July 28, 2014

2008-09 NBA Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

See all 2009 NBA team previews

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

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.

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Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Nice assessment Dannie & Pete!  Wow, the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Somehow, mentally, I am not completely used to saying that.  (I still think Green and Yellow and Seattle Supersonics).  Expectations for this team are not very high, but perhaps the relocation to Oklahoma would help this team tremendously in the near future. 

    Here it goes:

    Strength(s):
    -P.J Carlesimo (I’m glad he has another chance in coaching!!)
    -The Oklahoma fans(They were great for the Hornets in 05-06)
    -Kevin Durant (potential to be a star, started showing signs in the second half)
    -Trade chips (especially in three way deals lately!!)
    -Nothing to lose, but plenty to improve on
    -Potential to be a great fastbreak scoring, rebounding team
    -Joe Smith & Desmond Mason for  leadership and cooperation!
    Greatest weakness(es):
    -Weird team name and logo, looks WNBA like
    -Will Sasquatch be extinct?
    -Will Thunder be in Golden State?
    -Blue road uniforms (Home ones are fine!)
    -the fundamentals of basketball! (especially defense)

    Look for Kevin Durant’s possible growth change and maturity in year 2 for him.  The team needs to get stability in many facets of the game and then they can really be something.  Plus, those OKC fans are electric!!  

    With that said, the Thunder will be 5th in the Northwest Division, 15th in the West!!  (Maybe get the #1 draft pick in 2009!!)  

    (On a side note, the Sixers will sweep the Thunder or contain them on Ben Franklin’s kite. (2-0).  Andre Iguodala v.s Kevin Durant matchup– that should be fun!!  Our frontcourt should be able to take care of the Thunder’s.  Last year, Dalembert had “fun” against the Sonics (Thunder) with 22pts and 13 rebounds.  At Seattle last year, he had 6 blocks in a Sixers victory.)

     

  2. Rob says:

    Now, I would like to remember the Emerald City’s Seattle Supersonics!!!

    Seattle  Supersonics  (1967-2008)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Supersonics

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtC7gM22K80

    Not to mention the end of the Seattle Storm!! (2000-2008)

    (on a side note: the Sixers have won 6 of the 7 at Key Arena!!) 

  3. Rob says:

    The major benefit of having OKC is that other teams have their long road trips shortened tremendously for most teams to 5 or 6 straight road games.  Before, teams would go through these ridiculous 7 game or 8 game road trips.  Only seven teams have to go through 7 or 8 game road trips.  Of the seven, only 2 teams have an eight game road trip.  It is tiresome for teams.  Even though they don’t want to use fatigue as an excuse when they lose games, but that fatigue really takes its toll!  The next thing the schedule makers need to do is to give teams another day off when teams have to start their long east/west coast trip and have another day off when teams return from their long trips!!

  4. Pete says:

    rob -

    you are right that the road are far worse than the home. a decent logo could have helped on the shorts too, but I’ve never seen a more plain and boring new logo in awhile.

    should have gone with the Barons or Marshalls

  5. teen pee spy says:

    emm. really like it

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