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Nuggets vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

Nuggets vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer



Nuggets (3-3, 2-0 road) vs. Thunder (2-3, 1-1 home)

TV: None (Live-streamed through okcthunder.com and the OKC Thunder app if you live in Oklahoma)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats for the preseason)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 103.8 (9th), Nuggets – 102.0 (15th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.7 (27th), Nuggets – 103.3 (23rd)

As someone who writes about the team, the preseason can sometimes become an exercise in extrapolation. You see what happens on the court, but then you have to put into context. The Oklahoma City Thunder looked great in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks three games ago, but then you realize they were playing against players who will likely be suiting up for the Texas Legends this season, not the Mavericks. Two games ago, the Thunder’s bench played toe to toe with Memphis’ starters for much of the second half. But then you realize they were probably working out kinks, with players like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol shedding some injury rust in the process. And then last game, the Thunder played reasonably well in a victory at home, but it was against Minnesota’s second and third string.

Its a little difficult to tell what will translate to October 26th and what won’t. I used to worry about the Thunder ranking so low in defensive rating, but then I looked at the teams that were sandwiching the Thunder in that category this preseason and saw the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the team most likely to usurp the Thunder’s position in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Clippers. The preseason is nothing more than a glorified practice run that is carried out 6-7 times in the month of October. I, for one, am ready for every team in the NBA to take off their masks and reveal their real selves to the world.

The Opponent

The Denver Nuggets come into this game with a 3-3 record in the preseason. The Nuggets are likely in the second phase of a rebuild; the phase where they start to take inventory of what they have, and they look for those young players to start learning how to win. The future of the Nuggets rests in the hands of Emmanuel Mudiay, Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray, Juancho Hernangómez, and Gary Harris. They’ll likely get another high draft pick this upcoming draft. The future is bright for the Nuggets, but their young players need to start producing. Trade rumors have surrounded veterans Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler for much of the past 2 seasons, and this is likely the season those rumors become true. Danilo Gallinari has gotten off to a blistering start this preseason, entering this game with a true shooting percentage of 94.3.

Thunder Injuries

Cameron Payne (foot), Alex Abrines (hip), Anthony Morrow (personal reasons)

3 Big Things

1. No injuries

Last game of the preseason. One more week til the start of the regular season. Let’s get past this game with no (more) injuries.

2. Mitch McGary

I mean, so he smoked a little pot, and then may or may not have skipped out on a scheduled drug test. It’s not like he threw an XBox at someone. It’s not like he DUI’ed. It’s not like he’s an integral part of this team. But no minutes in the preseason? I think that’s a bit much for someone you might need to be showcasing for a future trade.

3. Kyle Singler

At what point do we go, “Heeeey, welcome back Detroit Kyle Singler?” He’s shooting a “he’s on fire!!!” 66.7% from deep for the preseason. Maybe its the pressure-less games. Maybe its the float tanking thing. Maybe the handstand next to a huge tire thing is working. Whatever it is, I hope he keeps doing it. But the pragmatist in me is saying, “come October 26th, he’ll likely go 0-4 from 3, with one of them hitting the side of the backboard.” Cheering for Singler is like cheering for a family member who is an addict: you hyper-celebrate the small victories, while knowing there is a high probability they will revert back to their default form. (Damn, that sounded harsh. I’m ready for the regular season to start!)