Player Rankings: 16-20
We continue the NTTB Rank with the players that I think should be on the Thunder’s 15-man roster. Because of contract situations, this is not likely how the roster will shake out. But, in a vacuum, these are the 15 best players on the roster from here on out.
15. Semaj Christon
Continue reading NTTB Rank: 15-12