Editor’s note: In this story, we’ll be taking a look back at a few of our most notable preseason predictions for the 2020-21 season. For our complete list of predictions, click here.
5 correct predictions
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander makes the leap.
I’m not going to give any hard stat predictions, and I’m not ready to say he’s going to make any “All” anything teams. But that all important question–“Can Shai be a star?”–will definitively be answered, and Thunder fans will be thrilled with the answer. (Brandon Rahbar)
John Napier: I don’t know how much credit I want to give to Brandon for stating the nearly obvious. If you know anything about Superman, he shields his true identity by pretending to be Clark Kent, nothing more than Superman wearing normal clothes over his super suit and donning a pair of glasses. That was SGA in his breakout 2019-20 season — Clark Kent, thinly disguised as a non-star. But now the truth is out there. SGA isn’t undercover as Clark Kent. He’s Superman.
George Hill is traded by the deadline.
He’s too good for the tank. He will have a market. And his contract is that sweet spot of big enough to make moves but small and valuable enough that a contender won’t sweat it. (Rahbar)
Cray Allred: Brandon will be crowing about the predictions he got right, but I’m with John. It’s easy to be extremely confident about the extremely obvious. If this were a prediction that the Hill market would be a dud, I’d be impressed. The Thunder won more games than necessary thanks in part to Hill’s play, but did not increase his preseason trade value due in part the injury he suffered during the too-competitive stretch of the season for OKC. The reason a contender didn’t need to sweat picking him up is that it only cost them castoffs (Tony Bradley and Austin Rivers) paired with distant second rounders to do so. But now that Hill is on the post-Process Sixers, I hope he’s a foreshadowing of the kind of bargain deals the post-PrOKCessThunder will do better at securing once they are in the title hunt again–you know, when we can stop pretending players like Bradley are valuable to make us feel better about our young and future pieces.
Isaiah Roby: Sixth man
Making the 15-man roster was an achievement for Roby, who is still raw but has an intriguing skillset for a modern big. With the rotation likely to be in flux deep into the season, Roby will buck the doubts about his place on OKC once again and earn a prime rotation spot. (Allred)
Spenser Davis: I’m not sure Roby was technically OKC’s 6th man this season, but he certainly was in the rotation. He played in 61 games, starting 34, and averaged 23.4 minutes per contest. Roby also clearly proved to be OKC’s best option for a “modern” big man, attempting nearly two 3-pointers per game. He’ll need to improve his efficiency and limit turnovers, but Roby more-than-earned a spot on an NBA roster next season — something that was a long shot going into the 2021 campaign.
Pokusevski is a starter by the end of the year.This year is about next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. So, while Poku isn’t the polished player that Horford is, he’s a part of the future and getting him quality minutes should be a priority. Using most of the season to get Poku acclimated to the NBA, Mark Daigneault pulls the trigger late in the year, putting Aleksej as the starting center to close the season. (Napier)
Brandon Rahbar: I think this one was filed in the wrong list because it should be in the “wrong” list. John predicted Poku would close the season as OKC’s starting center. Let’s list all the positions Poku started/played for the Thunder this season: Small Forward. Power Forward. Shooting Guard. Even Point Guard! The one position Poku did NOT play? Center.
Seriously though, I’m really proud of John… and even moreso Poku… for this one.
Al Horford is not traded during the season.
Maybe this wouldn’t be that surprising, but Horford is a five-time All-Star who just last year averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game while starting 61 games. His big contract ($70 million guaranteed over the next three years) makes him tough to trade, so Horford will use this entire year to prove he’s still valuable and would be worth a big swing by a contender. (Napier)
Olivia Panchal: You are correct that this take is very low on the hot take spice meter. Even if Al Horforfd had a Chris Paul-level resurgence in OKC, it would have been difficult for Presti to trade Horford at the deadline. I don’t know if Horford did enough in his truncated season with the Thunder to garner enough interest from contenders. However, if Celtics center Robert Williams continues to struggle with injuries, Boston might be interested in bringing Horford home.
5 wrong predictions
Darius Bazley shoots over 35% from three.
Baze converted 34.8% of his threes last season, on 2.3 attempts per game. No doubt he’ll shoot more, with more minutes coming his way, but he’ll also make more. The second-year player has a smooth stroke, and with added confidence from a solid finish to last season, Bazley will become a marksman from deep. (Napier)
Olivia Panchal: It’s difficult for me to write this through my tears. Bazley ended up shooting 29% from three and honestly, it was rude of us to set the bar this high. It’s not your fault Bazely. Keep shooting.
Bazley emerges as the Thunder’s second best young core member.Shai is the guy, we all know that. Poku and Maledon are the unknowns. And to Thunder memers and NBA fans at large, Lu Dort is the second most heralded young Thunder player. Baze will unanimously take that title this season. (Rahbar)
Cray Allred: I will give Brandon his due here, since he didn’t hang onto this prediction as Bazley’s sophomore campaign was overshadowed by everyone in the paragraph above and other additions to the club this season. Bazley is not a lost cause, but he is far from a “core” member behind SGA at this juncture. He barely cracked the top-10 of any per-possession or advanced stats this season for Oklahoma City, and appears nearer the top of some per-game categories like points (13.7) and rebounds (7.2) thanks to receiving the second-most playing time of any Thunder player.
Maledon makes one of the two All-Rookie teams.
Even in a crowded back court with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, George Hill, Ty Jerome and others, Maledon’s minutes should be there from the start. He showed poise and competence far beyond his years in the preseason, and nothing he did (aside from scoring 20 points in the opener) looked unsustainable. Combine his opportunity and ability with the theory that other rookies will struggle without a full offseason of prep, and Maledon becomes a prime candidate to stand out amongst his peers. (Davis)
Olivia Panchal: Maledon did not become a prime candidate to stand out amongst his peers. He did, however, make some really cool passes, break a couple Thunder franchise records, and make a lot of GMs look really dumb for passing on him in the first round. (Olivia)
The Thunder’s longest winning streak will be longer than their longest losing streak.
Don’t get me wrong, the Thunder will lose a lot of games this year–probably more games than any other year except the inaugural 2008-09 season–but there’s just enough collection of talent on this team to keep them competitive. At some point this season, OKC will string together 5 wins in a row, which will be longer than the multiple 4 game losing streaks they’ll suffer. (Napier)
Brandon Rahbar: OKC’s longest win streak was 3 games. OKC’s longest losing streak was 14 games. John only needs 13 more Ls to tie the Thunder.
Lu Dort is tradedDo I have your attention? Nailing six beautiful, unguarded threes in Game 7 against the Rockets brought his postseason three-point efficiency up to 26%. He’s on a gloriously team-friendly contract. If OKC doesn’t have confidence in his shot developing, he just makes more sense (and holds value) as a specialist for some contender looking to annihilate James Harden in the playoffs, something the Thunder won’t be for a long time. (Allred)
John Napier: Well, I guess you could say that Cray made the boldest prediction of all. Maybe it was clickbait, or maybe Cray forgot where he placed his marbles, but wow what a miss. Not only did our fearless editor-in-chief fail at predicting a trade for Lu, Allred went after Dort’s three-point shooting, only to see Dort knock down 34% of his 6.3 attempts per game. Actually, on second thought, Cray said that a lack of confidence in Dort’s shot would trigger a trade, and with that question answered, maybe Cray wasn’t so wrong after all?
1 inconclusive prediction
11. Brandon wins every Crossbolts debate with Olivia.Which will continue my undefeated streak from last season. (Rahbar)
Olivia Panchal: This is not inconclusive. I have the receipts (Twitter poll results). I also take issue with the “undefeated streak from last season.” That literally never happened. Do we have the budget to hire an intern to tally the actual wins and losses? Bazley, if you’re reading this, do you have plans this offseason? (Olivia)