Preseason Opener Preview: Pistons @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: Thunder Mobile App
Radio:WWLS (98.1 FM OKC / 97.1 FM Tulsa)
It’s been 159 days since the Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated in six games by the Utah Jazz in last season’s playoffs. In true Thunder fashion, it’s been a roller coaster in the meantime.
A brief offseason recap:
- Paul George re-upped on a 4-year maximum contract. Jerami Grant signed his own 3-year, $27 million deal.
- Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Atlanta Hawks for a package of Dennis Schroder (PG) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (SG)
- The team signed Nerlens Noel to a 1-year deal for the minimum
- OKC used its two second-round picks on Devon Hall and Kevin Hervey. Neither are on the training camp roster.
- The Thunder used a draft night trade to land Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo (SG) — who figures to have a limited role after signing a 3-year deal worth $4 million.
- Deonte Burton (SG/SF) and Tyler Davis (C) were given the two-way roster spots
- Andre Roberson has continued rehab on his knee — but doesn’t expect to return to form until December
- Russell Westbrook underwent a knee scope and will presumably miss the entire preseason
- Sam Presti quoted A Tribe Called Quest and everyone lost their minds
After all of that (and more), basketball is now finally back in Oklahoma City. Preseason festivities begin tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, as Blake Griffin and the Detroit Pistons visit for a showdown with the new-look and somewhat injury-riddled Thunder. The game tips off at 7:00 P.M. CST and can be streamed live on the Thunder Mobile App.
- Russell Westbrook: Out — Knee
- Paul George: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Alex Abrines: Limited — Back
- Abdel Nader: Out — Knee
- Richard Solomon: Out — Knee
- Reggie Jackson: Active — Ankle
- Jon Leuer: Out — Knee
Thunder: Dennis Schroder, Terrance Ferguson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Patrick Patterson, Steven Adams
Pistons: Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
What to Watch For
Limited Minutes: In last season’s preseason opener versus Houston, three of the starters logged fewer than 20 minutes — with Paul George seeing the most action at 26 minutes. Expect more of the same tonight, as the starting five figures to log 15-25 minutes apiece before letting the reserves close it out. Not much use in anything more.
Starting Power Forward: Patrick Patterson was the starting power forward in the Blue/White scrimmage, and he figures to be on the floor when the game begins tonight. That being said, Billy Donovan has yet to commit to a starter at the position and Jerami Grant could presumably win the job with a strong showing in the preseason. Keep an eye on he and Patterson as this positional battle takes shape — although Patterson seems to have the upper hand entering tonight (as he should).
The SG Rotation: Roberson and Nader are inactive tonight and Alex Abrines is limited due to a back injury, so Terrance Ferguson should receive plenty of run at the shooting guard position. Aside from the second-year guard, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Hamidou Diallo, KJ McDaniels, and Bryce Alford are among Billy Donovan’s options at SG. With Luwawu-Carbarrot and Diallo expected to land on the main roster when the regular season begins, they will likely see a healthy amount of action tonight and in the next three preseason games. Fingers crossed for a glimpse at Diallo’s nuclear athleticism.
The Schroder Show: With Westbrook inactive, Dennis Schroder will man the Thunder offense tonight versus Detroit. He had 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 12 assists while starting the Blue/White scrimmage — showing a good amount of chemistry with George and Steven Adams in the process. I think Schroder is in for a big season that may surprise some folks — and with his game being roughly equivalent to the store brand version of Westbrook’s (ball dominance and defensive lapses included), the Thunder offense should/could work surprisingly well in the absence of the former MVP, at least here in the short term.
Dennis vs Reggie: It’s a battle between the Thunder’s current and former backup point guards. I imagine that will look something like this:
The Other Guys: Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Jackson will lead the charge for the Pistons. Another name to look out for is Zaza Pachulia. The 34-year-old big man signed with Detroit over the summer and always carry the distinct possibility of injuring your best player/inciting a brawl that spills over into the crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised by any of it — although I assume you lose a little bravado when you leave Golden State and land in the Motor City.
Full Preseason Schedule: