Oklahoma City Thunder: NBA season preview, schedule and roster
The new-look Thunder have quickly transformed themselves into one of the top contenders to topple the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
Arrivals: Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Terrance Ferguson, Dakari Johnson, Daniel Hamilton, Isaiah Canaan
Departures: Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Taj Gibson, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Norris Cole
The Thunder won the NBA offseason, hands down. Sam Presti somehow turned Victor Oladipo, Domas Sabonis, Doug McDermott, Enes Kanter, and a second-rounder into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
Regardless of whether he’s actually capable of mind control or he’s just a very lucky beneficiary of Eastern Conference incompetence, the fact of the matter is that he’s quickly assembled a roster around reigning MVP Russell Westbrook that might have the best chance of overthrowing the Golden State Warriors.
Presti had been having a fine offseason even before making his blockbuster trades. He had signed Patrick Patterson to a well below market deal to address a big need in shooting. He also re-signed Andre Roberson to a very reasonable deal.
That Westbrook also re-signed his massive $205 million extension, which was likely influenced by the arrival of Melo and PG-13, puts this already incredible Thunder offseason over the top.
Projected Depth Chart
C – Steven Adams / Nick Collison / Dakari Johnson
PF – Carmelo Anthony / Patrick Patterson / Jerami Grant
SF – Paul George / Kyle Singler / Josh Huestis
SG – Andre Roberson / Alex Abrines / Terrance Ferguson
PG – Russell Westbrook / Raymond Felton / Semaj Christon
Westbrook is an absolute force of nature. With hardly any reliable offensive options around him last season, he almost single-handedly led the Thunder to the playoffs. He led the team (and the league) in scoring and set up his teammates en route to averaging a historic triple-double for the season.
And now, he won’t have to do it himself anymore. He’ll have Melo and George, who become two of the best second and third offensive options in the league. While all three and head coach Bill Donovan will all have a responsibility to make this offense work, there’s simply too much talent on this team to think it won’t.
But even if OKC have issues on offense, their defense has the potential to be elite. They were already a strong defensive unit last season, but they will be even better with George, who could form arguably the best defensive wing duo in the league with Roberson. They also have one of the best defensive big men in the league in Steven Adams.
The Thunder lost the strong rebounding of Gibson and Kanter, particularly on the offensive end. However, Adams is still a strong offensive rebounder, and with Westbrook’s amazing rebounding skills at point guard, OKC should still be one of the best in the league at handling the boards.
Kanter’s departure leaves the Thunder thin at center. Only Dakari Johnson remains as the lone true center behind Adams while the veteran Collison can no longer be a viable contributor for big minutes at this stage of his career. They have the option of playing the versatile Jerami Grant and Patterson at center, but that could sacrifice some of their rebounding advantage.
Another weakness they have is that two of their projected starters – Anthony and Roberson – are predominantly one-way players which could get exploited, particularly in the postseason. Melo’s defensive deficiencies are more pronounced as he’s grown older, while opponents can basically ignore Roberson when he’s spotting up on the perimeter. Donovan will need to be smart with his lineups in certain matchups to minimize those players’ shortcomings as much as possible.
Finally, they might have issues in crunch time. Westbrook monopolized late-game situations for the Thunder last season, in part due to necessity. However, he had similar tendencies when Kevin Durant was still with the Thunder. Is that simply in his nature? If so, it might cause some friction with the team’s other two stars.
Player to Watch – Carmelo Anthony
While “Hoodie Melo” was all the rage in the offseason, “Olympic Melo” is finally set to make his first prolonged appearance in the NBA. Despite evidence he can be a devastating force playing more as a small-ball four, Anthony long resisted that role during his time in New York. But Melo has changed his tune upon arriving in OKC, where he is seemingly set to embrace being the team’s primary power forward.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist may not be quite as effective anymore at age 33, but just like in those Dream Teams, he doesn’t need to be on this team with George and Westbrook. He can be more of a spot-up shooter, which he has excelled at in recent years, and pick his time to go solo. However, that’s dependent upon whether he’s willing to take enough of a backseat offensively.
If Melo can buy in and play his role to the best of his abilities, the championship ceiling for the Thunder this season creeps up just that little higher.
1 Oct 19, 2017 vs. New York Knicks
2 Oct 21, 2017 @ Utah Jazz
3 Oct 22, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
4 Oct 25, 2017 vs. Indiana Pacers
5 Oct 27, 2017 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
6 Oct 28, 2017 @ Chicago Bulls
7 Oct 31, 2017 @ Milwaukee Bucks
8 Nov 3, 2017 vs. Boston Celtics
9 Nov 5, 2017 @ Portland Trail Blazers
10 Nov 7, 2017 @ Sacramento Kings
11 Nov 9, 2017 @ Denver Nuggets
12 Nov 10, 2017 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
13 Nov 12, 2017 vs. Dallas Mavericks
14 Nov 15, 2017 vs. Chicago Bulls
15 Nov 17, 2017 @ San Antonio Spurs
16 Nov 20, 2017 @ New Orleans Pelicans
17 Nov 22, 2017 vs. Golden State Warriors
18 Nov 24, 2017 vs. Detroit Pistons
19 Nov 25, 2017 @ Dallas Mavericks
20 Nov 29, 2017 @ Orlando Magic
21 Dec 1, 2017 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
22 Dec 3, 2017 vs. San Antonio Spurs
23 Dec 5, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz
24 Dec 7, 2017 @ Brooklyn Nets
25 Dec 9, 2017 @ Memphis Grizzlies
26 Dec 11, 2017 vs. Charlotte Hornets
27 Dec 13, 2017 @ Indiana Pacers
28 Dec 15, 2017 @ Philadelphia 76ers
29 Dec 16, 2017 @ New York Knicks
30 Dec 18, 2017 vs. Denver Nuggets
31 Dec 20, 2017 vs. Utah Jazz
32 Dec 22, 2017 vs. Atlanta Hawks
33 Dec 23, 2017 @ Utah Jazz
34 Dec 25, 2017 vs. Houston Rockets
35 Dec 27, 2017 vs. Toronto Raptors
36 Dec 29, 2017 vs. Milwaukee Bucks
37 Dec 31, 2017 vs. Dallas Mavericks
38 Jan 3, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers
39 Jan 4, 2018 @ Los Angeles Clippers
40 Jan 7, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns
41 Jan 9, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
42 Jan 10, 2018 @ Minnesota Timberwolves
43 Jan 13, 2018 @ Charlotte Hornets
44 Jan 15, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings
45 Jan 17, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
46 Jan 20, 2018 @ Cleveland Cavaliers
47 Jan 23, 2018 vs. Brooklyn Nets
48 Jan 25, 2018 vs. Washington Wizards
49 Jan 27, 2018 @ Detroit Pistons
50 Jan 28, 2018 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
51 Jan 30, 2018 @ Washington Wizards
52 Feb 1, 2018 @ Denver Nuggets
53 Feb 2, 2018 vs. New Orleans Pelicans
54 Feb 4, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
55 Feb 6, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors
56 Feb 8, 2018 @ Los Angeles Lakers
57 Feb 11, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
58 Feb 13, 2018 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
59 Feb 14, 2018 @ Memphis Grizzlies
60 Feb 22, 2018 @ Sacramento Kings
61 Feb 24, 2018 @ Golden State Warriors
62 Feb 26, 2018 vs. Orlando Magic
63 Feb 28, 2018 @ Dallas Mavericks
64 Mar 2, 2018 @ Phoenix Suns
65 Mar 3, 2018 @ Portland Trail Blazers
66 Mar 6, 2018 vs. Houston Rockets
67 Mar 8, 2018 vs. Phoenix Suns
68 Mar 10, 2018 vs. San Antonio Spurs
69 Mar 12, 2018 vs. Sacramento Kings
70 Mar 13, 2018 @ Atlanta Hawks
71 Mar 16, 2018 vs. Los Angeles Clippers
72 Mar 18, 2018 @ Toronto Raptors
73 Mar 20, 2018 @ Boston Celtics
74 Mar 23, 2018 vs. Miami Heat
75 Mar 25, 2018 vs. Portland Trail Blazers
76 Mar 29, 2018 @ San Antonio Spurs
77 Mar 30, 2018 vs. Denver Nuggets
78 Apr 1, 2018 @ New Orleans Pelicans
79 Apr 3, 2018 vs. Golden State Warriors
80 Apr 7, 2018 @ Houston Rockets
81 Apr 9, 2018 @ Miami Heat
82 Apr 11, 2018 vs. Memphis Grizzlies
The Thunder will almost surely be a top-four seed in the West with all this talent at their disposal. Westbrook, Anthony, and George need some time to find a rhythm playing together, but they eventually put together a strong regular season with around 56 wins, which is just enough to edge the Spurs out for the third seed.
Oklahoma takedown the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs and get the right to meet the Warriors in the conference finals. They also give Golden State all they can handle before falling in six games.
How do you see the Thunder’s season going? Let us know in the comments below!