(In the past we've brought you a comprehensive Thunder preview as offered by both Zorgon and Sherman. This year we let the rookie KevinHFY join in on the festivities. Zorgon offers his customary in-depth analysis, Kevin offers a new set ...
(In the past we've brought you a comprehensive Thunder preview as offered by both Zorgon and Sherman. This year we let the rookie KevinHFY join in on the festivities. Zorgon offers his customary in-depth analysis, Kevin offers a new set of eyes, and Sherman rounds out each topic with his famous last words.)
Team Name: The Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Year's Record: 60-22
Key Losses: Kevin Martin, DeAndre Liggins, Ronnie Brewer, Kevin Durant's Residence
Key Additions: Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Ryan Gomes
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?
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Moves? Hah. The Thunder, with Ibaka's new salary kicking in and a couple of draft picks, were right next to the luxury tax threshold. They've refused to go over that threshold before, dishing James Harden off to Houston instead of giving him a payday. So if they went over that threshold to pay Kevin Martin, it would've been absolutely absurd. Thus, K-Mart took his talents to Minnesota. The Thunder looked for a cheap option to replace him, but they couldn't even afford Dorell Wright, who signed for a measly 3 million a year. So the Thunder ended up doing nothing but grabbing a couple of minimum salary players in Derek Fisher and Ryan Gomes.
In terms of the draft, the Thunder went in two different directions. With their #12 pick, they desperately tried to move up by packaging it with Kendrick Perkins. The talent-bereft and cash-strapped teams at the top of the lottery laughed at the Thunder's offer, leaving the Thunder to draft a 2-3 year project in Steven Adams. Late in the first round, the Thunder traded up a bit to grab Andre Roberson, an experienced forward. He could help out the team in terms of defense and rebounding, and could possibly be a cheap replacement for Thabo Sefolosha next year. In the second round, the Thunder drafted Alex Abrines, a creative guard who they can stash in Europe, and Grant Jerrett, a three point shooting big who will need time to develop his all-around game.
2. What are the team's biggest strengths?
For me, the team's biggest strength at this point is the rock-solid production they get from Kevin Durant. It might seem really obvious, but I challenge anyone to find a single player in the NBA who has as few off nights. I mean, he was close to beating Jordan's record of so many straight 25 point games for a reason. He might be less efficient on some nights, but he'll get his points, come hell or high water.
Beyond that, I think their biggest strength is their familiarity. Westbrook, Durant, Ibaka, Sefolosha, Collison, and Perkins have all been playing together for years now, and they know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Each player has a very defined role, and they can fill that role to a T. There's very little chance of drama, there's a great locker room atmosphere, and they all trust each other. Even some of the newer players (Fisher, Jackson) already have a nice handle on where they fit within the context of the team.
If we're going to talk about the Thunder as a team strategically, I think their high-tempo offense and defense can overwhelm a lot of teams. The trio of Durant, Sefolosha, and Westbrook (and Jackson, for a while) is still one of the best open-court gangs in the league, with lots of size, speed, and athleticism. Defensively, the Thunder are pretty good at nabbing back court steals and switching on screens, keeping the other team away from the basket and keeping the pace high. It might seem gimmicky, but it's gotten this team places before.
Our team's biggest strengths have to start with Kevin Durant. So much of the Thunder's success is reliant on him, and this is even more true with Kevin Martin in Minnesota and Russell Westbrook for the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Well, if you had to pick any one player in the NBA to