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Thursday Bolts: 10.4.18

Clay Horning (Norman Transcript) recaps the Thunder’s loss to Detroit in the preseason opener: “Dennis Schroder, playing with the first unit while Russell Westbrook continues his recovery from minor knee surgery, was the early catalyst and wound up leading the Thunder with 21 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Despite 5 of 16 shooting, he still hit 2 of 3 from 3-point land and made 9 of 9 free throws to keep OKC’s first unit moving. Still, it was Raymond Felton, leading the second unit, that brought the Thunder back from a narrow deficit it endured through the middle half of the game. Felton had a run of three straight trips with assists that put the Thunder on top 79-75 and ultimately 82-75 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Felton finished with 12 points and five assists. The lead, however, did not hold.”

Erik Horne on the budding chemistry between Dennis Schroder and Steven Adams: “Westbrook and Roberson are still recovering from knee surgeries. George was a scratch from the lineup hours before tipoff due to what the Thunder called “personal reasons.” So, it was up to Adams and Dennis Schroder to kickstart the Thunder’s preseason campaign. They did with a handful of pick-and-roll possessions in the first half which made it look like they had a mind-meld. Adams finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and two assists. Schroder had a team-high 21 points, five rebounds and nine assists. Six of those assists went to Adams. By halftime, Schroder and Adams combined for 31 of the Thunder’s 52 points on 12-of-24 shooting. “I spend time with him, mate,” Adams said of the chemistry between him and Schroder. “It’s more about finding out what you like, where you’re looking. Whenever you’re trying to figure out their body language in terms of them coming off screens, how they’re setting up, it helps on both sides. Especially with the passes, he will ask me what type of passes I like. It just comes down to that.”

Dennis Schroder’s highlights against Detroit:

Brett Dawson (The Athletic) on what happens to Dennis Schroder’s solo show when Russell Westbrook returns: “There were times in the Thunder’s preseason debut — a 97-91 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena — when they seemed to scarcely skip a beat without Westbrook, a rarity for this franchise the past two seasons. But Westbrook will be back, and the question is what will this looks like when he returns. The easy answer is to shift Schröder into a reserve role. But there’s a chance it’s not the right call. Assuming Westbrook returns before Andre Roberson is ready to go — Roberson hasn’t played since January, when he ruptured the patellar tendon in his left knee — it might be that Billy Donovan’s best course of action is getting his best scorers on the floor together. That could mean starting Schröder with Westbrook and Paul George, who both missed Wednesday’s game, George for what the team said were personal reasons.”

The 2018-19 NBA GM Survey is here: “The GMs responded to 49 different questions about the best teams, players, coaches, fans, and offseason moves. General managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel. Percentages are based on the pool of respondents to that particular question, rather than all 30 GMs.”

Steven Adams responds to being named “Toughest Player” in the GM Survey:

Jeff Case (NBA.com) previews the 2018-19 Thunder: “THREE POINTS: 1. Who wants to be No. 3?  The Anthony-George-Westbrook trio was plagued by fits and starts last season. Now that Anthony is gone, there’s no clear frontrunner for that third star gig. The pressure will be on OKC’s other starters – Andre Roberson, Adams and Grant — to chip in and offset Anthony’s scoring (16.2 ppg). 2. Better ball movement likely for OKC.  Westbrook led the league in assists (10.3 apg) and Schroder was solid there, too (6.2 apg, 14th). However, dimes weren’t exactly a forte for OKC at large, as it was 28th in assists per game (21.3 apg) and 29th in assist percentage (53.5 percent). Having a willing passer for both the starters (Westbrook) and reserves (Schroder) could help this issue disappear in 2018-19. 3. Separation needed among young wings. Alex Abrines, Terrance Ferguson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Hamidou Diallo all have some overlapping skills. Many reserve roles in the backcourt are up for grabs, so who among this group will snag the opportunity before them?”

Michael Wilson (Sir Charles in Charge) on if the Thunder are a legitimate threat in the West: “I am not going to say that the Oklahoma City Thunder is the favorite to win the West because that would be crazy. The Golden State Warriors are the odds-on favorite to win the West. Until I see visual proof that the Warriors’ reign in the West is over, I won’t proclaim anybody but the Warriors the West’s favorite. Whether or not the Oklahoma City Thunder are a threat to catch the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference is squarely on the shoulders of Russell Westbrook. He’s the straw that stirs the drink in Oklahoma City. Westbrook is by far the most aggressive point guard in the West. The amount of speed this former MVP has from one end of the court to the other end of the court is second to none. The tenacity in which he takes the ball to the rim is unrivaled in the NBA. However, which Russell Westbrook will the Oklahoma City Thunder get in 2018-19?”

Grant Hughes (B/R) picks Bryce Alford as the best player on the Thunder training camp roster that won’t end up making the team: “Nobody made more threes in the G League than Bryce Alford last year, who drilled 148 of them at a 40.4 percent conversion rate. No surprise there, as Alford also holds the all-time marks for made triples in a game, season and career at UCLA, where his four-year tenure ended with an All Pac-12 selection in 2016-17. The 6’3” guard could bolster the Oklahoma City Thunder’s three-point shooting, but he’d fit into a long line of one-way wings who have populated the perimeter for OKC over the last several years. It’s almost as if the Thunder aren’t allowed to play a shooting guard who can hit treys and defend.”

Trey Crandall (Salt City Hoops) previews this season’s Thunder/Jazz matchups: “Prediction: 2-2. Two of Utah’s games against OKC (both of the December games, one home and one away) fall on the second night of a back-to-back. In each case, OKC will come in with two days of rest, which certainly does not favor the Jazz. The third meeting comes as the first game back after the All-Star break for both teams, a toss-up from a rest standpoint, but with the Thunder at home. This makes it much harder to have confidence in the Jazz winning the series outright, especially in light of just how good OKC will probably be this year with a healthy Roberson and no Melo.”

Around the League: The NBA’s best signature moves of all time…. The Heat are reportedly pushing Minnesota on a Jimmy Butler deal…. Draymond Green will miss time this preseason due to injury…. KD says Seattle deserves an NBA team again…. Rule changes made in hopes of creating a free-flowing game…. How the Pistons are benefiting from the best player development specialist in the league…. Evaluating the NBA’s two-way contract experiment…. Can Coach Pop continue the greatest run in NBA history?