Rockets News

NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell’s Revenge Tour

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
facebooktwitterreddit
Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 NBA 2016-17 Team Preview – Oklahoma City Thunder begin their post Durant years with Russell Westbrook poised to set the league on fire.

To prepare our readers for the regular season SCS provides our series entitled  NBA 2016-17 Team Preview for each of the Houston Rockets’ 29 opponents.  Who will return to the playoffs? Which team will fall from grace and who will be the Cinderella team?

Get a complete break down of each team. Included in the profiles are:

  • Where the team finished 2015-16
  • Key 2015-16 stats
  • Future draft pick status
  • Current and future salary rank
  • Off Season Moves
  • 2017 Free Agents
  • Schedule, NBA League Pass and Win Projection Ranking
  • Team Overview entering season (Starting 5, reserves and notable injuries)
  • When each team will play the Houston Rockets
  • Strengths, Weaknesses and Prediction

SCS series of NBA 2016-17 Team Preview now looks at arguably the toughest division – the Northwest.

Up next SCS looks at the team hurt the most by the newly formed Super Team and a certain point guard who’ll be looking to exact his revenge on the entire Association:  Oklahoma City Thunder.

 NBA 2016-17 Team Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

2015-16 Record: 55 – 27

Playoffs:

Lost NBA Western Conference Finals (3-4) versus Golden State Warriors

Points Per Game: 110.2 (2nd )

Opponent Points Per Game:  102.9 (15th)

Pace: 96.7 (10th )

Offensive Rank: 113.1 (2nd )

Defensive Rank:  105.6 (13th)

Three Point Rank:  34.9% (17th)

Rebounds: 48.6  (1st)

Assists: 23.0 (10th)

Steals: 7.4 (21st)

Blocks: 5.9 (4th)

Turnovers: 15.9 (26th)

Next: Future postioning - draft, free agents

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) drives to the basket in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Free Agents

Restricted: 

Unrestricted:

  • Nick Collison,
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Anthony Morrow

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Future Draft Picks:

Incoming:

  • 2017 second round draft pick from Memphis
  • 2018 second round draft pick from Boston

Outgoing:

  • 2017 second round draft pick to Denver Oklahoma City’s 2nd round pick to Denver protected for selections 31-35 in 2017 and unprotected in 2018 [Denver-Oklahoma City, 8/30/2016
  • 2018 first round draft pick to Utah Oklahoma City’s 1st round pick to Utah protected for selections 1-14 in 2018, 1-14 in 2019 and 1-14 in 2020; if Oklahoma City has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Utah by 2020, then Oklahoma City will instead convey its 2020 2nd round pick and 2021 2nd round pick to Utah [Detroit-Oklahoma City-Utah, 2/19/2015]

As per Real GM

Average Age of Team: 26.3 years

Next: Off Season Moves

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Domantas Sabonis (3) shoots the ball in front of Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Picks

Round 1: Domantas Sabonis (11)  arrives via the Serge Ibaka draft night trade

Round 2: Daniel Hamilton (56)

2016 Free Agents prior to July 1, 2016:

Thunder began their 2016 free agency with the following free agents:

Restricted:

Unrestricted:

Moves made following July 1, 2016:

Incoming:

  • Victor Oladipo (trade)
  • Ersan Ilyasova (trade)
  • Domantas Sabonis (trade)
  • Alex Abrines to a 3-year $18M deal. Abrines was drafted in 2013 by the Thunder in the second round
  • Ronnie Price signs 2-year deal (still rumored but Devon Booker seems to have confirmed it via Twitter)
  • Joffrey Lauvergne for 2 second round draft pics to Denver

Exiting:

  • Kevin Durant joins Warriors in biggest decision of summer 2-years, $54.3M
  • Serge Ibaka (traded on draft night)
  • Randy Foye joins Nets on reported 1-year deal
  • Dion Waiters agreeing to a 2-year $6M deal with Heat (after OKC rescinded $6.8M offer)

Next: Schedule, League Pass, Win Projection Rankings

Oct 16, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas over-under for wins: 45.5

Schedule strength:

As ranked by ESPN: 24th with 2.59 extra wins

The Thunder rank sixth in air miles, 27th in games with a rest advantage and last in games with two or more days of rest. Yet it comes out all right in the end. OKC must get the right teams at the right times.

Games versus Rockets:

  • Wednesday, November 16th at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK, 8PM EST
  • Friday, December 9th at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK, 8PM EST
  • Thursday, January 5th at Toyota Center in Houston, TX, 8PM EST
  • Sunday, March 26th at Toyota Center in Houston, TX, 3:30PM EST

Zach Lowe NBA League Pass Rank: 8th

Otherwise, give me all of this: the Russell Westbrook Show, the Stache Brothers, Steven Adams accidentally angering bystanders, Kyle Singler’s hair, Mitch McGary’s over-enthusiastic running (unless and until the Thunder cut him), Andre Roberson’s 3-point prayers, and so much more.

Hopefully, Westbrook is getting all the Rondo-level overpassing out of his system in preseason, so that he can inflict holy hell on the league when the games start to count.

Next: Team Overview

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) drives to the basket in front of Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Committed Salary

2016: $94,338,686 – 20th ranked. Of note , entering free agency the Thunder had the 13th highest payroll. Even after extending Westbrook they dropped to 20.

2017: $62,472,779 – 24th ranked

Team Salary Ranking as per Hoops Hype, and team salary overview also via Hoops Hype

Starting 5:

Point Guard:  Russell Westbrook – 23.5 points,  10.4 assists, 7.8 rebounds

Shooting Guard:  Victor Oladipo- 16.0 points, 3.9 assists,  4.8 rebounds

Small Forward:  Andre Roberson – 4.8 points, 0.7  assists,  3.6 rebounds

Power Forward: Domantas Sabonis (R) –  (NCAA stats) 17.6 points, 1.8 assists, 11.8 rebounds

Center:  Stephen Adams- 8.0 points,  8.1 rebounds, 1.1 blocks

Reserves:

Guards: Cameron Payne, Ronnie Price, *Semaj Christon

Wings: Alex Abrines, Kyle Singler, Ersan Ilyasova, Anthony Morrow, *Josh Huestis

Bigs: Enes Kanter, Nick Collison, Joffrey Lauvergne

*notes: all indications are the Thunder will part ways with Mitch McGary given his off court issues. Further with Cameron Payne’s injury it’s also likely the Thunder signs Christon and send Huestis to the D-League (for now). Other possibilities could be Sam Presti signing an available veteran point guard  once rosters are set.

Injury News:

  • Payne remains out after fracturing the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot. Cameron and the team have elected to wait to see if the bone heals on it’s own. This move on it’s own points to the fracture not being as severe as Durant’s was for example.
  • Abrines suffered a minor hip injury and subsequently has been limited in practice sessions

All injury news as per rotoworld

Next: Strengths, Weaknesses, Prediction

Oct 18, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) react to a call as Denver Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) looks on during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Team Notes

The biggest story of the summer was Kevin Durant leaving the team he resided with his entire career. Worse he left to go play with the team OKC had on the ropes 3-1 in the Western Conference Semi Finals. Factor in the drama this summer as continually reports surfaced Durant still hasn’t spoken to Russell Westbrook and keeps putting his foot in his mouth.

Adding even more fuel to the fire was the draft night trade that sent Serge Ibaka to the Magic. Long rumored to have issues,  it was felt Ibaka was moved to appease Durant. That said, Presti definitely got the better end of the deal since Ibaka could turn out to be a very expensive one year rental given he is in a contract year.  Presti pulled the rabbit out of his hat with the deal landing promising prospect Domantas Sabonis, Ilyasova who’ll offer three point shooting and valuable passing and backcourt running mate in Victor Oladipo. While some ponder how this new backcourt will function it also offers intrigue akin to what the Blazers backcourt does. The difference being two freight trains coming at you from either side and both are much better defenders.

So far it’s looking like Westbrook is tickled with the addition. If you believe the rumors apparently Victor calls Russell when he can’t sleep and Westbrook croons lullabies to help him sleep  (courtesy of Tony Heim of Thunderous Intentions).

Strengths:

WESTBROOK, WESTBROOK,  WESTBROOK. Yeah, I know I don’t need to yell, but seriously is there anyone who loves the NBA that hasn’t marked down November 3rd, January 18th, February 11 and March 20th on their calendars. In particular the last two dates since those will be the occasions Durant returns to Oklahoma City. Not sure why the League didn’t recognize a lost opportunity by making the Christmas Day game between these two clubs. That said, expect the Thunder versus Timberwolves to offer the best holiday game.

Frontcourt depth is  a real thing and with the addition of Lauvergne to the squad Presti has added even more length.

No expectations: with Durant leaving town in the manner he did most pundits aren’t expecting much from the Thunder. Still, everyone knows Westbrook will be on a mission. Aside from how thrilling that thought is, it also allows the team to settle into it’s rhythm while they adjust to a world without Kevin Durant.

Weaknesses:

If Payne does end up needing surgery the back-up behind Westbrook is unproven without a third true option.

Three point shooting is expected to be an issue, but Tony Heim from Thunderous Intentions tells me Alex Abrines is a real talent.  Further Heim offers Roberson and even Adams has been working on their shot from deep, so we’ll see how they fare trying to connect under pressure.

Billy Donovan did an amazing job figuring out which line-ups worked over the course of last season, introducing “The Stache Brothers” late in the year and utilized them together to cause Golden State major issues in the playoffs. Donovan will work his magic again, but without Durant and so many new pieces it’s like he’s starting all over.

Prediction:

Pray Russell Westbrook stays healthy, as this revenge tour is going to be something to behold. Expect Presti to move swiftly if early signs show an absence in any one area. To wit, don’t be surprised if Presti moves Kanter’s now economical contract to accomplish this goal if the Thunder aren’t where he wants by the deadline. I called for Westbrook’s extension and Presti adding more length prior to training camp. Unless the Thunder shock with early over achieving I expect more moves to be made.

More from Space City Scoop

LeBron James will be back in contention for MVP, but Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and James Harden stand to be his greatest competition. And, for Westbrook he only need get the Thunder be close to the 4th or 5th seed because no expects them to be there.  Well, no one except me.

Again, barring injury I’m calling for Westbrook to lead his charges to a 4th or 5th seed and also take the MVP title.

Ultimately, does anyone care what happens as long as the Thunder end up facing the Warriors in the post season?

FanSided Affiliate Site: Thunderous Intentions

Next: Denver Nuggets 2016-17 Preview

Want your voice heard? Join the Space City Scoop team!

Write for us!

Make sure to check out our entire NBA preview series.

facebooktwitterreddit