Our annual tradition of jinxing the Thunder’s season continues.
1. 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)
2. SGA plays less than 50% of his minutes at point guard.
He spent 50% of his playing time at the 1 as a rookie with the Clippers, and just 6% of his time in that slot with the point-guard heavy Thunder last season. The path has been cleared for him with Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder leaving, but if he doesn’t quickly bloom into a conventional floor general the team has other young, truer point guards (THEO!) that need to be evaluated alongside Shai. OKC has already mentioned that while SGA will be expanding his role, they aren’t pigeonholing him into a “bring the ball up the court every trip” development season. (Cray Allred)
3. The Thunder has no representatives at All-Star Weekend.
The NBA is not planning to conduct All-Star festivities, but will likely “invite” players for all of the typical slots for the sake of the accolades and record books. Last season, Chris Paul was an All-Star, and SGA appeared in the Rising Stars Challenge. But this season? Not a single representative will be invited to any All-Star event. Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon will be snubbed from the Rising Stars Challenge. (John Napier)
4. Darius Bazley attempts at least six 3-pointers per game.
Bazley attempted 5.1 long distance shots during the seeding games in the bubble, and there’s plenty of reason for that number to go up during this experimental season. It’ll be worth tracking how many of his 3-pointers are step backs vs. catch-and-shoot attempts, as well. The more he’s trying to create his own shot, the more the lane will open up for his dribble-drive game. (Spenser Davis)
5. 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)
6. 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)
7. Lu Dort is traded.
Do 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)
8. George Hill plays less than 16 minutes per game.
The fundamental thing that made Chris Paul’s recovery tour possible last season: his health. The Thunder need the same to hold for Hill, even if his 46% (!) three-point percentage ticks down a bit from last season. With no burden to compete for a playoff spot, and no superstar pull, I think Hill plays 5+ fewer minutes per night than he has the last couple seasons. (Allred)
9. 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)
10. Trevor Ariza never plays a single second for the Thunder
And funny enough, a single second-rounder is probaby what Sam Presti will get in return for him. (Rahbar)
11. Brandon wins every Crossbolts debate with Olivia.
Which will continue my undefeated streak from last season. (Rahbar)
12. 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)
13. Horford is traded, next summer.
Horford will pull the Chris Paul special and rehab his value, become an instant fan favorite, be a high character leader off the court, prove that he was indeed not washed on the court and bring home another 1st round pick for the Thunder next summer. (Rahbar)
14. Both Thunder rookies, Aleksej Pokusevski and Theo Maledon, average double digit minutes this season.
And both will be referred to as draft steals in every one of their mentions on Twitter. (Rahbar)
15. 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)
16. 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)
17. 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)
18. Mike Muscala is traded.
19. Justin Jackson is traded.
20. Darius Miller is traded.
How many second round picks is too many? We’re about to find out, as any player with any value–who doesn’t match the SGA timeline–is going to be on the block as VP & GM Sam Presti continues his pick hounding ways. (Allred)
21. Hamidou Diallo remains a sub-30% three-point shooter.
Diallo, like Terrance Ferguson, last season, will fail to rise from the lanky Thunder wing pile and become a reliable 3&D player. (Allred)
22. The Thunder finish 15th in the West
…And still somehow find a way to be competitive and entertaining. (Rahbar)
23. 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)
24. 24 players will grace the 2020-21 Thunder roster.
Oklahoma City is opening the season at the 17-man limit (including two-way players Josh Hall and Moses Brown), but regardless of trade activity, the end of the roster should be a perpetual casting call as the Thunder churn through projects they aren’t heavily invested in. (Allred)