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Oklahoma City Thunder
2007-08 Record: 20-62
Cool 2007 Stat: For all the criticism Kevin Durant got, he put up the 3rd best PPG ever (20.3) for a player under 20. The first 2 are LeBron and Melo – and Durant was put in a far worse situation than either.
Anticipated Starting Five
PG- Earl Watson
SG- Kevin Durant
SF- Jeff Green
PF- Chris Wilcox
C- Johan Petro
Bench: Russell Westbrook, Desmond Mason, Damien Wilkens, Nick Collison, Joe Smith
Biggest Strength – Size/Rebounding Potential
With Durant playing shooting guard you have a near 6’10 guy at guard who is very agile. Green is a big small forward at 6’9, and Wilcox is a solid 6’10 at power forward. Then depending on who is in the starting line-up this team could end up with a 7-footer at center in Petro and a 6’3 point guard in Russell Westbrook. Last season the Sonics were second in the NBA in total rebounds per game. The problem: they were also fifth in opponents’ rebounds per game as well, only giving them a +0.5 differential. If they can match their good size and athleticism with proper technique and effort, they have the makings of a very strong rebounding team.
Biggest Weakness – Umm Where to Start
This team was bad last year and have a host of issues and leaks that need to be filled. I will just touch a few that stand out to me.
- Terrible logo
- Bad name
- Ugly blue uniforms using the most boring font they could find
- 29th in the NBA in turnovers per game
- Only 26th in the league in forced turnovers per game
- They were as bad from 3-point range as the Sixers last year (33% vs. 32% for the 76ers)
- Worst of all was their point differential: -8.8, good for worst in the league
They are stuck with the logo, uniform and name for a while. I also don’t think they will improve their three-point shooting especially since their best shooter (Wally Szczerbiak – 42.8%) was traded. Although Durant could help in this area by shooting less (2.6 per game last year) or shooting them better (28.8% last year). They are long and should force more turnovers this season by pressuring the perimeter. But I don’t see them getting significally better at taking care of the ball either, considering they will have a rookie point guard playing a fair number of minutes.
Key Player in ’08- Jeff Green
The Thunder drafted Durant and Green last year (and Westbrook this year), to be the cornerstones of their franchise. Durant showed enough potential last year to be considered a star in the making, and Green showed flashes as well. This will not be a very good team, and at this point for the franchise, all the OKC fans are looking for is some hope. If Green can improve on his solid rookie season (10.5 points, 4.7 rebounds), they can certainly dream about the potential of these two down the road. In order to do so, Green will have improve his poor shooting % (42.9%) for a 6’9 forward.
Their Thaddeus (exciting player 22 or under) – Kevin Durant, 20
Durant and Greg Oden came in with the most hype of 2 rookies in the same class since LeBron and Melo. They didn’t quite live up to the billing as Oden was out for the year, and Durant didn’t score 28ppg right off the bat as many unfairly expected him to. Durant was put in a tough situation, playing out of position (SG, for some unexplained reason) and without a viable 2nd scoring option on the team. Needless to say, opposing defenses suffocated Durant, and his shooting % was down considerably from college. However, Durant adjusted, shooting 47% after the all-star break (vs. 40% before). In the final 2 months of the season, he averaged 22.6 ppg on 50% shooting. I expect him to continue his improvement this year (he was 19, for god’s sake!), and I see him winning several scoring titles before he is all said and done.
Pete’s 2008 Outlook: 5th place, Northwest division / 15th place, Western conference /30th place, NBA
I love Kevin Durant and Nick Collison, but this is probably going to be a team I root against as long as Clay Bennett is still calling the shots. Bennett ruthlessly stole a franchise from a city that didn’t want it stolen, something that would be absolutely devastating to me as a fan. He’s a slimeball, and I really hope some Seattle fan tracks him down and at least breaks his nose. I’ve hated Art Modell and the Ravens ever since they left Cleveland, and it looks like I’m going down the same road with Clay Bennett and the WNBA’s Thunder. Oh… I’m sorry, Thunder is an NBA team name? I guess the “Shock” was already taken. Well, they must be wearing their WNBA’s affiliate’s uniforms, right? No? Maybe their D-League affiliate? No? That’s what they are wearing this year? Poor Kevin Durant. If Bennett’s sense of style is as good as his player personnel decisions, I might enjoy him running this franchise into the ground from day 1.
Dannie’s 2008 Outlook: 5th place, Northwest division / 15th place, Western conference /30th place, NBA
Last place team in the NBA with potential. The identity of this team needs to be defense and rebounding. They have a lot of young guys, and if P.J. Carlesimo can get them to just focus on their defense, rebounding, intensity level and effort every game they will compete and win some games. Hell, Durant with one year under his belt and hopefully some more muscle will be able to carry them to a few wins on his own. But what I really see is a lot of defensive potential in this team. They have Westbrook, Kyle Weaver and D.J. White as rookies who were very strong defenders in college. They have Durant who should be a strong defender in on the help side and even man-to-man if he improves his lateral quickness and technique. I could see this team leap-frogging the Knicks and getting out of the basement, especially if Mike D’Antoni can’t get his run-and-gun style to work with two lazy slugs in the front court.
Philly Connection: Joe Smith
Joe Smith had 2 go-arounds with the Sixers, each lasting less than a season. The first time he came in with a lot of hype. The Sixers already had 2 #1 overall picks on the team in Iverson and Derrick Coleman, and Joe Smith (averaging 17.3 points and 7 rebounds at the time of the trade) made 3. He was a dissapointment, only averaging 10.3 points and helping the Sixers finish 31-51. Looking back, this team actually had a lot of young talent (Iverson, Stackhouse, T. Thomas, J. Smith, Ratliff), decent veterans (Jim Jackson and Clarence Weatherspoon) and Derrick “Pariah” Coleman. His 2nd go around came as part of the Iverson trade in 2007. This time, he had worse numbers than his first go around, but without the expectations, he was seen as (and was) a quality rotation guy. While Smith has never lived up to the #1 overall pick hype, he’s quietly put together a solid career.