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NBA 2015-16 Team Previews: Oklahoma City Thunder – The Revenge Tour

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Oklahoma City Thunder

Our NBA 2015-16 Team Previews begins in the Northwest, next up the Oklahoma City Thunder

Record:  (45-37) 9th in the Western Conference, 2nd in Northwest Division, Failed to make playoffs

Rank: Offense:104.5 (11th)   Defense:103.1 (16th)  Differential/Net: plus +1.4 (13th) Pace: 98.3 (6th)

2014-15

Key Stats: 

  • The Thunder were 24th in passing which should improve this season with a healthy squad and a new Billy Donovan motivated offense
  • Following the trade to obtain Enes Kanter he brought his defensive woes with him, though to be fair when the Thunder fell out of the top 10 in defense it also had a lot to do with both Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant being injured.
  • *When Ibaka was on the court the Thunder’s defensive rating was 101.2 points and opposing teams shot 42.5% while being held to 40.8% at the rim. In contrast when Kanter was on the court their defensive rating was 110.4 points, teams shot 48.2% and his rim protection was brutal as the opposition’s field goal percent was 56.4%.
  • *Russell Westbrook entered rare company becoming one of only 4 players in NBA history to achieve a season average of 28+ points, 7+ rebounds and 8+ assists joining LeBron James (00-01), Michael Jordan (88-89) and Oscar Robertson who did it on 6 occasions.

*John Schuhmann’s stats

Off Season Moves

Key Areas Needing Addressing:

  • Staying healthy
  • Return to top 10 defense
  • Capitalizing on 2 superstars by improving and expanding offensive schemes and via ball/player movement

Draft:   Cameron Payne selected 14th, Dakari Johnson selected 48th in second round

Player Additions/Players Re-Signed:

Players Exiting:

2015-16

Core Players:   Russell Westbrook, Andre RobersonKevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams

Key Reserves: Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, D.J. Augustin, Mitch McGary, Kyle Singler

Notably the Thunder could send out a full line-up change that arguably could beat some starting line-ups in the Association!

Outlook

Rising Star:  Mitch McGary has shown steady development as well as a motor and consistent energy. He looked good in the Orlando Summer League and continues to showcase growth in the preseason with improved passing skills and shooting. He joins the versatile and deep front court of the Thunder.

On The Bubble:  Dion Waiters enters the fourth year of his professional campaign needing to demonstrate he is a team player who committed to improvements this off season specifically on the defensive end. He’s definitely been less volatile in Oklahoma City than he was in Cleveland, but without a extension signed at this point if he enters the year without a contract he’ll be forced to demonstrate his worth via producing as a team player not via his personal desires to get his.

X-Factor:   Serge Ibaka offers a combo rarity in the Association with his ability to defend the paint, score in the paint and also hit the outside shot. He’s the defensive leader on the court and alongside Westbrook and Durant forms the most lethal Big 3 in the Association (sorry LeBron). His ability to cover for Kanter’s defensive short comings and continue his offensive growth could be the difference on whether the Thunder finish first or fourth in the West.

Best Case: With 12 players under contract there wasn’t much off season maneuvering to be done by GM Sam Presti. Rather, he’d done most of his work at the trade deadline in February.  Though you might get a debate from me on the amount he paid to retain Kanter it’s understandable given  Thunder franchise super star Durant enters free agency next summer. Furthermore he’ll tire out opposing front courts alongside arguably the deepest most versatile front court in the Association.

Sam Presti has given new head coach Billy Donavon a veritable powerhouse consisting of arguably 3 of the top 10 players in the Association. Early signs in preseason are Donavon already has them assimilated and focused ball movement. The other key move is Donovan appears to be sticking with Roberson and Adams in the starting line-up which in my opinion is critical to the Thunder establishing strong defense early in games.

Let’s face it the Thunder and more specifically Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka have been extremely vocal about keeping score last season regarding teams who were beating them and punking them in the process, so they’ll be more than ready to exact their revenge. Despite barely missing out on the playoffs it does feel like perhaps all this rest may have served to fuel the young trio’s desire to regain prominence while also offering ample rest and relaxation.

Worst Case: It’s hard to imagine this team will have many issues unless they suffer further injuries and given they failed to make the playoffs by a single game last season the worst case scenario is they don’t get home court.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder and their Big 3 reek revenge on the entire Association finishing with 60+ wins, first place and home court throughout the playoffs! Russell Westbrook improves his assists totals and flirts with tying Oscar Robertson’s history setting triple-double season average! Kevin Durant reminds everyone why he won MVP taking his second trophy on route to winning the NBA Championship at season end.

Games versus Rockets:

  • November 2nd: At Toyota Center in Houston
  • January 29th: At Energy Solutions Arena in Oklahoma
  • March 22nd: At Energy Solutions Arena in Oklahoma
  • April 3rd: At Toyota Center in Houston

Fansided Affiliate Site: Thunderous Intentions

Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.

Next: Timberwolves Preview

Next: SCS Complete Round Table Sessions

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