Preseason Finale Preview: Bucks @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
Stream: OKCThunder.com & NBA TV
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
The preseason comes to a close tonight in Oklahoma City, as the Thunder square off with the Milwaukee Bucks. These interconference opponents matchup for the Thunder’s fourth and final contest on the preseason slate, while the Bucks have one more tune-up with the Timberwolves (for the second time).
The Thunder remain marred by injuries, as they will be without the starting backcourt pairing of Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson (Terrance Ferguson is also out). Tonight is also the last opportunity for Billy Donovan to toy with his rotations before the highly anticipated season opener against the Golden State Warriors, just one week from today.
Tonight’s game tips-off at 7:00 PM CST and will be streamed live on OKCThunder.com.
- Russell Westbrook: Out — Knee
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Abdel Nader: Out — Knee
- Terrance Ferguson: Out — Concussion
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: Out — Rest
- Eric Bledsoe: Out — Rest
- Khris Middleton: Out — Rest
- Brook Lopez: Out — Rest
- Ersan Ilyasova: Out — Hamstring
- Thon Maker: Out — Knee
- D.J. Wilson: Out — Hamstring
- Trevon Duval: Out — Eye
Bucks: Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brodgon, Tony Snell, John Henson, Tyler Zeller
What to Watch For
Presti’s Grab Bag of Wings: Terrance Ferguson figured to be the quick fix at the moment, but Billy Donovan has shown time and again how he likes to use the regular season to experiment with different lineup combinations. With Ferguson now in the league’s concussion protocol after sustaining a head injury against the Hawks on Sunday, the picture becomes fuzzier. Hamidou Diallo would be my choice, as he’s performed well in this sample size of preseason action. He is the most natural fill-in for Andre Roberson: a quick, rangy, high-energy wing who has looked capable on defense, doesn’t do much on offense, but finds ways to score with his floor-running and cutting. He’s also been sinking his free throws; He’s 9-of-11 from the stripe in three games of action. Alex Abrines, who started eight games for Oklahoma City last season, will surely be in the mix for the starting lineup. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot could serve as a viable option as well; The 6-foot-6 wing started a total of 26 games across two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Per The Oklahoman’s Erik Horne, Billy Donovan has not had the opportunity to see all of his wing options in action yet: “I haven’t gotten a really good look at him because he’s been out,” Donovan said of Abdel Nader. “Tim (Luwawu-Cabarrot) has done a nice job and he’s been involved in practice. Alex has been out some with his lower back. We haven’t really had a full allotment of those wing players you’ve talked about. The one constant has been Terrance (Ferguson).”
In short, it may take some time before Donovan is comfortable playing with all of his chess pieces this season, though tonight is the last chance he’ll have to experiment with no record consequences.
Decisions, Decisions: I already mentioned the conundrum the Thunder are in with regards to their SG rotation, but there also remains a decision to be made on who will start at PF for the season opener. Patterson has gotten the starting nod in all four of the Thunder’s organized contest this season (the Blue-White scrimmage and three preseason games). He’s averaging 5.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG on 35.7 percent shooting from the field, 36.4 percent from deep and 2-of-2 from the stripe in 21.0 MPG. Jerami Grant, on the other hand, has been sloppy, but effective off the bench for the Thunder. Grant is averaging 9.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.0 SPG on an abysmal 28 pecent from the field, 25 percent from deep and 11-of-13 from the stripe in 23.3 MPG. Tonight is our last hint at where Billy Donovan is leaning before October 16th.
High-Motor Schroder: (Yes, I know how it’s pronounced.) Speaking of filling in for Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder has more than sufficed as the starting PG in the Brodie’s absence. The Thunder have made it clear they want to play with more speed, as evidenced by the acquisitions of slimmer, quicker players such as Schroder, Nerlens Noel, and Luwawu-Cabarrot. Schroder has shown that he fits that mold. Through three starts in the preseason, he has averaged 17.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 7.0 APG, while shooting at 19-of-46 from the field, 4-of-7 from three and 11-of-15 from the free throw stripe. Schroder has shown he isn’t shy to shoot the ball, and while I’d prefer he be a tad more selective, he finds a way to make plays one way or another. Another facet of Schroder’s game that has been on display has been his passing in transition. He has a knack for finding the rim-running big or a shooter squared up in the corner.
Hamidou What I Do: I know it’s just the preseason, but Hamidou Diallo has shown flashes of a legitimate rotation player heading into his rookie season. The 20-year-old out of Kentucky looked especially impressive on Sunday against the Hawks, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 shooting from the free throw stripe. With Ferguson out tonight, expect plenty of Diallo.
PG Shooting Woes: Paul George has not looked like his normal self thus far (in two games, mind you) in the preseason. Yes, he has still provided his stingy defense and 20+ points that you can count on from the five-time All-Star. However, George has shot at some pretty poor splits against the Hawks and Timberwolves: 12-of-34 from the field, 5-of-14 from three and 16-of-19 from the line. Here’s hoping PG13 can work out his offensive kinks tonight, as he’ll be looked upon as the Thunder’s number one scoring option heading into the season without Russell Westbrook.