3 min read

Thunder vs. FC Barcelona: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. FC Barcelona: Pregame Primer



Thunder (0-1) vs. FC Barcelona Lassa

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 1:30 PM CST

142 points! Regardless of what type of game it is (preseason, regular season, post-season, Summer League), that is a whole lot of points for a team to give up. With over 40% of the roster turned over, the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking at this preseason as a way to find a new identity. No longer is Kevin Durant there to bail you out on offense. No longer is Serge Ibaka back there to bail you out on defense. This is going to be a new system with new players and allowing that many points in their first game was probably not the start they were looking for.

But regardless, whether they had won by 20 or lost by 5, the fact still remains that it doesn’t count. It’s a preseason game. It’s meant to be used for practice purposes. It’s meant to find strengths and weaknesses; to find what works and what doesn’t. It’s meant to find trends and establish rotations. It was a loss against one of the top teams in the world that doesn’t play in the NBA. Real Madrid was playing at home, behind a raucous crowd, and they got hot mostly against our reserves. This is not the rotation you will see in Philadelphia on October 26th.

So let’s not fall into the black hole of hyperbole. The Thunder aren’t going to go 0-82. Their defense won’t give up 140 points every game. Russell Westbrook will not be relegated to just odd numbered quarters. Steven Adams won’t sprain an ankle every game. Alex Abrines won’t go 4/5 on 3-point attempts every game. Kyle Singler won’t hit the side of the backboard every tim……wait, that might actually happen. The Thunder will get better. Oklahoma City will be fine.

The Opponent

FC Barcelona Lassa is one of the top teams in EuroLeague play. While their history isn’t as rich as that of Real Madrid, they’ve probably had a better crop of NBA players go through their system. The Gasols, Ricky Rubio, Anderson Varejão, and Mario Hezonja can all trace their basketball origins to FC Barcelona. Two current Thunder players started their careers with FC Barcelona in Alex Abrines and Ersan Ilyasova.

The current crop of FC Barca players is not that good. They are not as skilled as Real Madrid, instead relying on guile and experience to win games. Their backcourt players (Juan Carlos Navarro, Tyrese Rice, Pau Ribas, and Petteri Koponen) are not as explosive as those of Real Madrid, and are likely not to go off Sergio Llull did. Up front, Ante Tomic is probably the best player on the team, averaging 10.3 points and 5.4 rebounds. Victor Claver and Joey Dorsey provide the toughness for the team on the interior.

3 Big Things1. Starters/Playing time

I don’t think the team is necessarily excited about Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter each logging 33 minutes in the first preseason game. Look for Oladipo to start, but for his minutes to be limited to under 24. With Steven Adams out with injury, Kanter could get the start, but will also likely be limited for the amount of time he plays. The team could instead choose to see what it has in Joffrey Lauvergne and Mitch McGary and play them the majority of the big man minutes.

2. Outside shooting

With questions about the dearth of available 3-point shooting for the Thunder, the emergence of Alex Abrines and Ersan Ilyasova as perimeter threats was a welcome sight. Those two players, along with Anthony Morrow, went a combined 7/10 from the 3-point line. While that isn’t entirely sustainable, knowing that you have that ability on the team has to be comforting to Billy Donovan and the coaching staff.

3. Abrines

Probably going to be an exciting day for Abrines. He gets to face his former team and will likely match-up against one of his greatest influences, Juan Carlos Navarro. He had a good debut for the Thunder on Monday, and he’ll likely see more minutes with the starters to see if he vibes with the likes of Westbrook and Oladipo.