As the NBA season fast approaches, Right Down Euclid will be previewing all 30 NBA teams, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of each franchise. This preview will focusing on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who last year had a record of 60-22 and DID make the playoffs.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Coach: Scott Brooks
General Manager: Sam Presti
2012-2013 Record: 60-22
Place in Conference: 1st in the West
Leading Scorer: Kevin Durant (30.8 PPG)
After an extremely successful regular season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off of a slightly disappointing playoff run caused in part by a torn meniscus suffered by point guard Russell Westbrook in the opening round of the playoffs. Without Westbrook in the mix the Thunder struggled against a very tough Memphis Grizzlies team, and lost in 5 games. The Thunder then had one of their quietest offseasons since they became an NBA team. Sam Presti failed to move them up in the NBA draft to take a “game-changer” in the lottery, instead settling with Pitt center Steven Adams at 12, and high-energy wing Andre Roberson at 26. In addition, after losing guard and 3rd scoring option Kevin Martin to free agency, the Thunder did little to replace him, signing only 39-year-old Derek Fisher again, making it seem as though the Thunder were content to have Jeremy Lamb be the heir apparent at the shooting guard position.
The Thunder still feature arguably the league’s best scoring duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook which, barring injury, is by itself good enough to get the Thunder
into the playoffs. Durant should be a favorite for the scoring title, now that the Thunder don’t have a legitimate 3rd scoring option. Serge Ibaka continues to develop his offensive game to supplement the leading scorers, and should continue to become more consistent. Although not extremely deep, the Thunder have many young, talented players (Adams, Roberson, Perry Jones, Grant Jerrett) that could develop into good players if given play time. Adams provides a definite need looking forward at the center position as Kendrick Perkins is getting old. Jeremy Lamb may become the next in line of very successful two guards for the Thunder, giving them a legitimate 3rd scoring option.
The loss of Martin at Shooting Guard could really hurt the teams’ offense, especially if Lamb isn’t effective right away. If the team only has 2 legitimate scoring options they could struggle to get to the 105.7 points per game hey averaged last year. Thabo Sefolosha is almost 30 years old, and if he shows signs of slowing down, the Thunder will have lost heir defensive ace. Kendrick Perkins seems to no longer be the answer down low, which could thrust the young Adams into the rotation very soon, which may be difficult for a player who is as raw as he is. If Westbrook’s injury persists, the team would be very hard pressed to find a way to supplement his production. There really aren’t many problems on this team, and many of the ones brought up are purely speculation.
2013-2014 Season Predictions
No matter how few moves this team made, they are still very good. However, I believe they will not get near the production from Lamb to start the year that they have received from Martin and James Harden in years past at SG. Due to the loss of a consistent 3rd scoring option, and the uncertainty of Westbrook’s health, I think they will be knocked down a couple places in the West, but still make the playoffs, at about 3rd or 4th in the conference, with between 50 – 55 wins. As for the team’s MVP, I’m going to have to go with the obvious answer and say Kevin Durant; I believe he will win both the scoring title AND the MVP award this year.