Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

7 10 2008

My NBA Northwest Division preview continues with the Oklahoma City Thunder:

Oklahoma City Thunder

2007-08 Standings 20 – 62, 15th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 20 – 62, 5th Northwest Division, 15th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Nick Collison, Joe Smith, Jeff Green, Kevin Durant, Earl Watson

Sixth Man:  Desmond Mason

Kevin Durant is the best player on the Thunder yet is still trying to figure out a position for himself. Not a good combination for the Thunder.

Kevin Durant is the best player on the Thunder yet is still trying to figure out a position for himself. Not a good combination for the Thunder.

The Seattle Sonics were one of the worst teams in the NBA last year, stumbling to a 20 win record. Then the offseason came around and the Sonics disappeared, relocated in horrific fashion to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Excuse me while I throwup in my mouth. The Seattle Sonics were a proud franchise, a former champion who with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were good enough to challenge Michael Jordan in the Finals. And now they are no more.

Karma figures to be a bitch however and the Thunder project to be among the worst teams in the NBA this season. This is partly due to the roster being packed full of kiddies. Two of their best players, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are tender 1 year veterans while rookie Russell Westbrook is tagged to be the point guard of the future.

They are also (ineptly) coached by the Choked One, PJ Carlesimo. Last year the Sonics were among the worst offensive teams in the league and the defence wasn’t much better.

There are classy veterans on this roster who deserve better – Joe Smith and Desmond Mason have games suited to be roleplayers on contenders. I have no doubt these two will act as mentors to the kiddies but the kindest thing might be for the Thunder to release them mid season so they can sign elsewhere.

The Thunder do possess potential stud Kevin Durant. Last year he was allowed to run riot taking whatever shots he felt like, good, bad or otherwise. He has the talent to develop into an All NBA player however he needs some discipline and structure to achieve this. Carlesimo is not equipped to deliver this and I have a fear that we will be denied Durant’s potential greatness.

The new hometown fans in Oklahoma City will pack out many of the early games as excitement of having an NBA team rules but will they remain as the team’s mediocre play continues?

Coach:

Former choking victim PJ Carlesimo is coach here. Unfortunately last year he showed that he is seemingly better suited to being an assistant coach. The Thunder would be better served looking elsewhere. It’s a pity Scott Skiles is now coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, he would be a good fit here.

Bench:

The Oklahoma City Thunder bench doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. There are some promising rookies (Russell Westbrook) and experienced older hands such as Desmond Mason and Damien Wilkins but the remainder would struggle to find spots on another team’s roster.

Star Player:

Kevin Durant is the reigning Rookie of the Year. At times last year he showed flashes of his undoubted potential however he is yet to discover a shot he doesn’t like. He also needs to put some weight on his slender frame. The coaching staff also needs to figure out what position he plays – is he a shooting guard, small forward or power forward? Despite this Durant is a rising star and when he figures things out he will be an All Star.

Team MVP:

How Joe Smith lends his experience and maturity to his young team mates is vital for how the Thunder will develop this season. Unfortunately he will be a lone voice this season.

Final Prognosis:

The Thunder will have a painful first season in Oklahoma City. The expected rabid fans will help them to a few wins but ultimately matching last season’s win total will be about the best thing they have to look forward to.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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