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TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Previews: Oklahoma City Thunder

TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Previews: Oklahoma City Thunder

Last Year’s Record: 23-59

Crystal Ball

The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Daily Thunder.
Crowd Says: 34-48
Daily Thunder Says: 34-48

Yes We Can!

The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

A lot of teams define success by the playoffs or 50 wins or some even a championship.

But in OKC’s case, steady improvement was a strong measure of success.

After starting their inaugural season 3-29, the Thunder went 20-30 to close the season, including 13-12 at home since New Year’s Eve. So while last season’s 23-59 doesn’t look all that excellent, all things considered, it wasn’t that bad.

With the core of that team back and with another year of experience under their back, things should just get better for the Thunder. The average age of the team is under 25 and the Thunder’s first eight average 23. The team is young, but extremely talented. Kevin Durant is obviously a superstar, but Russell Westbrook was surprisingly good in his rookie campaign and Jeff Green is a steady sidekick.

Instead of spending on veteran free agents, general manager Sam Presti stuck to his long-term plan, taking James Harden with OKC’s first pick and big man Byron Mullens later in the first round.

Etan Thomas and Kevin Ollie will provide the veteran leadership this team needs. Thabo Sefolosha is a lockdown defender in the Shane Battier mold who can guard three positions and defend the other team’s best player. Nenad Krstic is a solid 13 and seven big man and D.J. White is a quality power forward off the bench. Shaun Livingston and Nick Collison give the team steady efforts night in and night out. And there are even more parts like Kyle Weaver and Serge Ibaka who are solid but young pieces to the puzzle.

The team is basically assembled, and now it’s just a matter of player development and progression. If last season’s final 50 games say anything, this team is headed for another step up. Maybe it’s not the playoffs and maybe it’s not 50 wins and a championship, but this season will be a step in the right direction away from the suck that was 3-29. The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.

No You Won’t

A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

Turnovers are the present cost of potential. The Thunder turned it over more frequently (per possession) than all but one NBA team last year. They also made the lowest percentage of their field goals of any team in the league. James Harden should help with latter (perhaps to the detriment of Nick Collison and Russell Westbrook’s great offensive rebounding numbers) but he likely won’t with the former. Among guards drafted in the lottery only Stephon Curry and Tyreke Evans turned the ball over more often in college than Harden. – Bret LaGree / Hoopinion

(Photo by Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)


A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

Nick Collison might be the most clever and witty player out there in the 140 character or less universe. He’s been dropping hilarious gems all summer, but this is a favorite: “I’m at the park with my lil girl. I am currently wearing my bluetooth earpiece. Have I reached D-Bag status? Actually don’t answer that.”

On the Record

Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

“I want to stay in Oklahoma as long as possible. I do, that’s the honest truth. I love it there.” – Kevin Durant

The 2008-09 Almanac

Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 29th
Defense: 20th
Pace: 8th
Team Factor Strength(s): Offensive Rebounding (4th), Free Throws Allowed (8th), Free Throws (10th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Shooting (30th), Turnovers (29th), Shooting Allowed (25th)

The Play

Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant Kevin Durant. But since I’ve got 140 more words here, the play is simple. Russell Westbrook isolates at the top of the key. He breaks down his defender and hopefully without turning the ball over, he draws the defense to him just a stitch. Kevin Durant runs the baseline and curls off a Nick Collison screen, catching a Westbrook pass in rhythm. Durant rises from his favorite spot on the floor (top of the key-ish) and knocks down a 20-footer.

The People’s Choice

The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Serge Ibaka truly is a man of mystery. He’s got outrageous athletic ability and unreal length (shown off in a dunk contest where he legitimately dunked from the free throw line). But in Summer League he showcased a nice spot up jumper and a semi-polished post game. He’s raw (only 19) and probably not ready to bang and rebound with the bigs of the West, but he’s extremely intriguing and Thunder fans will be calling his name all season long.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This

The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

Sam Presti has maneuvered extremely well to set Oklahoma City up with an abundance of cap room. With Etan Thomas’ $7 million deal coming off the books, the Thunder has only $35M or so committed for 2010-11. It will be interesting to see where Presti thinks the team is at next summer and which pieces he thinks should be added for a serious run in 2010-11. But come July 1, Kevin Durant will be eligible for contract extension negotiations. He’s everything to this franchise and that extension is something Thunder fans will be thinking about the second the season ends next May (or June if you’re optimistic).

Be sure to check out the other TrueHoop blogs for team previews. Click here for a key.