Tag Archives: Arron Afflalo

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 13 of 82)

ibaka adams faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

The last time the panic alarm was this loud in Thunder Nation was after the 2nd game of the season. The Thunder had just lost 2 close games on the road, and to top it off, they lost their All-Star point guard to a broken hand. The roster was down to 8 healthy players, none of which had ever been tasked with leading a team to battle. The Thunder needed a respite and they needed it fast. Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder got off to a big lead and still had the fortitude to win a close game when Denver got hot in the 4th quarter. From there, the panic dampened as the Thunder started getting some players back from injury and actually won a couple more games. But with the Thunder staring at a 3-9 record, the offense struggling, and their superstar duo probably not coming back for at least another 2 weeks, the panic alarm is once again wailing.

The Opponent

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 3-7 record. They won their first game, and then proceeded to lose their next 6, before finally winning the last 2 of 3, including a road victory in Cleveland in their last game. The Nuggets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring (101.5 ppg), but give up the 4th most points in the league (107.1 ppg). Their rebounding is one of their strengths and it fuels their transition game. Ty Lawson is one of the better pace pushers in the league, using his speed to beat defenders up the court and causing havoc in the paint. On the perimeter, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler have had their troubles being consistent. Up front, the big man rotation of Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson provides plenty of energy in going after rebounds and hustling defensively. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, usually going at least 12 deeep into the rotation. The bench players that receive most time are Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Nate Robinson.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Consistency – The Thunder have held leads in the last few games they have lost. Sometimes those leads even balloned up into the double digits. But the Thunder have failed to capitalize on those leads due to a stagnant offense. When the Thunder play their best is when they are passing and moving. As soon as the offense becomes iso-oriented, the Thunder struggle due to having their iso MVPs on the bench in street clothes. The Thunder can’t stop playing their current brand of basketball as soon as they see a little light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t good enough to go off the cuff. They need to stick to their script.

2. Rebounding – I feel like I’ve written this in the last few pre-game reports as a key to the game, but the proof is in the pudding. In their last 3 games (all losses), the Thunder have been outrebounded by an average of 11 rebounds and have allowed the opponent to grab an average of 16 offensive rebounds. While I like the new found perimeter aggressiveness of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, I feel like them being so far from the basket takes away from their opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. On the defensive end, Steven Adams needs to play bigger and occupy more space to grab more defensive boards.

Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Reggie Jackson – The offense goes as he does. If he is masterfully setting up his teammates and controlling the flow of the game, the Thunder usually are usually in control and rolling. As soon as he goes off script, the Thunder tend to struggle. I don’t necessarily fault Jackson. This is his first foray as the focal point of the offense, and he is still adjusting to being shadowed by at least one other defender.

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets preview (Preseason Game 1 of 7)

faried ibaka thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 08 October 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

Finally. After eons of waiting, the time has arrived. Well, not really the real time. That would be reserved for 20 days from today. But real enough to follow a GameCast of the game on ESPN. Real enough to catch highlights on NBATV. And real enough to begin complaining about Scott Brooks and his lack of offensive imagination. The rest of the season for the Thunder begins today.

The Denver Nuggets come into the game having already played one preseason game. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 98-95 in Kobe Bryant’s first game in action since an injury riddled 203-14 campaign. The Thunder are set to face their Northwest Division rivals four times this season.

The Opponent

nuggets training camp

The Nuggets are looking to build off a season that saw four rotational players miss significant portions of the season due to significant knee injuries (Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, JJ Hickson, and JaVale McGee). The Nuggets are two years removed from being the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. That team featured a lot of the same players that are still on the roster. The offense is spearheaded by Ty Lawson. The prodigal son, Arron Afflalo, returns after getting traded back to the Nuggets in the offseason to bring them defensive stability on the perimeter. Up front, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov form an energetic duo that gets most of their points off rebounds and garbage baskets. Off the bench, the Nuggets will probably try to play their rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic to get them some in-game experience.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Arron Afflalo
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. SG battle – This preseason will be about deciding who will start at SG for the Thunder. Roberson seems to have the edge on Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson, though. He started 16 games for the Thunder last season and outplayed Lamb in the Blue and White scrimmage.

roberson thunder

2. Young guys – Mitch McGary, Grant Jerrett, and Perry Jones should see some action this preseason.

3. Ball-movement – The talk about the offense coming into every season is always about the increase in ball-movement. Yet, anytime the going gets tough or when the game is on the line, the offense always reverts back to iso-ball.

BONUS – 4. Don’t get hurt – It’s the preseason. We are playing for June.

Thunder Offseason: Trade Partners and Draft Night

sam presti thunder

The Oklahoma City hold two first round picks in this year’s draft. Their own (No. 29) and Dallas’ first rounder (No. 21) obtained from Houston in the James Harden trade. In a daft and offseason that will be filled with intrigue heading into July 1st, assets are a powerful thing to be in possession of heading into the draft. The Thunder are on the cusp of becoming a championship team, having been in 3 of the last 4 Western Conference Finals and being on the losing end of the 2012 NBA Finals. With most of the core pieces in place, the Thunder may use these assets to get that final piece or two to finally get over the edge.

Assets

Other than the two first round picks in a pretty loaded draft, the Thunder also have the $6.6 million dollar Traded Player Exception (TPE) they obtained from the Kevin Martin sign and trade last season. The TPE can be used to trade for a player without having to add any players in order to make the salaries match. For example, Gerald Henderson of the Charlotte Hornets makes $6 million dollars in salary. If the Thunder wanted to trade for him, they could offer the Hornets their TPE for $6.1 million dollars and a draft pick or the draft rights to one of their Euro-stashes.

kevin martin

In addition to the TPE, the Thunder have 2 players in the final year of their contracts. Kendrick Perkins will be making $9.4 million dollars and Nick Collison will be making $2.2 million dollars next season. In addition, if the Thunder pick up Hasheem Thabeet’s final year, he’ll be making $1.25 million. In the NBA, expiring contracts become valuable because the receiving team can trade away a player (or players) of equal cost, but usually with more time left on their contracts. For example, let’s hypothetically say the Spurs were needing to trade Tiago Splitter to make space for Kawhi Leonard’s upcoming extension. Next season Splitter will be making $9.25 million, but has 2 more years left on his contract after that. The Spurs could hypothetically trade Splitter to the Thunder for Perkins and his expiring contract.

Also, the Thunder have a slew of young players all making under $3 million dollars a season (Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, Andre Roberson, and Grant Jerrett) and two valuable Euro-stashes in Tibor Pleiss and Alex Abrines. The inclusion of these players in a deal are usually the things that either make or break a deal.

Targets

With Thabo Sefolosha going into free agency and some of the depth of the team either not coming back (Derek Fisher and Caron Butler) or getting older (Collison), the Thunder will probably be in the market for a starting 2-guard and some veteran depth for the bench. So what are some possible targets for the Thunder?

Mike Dunleavy

With Chicago wanting to try their hand in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, the Bulls will have to rid themselves of some salary before even attempting to offer Anthony anything close to a max contract. The Thunder obtained some assets from Miami when they were making their run at LeBron James (and Chris Bosh) in 2010. In that draft, they obtained SG Daequan Cook from Miami and the No. 18 pick for the No. 32 pick. The Bulls will shed some salary by releasing Carlos Boozer via the amnesty clause. But the Bulls will probably need a little more salary shed before they can offer Anthony a max (or very near max) deal. While Dunleavy is a weapon as a 3-point specialist, they probably won’t want to get rid of any of their young (cheap) wings such as Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell. In addition, rumors that Bulls’ Eurostash Nikola Mirotic is ready to join the Bulls may necessitate that the dump even more salary.

dunleavy bulls

The Thunder could target Dunleavy with the TPE, and then try to obtain one of the Bulls’ two first round picks (16 and 19) for the Thunder’s 29th pick. That way, the Bulls shed salary, but still have an asset that allows them to obtain a player in the future, in the form of the TPE. Also, the Bulls trade one of their 1st rounders, but stay in the first round with pick No. 29, albeit at a cheaper price.

Iman Shumpert

At the trade deadline this past season, there were rumors that the Knicks and Thunder were discussing a trade centered around Iman Shumpert and the Thunder’s first round pick. At the time, it was not known whether the Thunder would have a 2nd first round pick. With the season over and the Knicks under new management, it could be a good time to revisit those talks. Depending on how Phil Jackson and coach Derek Fisher view Shumpert could determine whether he is available during the draft.

Arron Afflalo

Probably the most difficult of the trades to do. Difficult, because Afflalo makes $7.6 million, which is too much to fit under the TPE. Unfortunately, the TPE is an all or nothing deal. Either you are able to obtain the player using the TPE or you’re not. TPE’s cannot be used in conjunction with something else in the same transaction. At $7.6 million, the Thunder would have to trade a player or two along with assets such as draft picks or Euro-stashes. So then the question becomes: Do the Thunder view Afflalo as the final piece of the puzzle?

arron afflalo

If you follow the history of the Thunder, you know that they trust in their system and their developmental program. Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones will be entering into their 3rd year (or as its called in Thunder lore “The Year”) and Steven Adams will have an another offseason’s worth of training under his belt. So, no, I don’t think they will trade for Afflalo. Players like Shumpert and Dunleavy will take less assets to obtain, so I can definitely see the team going after someone like that.

In an offseason that may feature LeBron, Carmelo, and Bosh as free agents, Kevin Love as a moving target, and a vaunted draft class, you can expect to see plenty of moving parts around the league. With assets in hand, the Thunder may throw their hat into the fray to see what they can come out of it with.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Orlando Magic preview (Game 52 of 82)

oladipo adams thunder magic

  • When: Friday, 07 February 2014 at 6:00 PM CST
  • Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL

Young, scrappy teams. I remember the days when we used to be one. Those days when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were just beginning to learn how to work their two man game. When Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic were considered our post presence. But mostly, I remember how we never backed down, no matter how big the deficit or drought was. And then eventually, I remember us starting to win some of those close games.

The Thunder’s Friday night opponent find themselves in the beginning stages of a rebuild. But, for the past two seasons, they’ve brought it every time they play the Thunder. Even though the Thunder have won the last 3 meetings between these two teams, they’ve needed to make a push late into the 4th quarter in order to come out with the victory.

The Opponent

afflalo oladipo orlando magic

The Orlando Magic come into the game with the second worst record in the leage, at 14-37. They are in year 2 of a rebuild and have amassed some good young talent and some assets for the future. Unfortunately, the word rebuild is usually associated with the word bad, and that has been the case with the Magic this season. They are in the bottom third of the league in most statistical categories. They are led by SG Arron Afflalo, who leads the team in scoring at just under 20 points per game. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson run the offense and keeps a steady hand on the young team. Up front, Nikola Vucevic is a double double machine, averaging 13.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. The bench is young and features Rookie of the Year contender Victor Oladipo and second year SF Maurice Harkless.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Tobias Harris
  • PF – Glen Davis
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Limit the Turnovers – Young, athletic teams live off of the transition game. With a lack of 3-point shooters, Orlando generates a lot of its offense in transition. Cutting back on live ball turnovers will greatly reduce Orlando’s ability to create offense in transition.

2. Durant/Ibaka pick and roll – Orlando will be very hard pressed to defend this with Davis and Harris/Oladipo in the game. I expect the Thunder to exploit this and for Ibaka to end up with 20+ points and for Durant to have 6+ assists.

ibaka durant thompson salmons thunder kings

3. Take away their Confidence – The last couple of times we’ve played the Magic, we’ve allowed them to stick around until late in the 4th quarter, when we finally put a string of makes together and put the game out of reach. But it should never get to that point with a rebuilding team like the Magic. Snuff the confidence from the outset, and the game should be over by the beginning of the 4th quarter.

Trade Talk and the Importance of Jeremy Lamb

Utah Jazz v Oklahoma City Thunder

The trading deadline in the NBA may be February 20th, 2014, but the date that gets a lot of the movement started is December 15th, 2013. That is the date when most free agents who signed in the offseason become eligible to be traded. As that date approaches, the inevitable trade chatter starts to ramp up. If you are a team that holds many desirable assets such as good, young players on rookie pay scales, multiple first round picks, and expiring contracts, then your name is bound to show up in a lot of the trade talk.

And that is where the Oklahoma City Thunder currently find themselves. With young bench players on rookie scale contracts that are performing surprisingly well and a couple of semi-attractive expiring contracts (namely Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha), that trade chatter has already started to rev up about the Thunder. Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio had the following quip on his NBA Notes from December 9th:

Multiple league sources have said the Oklahoma City Thunder are willing to deal second-year guard Jeremy Lamb if they can find a more experienced (and consistent) player to come off the bench. Lamb has already been traded once – from the Rockets as part of the James Harden deal before last season.

Then Bill Simmons on NBA Countdown suggested that the Thunder should trade Lamb, Perkins, and 2 first round picks to the Orlando Magic for Arron Afflalo. Now this would usually be seen as conjecture on the part of a media pundit, but a lot of fans around the country see Simmons as something of an NBA savant who is the end all/be all when it comes to NBA information/predictions.

Adding fuel to the trade talk fire, Reggie Jackson, who has been performing almost at ‘Harden as a 6th man’-like levels throughout the season, recently signed with powerhouse sports agency CAA. This is the same agency that represents Dwayne Wade, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony to name a few, and also partners with Roc-Nation, who represents Jackson’s teammate Kevin Durant. Did I mention that Jackson has a possible extension looming this offseason? Scary thought, especially when we all remember what happened the last time a great Thunder bench player was up for an extension.

Kevin Durant, Reggie Jackson

Whenever these trade talks start to ratchet up in December, it’s always important to remember the previous 3 months when there were hardly any trade talks. That period from September through November is usually reserved for roster building and evaluation. Yes, big trades do happen during that time frame, as we saw with the Harden trade last season, but those types of transactions are usually reserved for February, June, and July. When the trade talk is quietest amongst media members is actually when the trade talk is loudest amongst GMs. It is during this roster building and evaluation period that GMs try to gauge the interest of the “tradeable” assets on their rosters. It is when the posturing and positioning of “GM chess” occurs.

When you hear phrases like “multiple league sources”  or “an Eastern/Western Conference GM said”, just know that the news coming from that report may not be current. Take for example Jeremy Lamb, who was a very attractive asset heading into this season. The Thunder probably did their due diligence in June during the NBA draft to see if there was anything of value that they could get for Lamb. Also, during the preseason, when Lamb was struggling with his shot, there was probably some probing by Thunder GM Sam Presti to see if anyone would bite in return for an experienced bench player. But that was when Lamb was an unknown commodity, not only on the court, but also to other teams. But now, after averaging 10.5 points and 2.5 rebounds on 53% FG shooting and 39% 3pt FG shooting over the past 12 games while playing good defense, Lamb is not only a known commodity, but also a key component for a championship contending team. While the rumors of the Thunder shopping Lamb may be true, they may also be 3-6 months old.

jeremy lamb thunder 2

If you follow the Thunder and are familiar with their salary cap structure, then you would know that they value production at a low cost. The ability to take one player and flip him into 2 or 3 players of great value while preserving their cap space was one of the main reasons the Thunder traded James Harden. Could history repeat itself with Reggie Jackson? That will be the most pressing issue for the Thunder moving forward. But, while there are similarities between the Harden/Jackson comparisons, there are also differences. The Thunder are a lot better equipped to handle a contract extension for Jackson now, than they were when it was time for Harden to be extended. By the time Jackson’s extension kicks in, Sefolosha, Perkins, and, (God forbid) Nick Collison’s contracts will all be expired. That’s almost $15 million in available salary to play with. The good thing is, Jackson won’t command a max or near max contract. When I think of Jackson, I don’t think of a top 5 player at his position. Two years ago, you could argue that Harden was the 3rd best shooting guard in the league, even if he was coming off the bench. You can’t say the same about Jackson at this point in his career. Also of note is that Harden was traded in the offseason, not in the middle of the season. The Thunder wouldn’t dare trade Jackson during the season when he is arguably their 4th best player. If anything, they’ll Harden-ize him during the offseason.

Which brings me back to Lamb. This is why it is completely asinine to think that the Thunder would want to trade Lamb. His most important asset to the Thunder at this moment is as an insurance policy. If the Thunder decide to either trade Sefolosha before the deadline or allow him to walk in the offseason, they can feel comfortable in the fact that they have a player in Lamb capable of starting for them either after the deadline or into next season. If the Thunder decide to trade Jackson in the offseason, they know that they have a player that can provide offense off the bench and can play with the starters during crunch time. In the grand scheme of things, Lamb may be the piece that makes other moves possible.

Scoreboard Watching

kd

Last month of the season. A time where every game has meaning. Teams are either jockeying of playoff positioning or draft positioning. The worst teams are balancing between increasing their chances in the NBA draft lottery and creating a late season winning attitude to carry over into the next season. And the best teams are either trying to solidify their spot in the playoff rankings in an effort to get home court advantage throughout the playoffs, or trying to get into the playoffs.

For most teams in the playoff hunt, the only thing they are worried about is playoff seeding. For these teams, their draft picks for the next draft will be in the 15-30 range, and unfortunately, there aren’t too many franchise saviors drafted in that range. What these teams will end up drafting in this range are solid rotation players, Euro-stashes, and players that most fans won’t hear about again once their rookie contracts have run their course. But sometimes, due to prior trades or deals, some of these teams luck into a lottery pick.

nba-draft-lottery

The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in the position of battling for the number 1 seed in the Western Conference and picking in the lottery in the following NBA draft. When the Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets, some of the assets that OKC obtained were draft picks. These are the 3 draft picks the Thunder obtained in that trade and their restrictions:

  • Dallas Mavericks 1st round pick (Top 20 protected until 2018)
  • Charlotte Bobcats 2nd round pick (no restrictions)
  • Toronto Raptors 1st round pick (Top 3 and 15-30 protected in 2013 and 2014, Top 2 and 15-30 protected in 2015 and 2016, Top 1 and 15-30 protected in 2017 and  2018, unprotected after that.)

The Dallas pick probably won’t come to fruition in this draft as Dallas is currently in the lottery and has a very small chance of even reaching the 21st pick if they make the playoffs. They would need to win out and have the 7 other playoff teams currently under 45 wins completely fall apart. A scenario that is very unlikely. The Toronto and Charlotte picks, on the other hand, are in play for the 2013 Draft. As a fan of the Thunder, this has made scoreboard watching in April must-see-TV.

Toronto Pick (Teams that warrant watching – Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, Sacramento, New Orleans, and Toronto)

Again, this pick is Top 3 and 15-30 protected for this upcoming draft. Since the Raptors aren’t making the playoffs this season, you can eliminate the 15-30 protection from their draft pick. As of April 1st, the Raptors are slated to pick No.8. With 8 games left, the Raptors have the possibility of picking as high as third (if they lose out) or as low as 13th (if they win out). The position of the Raptors’ pick is not only dependent on their play, but also on the play of the teams around Toronto in the league standings. This is how the teams listed above are currently slotted and how far apart they are in games as of April 1st:

11. Philadelphia          –

10. Washington           3

9. Minnesota               3

8. Toronto                   3.5

7. Sacramento             3.5

6. New Orleans           4.5

So there are currently 3.5 games separating Toronto from the Number 11 slot in the draft and 1 game separating Toronto from the Number 6 slot in the draft. A lot of movement is possible in the standings within the final 2 weeks of the season.

Charlotte Pick (Teams that warrant watching – Orlando and Charlotte)

The Charlotte pick is not protected meaning wherever Charlotte’s pick falls in the 2nd round, that’s where Oklahoma City will pick. Granted, 2nd round picks are more miss than hit. The players selected in the 2nd round of the NBA draft fall into one of four categories. You have the 1st round talents that slipped into the 2nd round for a myriad of reasons, the Euro-stashes, the upper classmen that may surprise and make it onto an NBA roster, and the players that are a reach. Usually, the higher you pick in the 2nd round, the higher the probability of success in the NBA.

adam-silver-draft

With the worst record in the NBA, the Charlotte Bobcats would get the 1st pick of the 2nd round (pick No. 31). Here’s a list of the last 5 players selected with the 31st pick:

  • 2008: Nikola Pekovic (currently with the Minnesota Timberwolves)
  • 2009: Jeff Pendergraph (currently with the Indiana Pacers)
  • 2010: Tibor Pleiss (still playing in Europe, rights owned by the Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • 2011: Bojan Bogdanovic (still playing in Europe, rights owned by the Brooklyn Nets)
  • 2012: Jeffrey Taylor (currently with the Charlotte Bobcats)

These are 3 quality players that were obtained with the first pick in the 2nd round, along with two Euro-stashes whose NBA careers have yet to begin. The allure of a 2nd round pick is that the contract is not initially guaranteed. Every player selected in the first round gets a contract that is guaranteed in the first two seasons with team options for the next 2 seasons at a set salary depending on where they were drafted. Most second round players have to prove their worth in summer league and training camps before the team offers them a guaranteed contract.

For a while it appeared that Charlotte had a stranglehold on the bottom spot in the NBA. In the last few weeks, though, Orlando has lost their veteran interior presence (Glen Davis) to injury, traded their veteran wing/bench scorer (JJ Redick), and lost their starting shooting guard (Arron Afflalo) to injury. Combine that with the general rebuilding nature the franchise currently finds itself, and that has led to Orlando losing 9 of its last 10 games. Orlando trails Charlotte by only 1.5 games for the final spot in the NBA.

bobcat magic

Is there a difference between the 31st and 32nd pick? I don’t know, but of the last 5 players selected with the 32nd pick, only one is still the NBA (Dexter Pittman) and one is still in Europe. The other three have fizzled out and are currently out of the league. Based on this recent history, it is definitely better to get the 31st pick instead of the 32nd pick.

Number 1 seed in the Western Conference (Teams that warrant watching – San Antonio and Oklahoma City)

With the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing the San Antonio Spurs by one game for the top spot in the Western Conference, every game from here on out is of tantamount importance to both teams. The two teams play each other one more time on April 4th. As I mentioned in a previous article, home court advantage may be more important to the Thunder this season than it was last season, when the Thunder beat the No.1 seeded Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder had an overhaul to their bench before the season began, and have a couple unproven players (as far as playoff experience goes) that perform better at home than on the road.

perk smash

Every day that goes by offers a game that is of importance to the Thunder. It is a fun time to be a fan of the team, and a fan of the NBA in general. Whether it affects their future or present, you can be certain that Thunder fans will be watching that scoreboard every day until the season ends.

Orlando Magic vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 66 of 82)

magic thunder

  • When: Friday, 15 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

If you are an established small market team that builds through the draft and smart, cost-effective moves, you are said to be using the San Antonio model of team building. But if you are a rebuilding team, collecting draft picks and young players, you are said to be using the Oklahoma City model of team building. The Oklahoma City Thunder are using the San Antonio blueprint, while battling the Spurs for Western Conference supremacy. The Orlando Magic, on the other hand, are using the OKC model to rebuild after Dwight Howard napalmed the team for two consecutive seasons.

Two years after making it to the Finals, the Magic were struggling to remain relevant in an Eastern Conference that now boasted a super team in Miami, a wunderkind point guard in Chicago, and a scoring title threat in New York. Howard could see the writing on the wall, but waffled between staying with the team and wanting to be traded. The indecision on the part of both parties (Howard and the Magic’s) delayed the inevitable, frustrating both the Magic front office and the fan base for 2 seasons. Howard was eventually traded this past offseason to the Los Angles Lakers in a four team deal that included 12 players and 5 draft picks.

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Clippers

Heading into this meeting with the Thunder, the Magic find themselves at 18-47, good for 14th in the Eastern Conference. After surprisingly starting the season with a 12-13 record, the Magic proceeded to lose 34 of their next 40 games. This will be the first of two meeting between these two teams. The Thunder swept the season series last season in two tightly contested games.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Orlando Magic

  • PG – Jameer Nelson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Moe Harkless
  • PF – Tobias Harris
  • C – Nikola Vucevic

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Protect the ball – Orlando is an extremely young, athletic team that feasts on turnovers. If the Thunder get too careless with the ball, the Magic will make them pay in transition. There’s no need to give a young team momentum to think they can win at your place.

ibaka and perk

Rebounding – The Magic are 15th in the league in rebounding, but have a double-double machine in athletic center Nikola Vucevic. With Vucevic patrolling the paint and Mo Harkless/Tobias Harris keeping Serge Ibaka outside of the paint, it will be up to Kevin Durant and the guards to help out in the rebounding department.

durant posting

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook: Post up offense – Both Westbrook and Durant will have significant height advantages on their defenders. Look for them to post up early and often.