Nick Gallo previews tonight’s Thunder/Bucks preseason finale: “Through the first three games of the exhibition season, the Thunder has been tested by the bruising physicality and rebounding prowess of a three-point gunning Detroit Pistons club. It has seen the prodigious talents of a new-wave franchise player in Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, surrounded by veterans. On Sunday, Head Coach Billy Donovan’s group battled against one of the youngest teams in the NBA in the Atlanta Hawks, with a dynamic point guard boasting unlimited range. On Tuesday, in the Thunder’s final preseason tilt, the Milwaukee Bucks will come to Chesapeake Energy Arena with one of the longest, most athletic groups in the league, headlined by star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. As a fourth test for the Thunder this week, the Bucks will round out a group of opponents that have pushed and prodded the Thunder in different ways.”
Adam McGee (Behind The Buck Pass) with three things to watch for tonight: “Even without Westbrook, the Thunder will act as the toughest test for the Bucks so far as they’ll match up with lineups that are well-equipped to test Milwaukee in a variety of important areas. In what would seem like ideal preparation for the Bucks, against Oklahoma City, they’ll have key battles to win at point guard, on the wing, and at center, if they’re to come away with a win and a positive performance. At guard, that will start with Dennis Schröder, a player Budenholzer knows all too well. The German certainly has his flaws, yet he can be relied upon to bring an aggressive, attack-first mindset to proceedings every night, meaning the Bucks will have to be mindful of his speed and ability to penetrate, along with the passing and scoring opportunities that are created as a result. On the wing, Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo will likely split their time guarding Paul George, as the Bucks get their first taste in preseason of an elite wing who can be a deadly scorer both off-the-ball or in one-on-one situations.”
Thunder news release on Terrance Ferguson’s concussion: “The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Terrance Ferguson sustained a concussion during last night’s 113-94 preseason victory versus the Atlanta Hawks and he has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Per the NBA’s Concussion Policy, Ferguson will now begin the NBA-mandated Return-to-Participation Protocol. This process includes a series of steps designed to ensure an athlete exhibits symptom-free behavior before resuming basketball activities. There is no predetermined timetable to complete the protocol, as each injury and player is different and recovery time can vary in each case.”
Erik Horne on how the Thunder can play ‘random’ and win: “Paul George will tell you himself: He struggles with one of the foundational pieces of basketball. “I’ve never in my career been a guy that’s been good at a play call,” George told The Oklahoman on Monday. “I’m a guy that likes to play random where defense doesn’t know what’s coming.” If this wasn’t readily apparent, Thunder coach Billy Donovan is OK with that. Since arriving in Oklahoma City in 2015, amid play calls, Donovan has tried to implement a malleable offense to his players’ approval. The result is an oft-repeated word around the Thunder this preseason: Random. The style can have a negative connotation, but how it’s executed is as important as the intention behind it.”
Ben Golliver (SI) believes Dennis Schroder will win Sixth Man of the Year: “When Russell Westbrook headed to the bench last season, Oklahoma City’s offensive rating fell by more than nine points. When Westbrook headed to the bench two years ago, OKC’s offensive drop-off was more than 10 points. Given the pitiful performances of the Westbrook-less Thunder in recent years, off-season addition Dennis Schroder has a massive opportunity to prove his worth as a ball-handler and creator. Schroder, who was acquired from the Hawks this summer in the Carmelo Anthony trade, won’t just be running the show when the MVP takes a breather. The German floor general will likely play major minutes in Billy Donovan’s rotation, getting plenty of opportunities to close games alongside Westbrook. Although Schroder was underqualified to carry a threadbare Hawks team last year, he’s overqualified as a second-stringer. Look for him to smooth out some of his new team’s inconsistencies and to help boost the Thunder in the standings. ”
Bobby Chancellor & Dom Flaim (WTLC) discuss the Thunder’s over/under of 50.5 games: “The most discussed concern is the lack of shooting. This, to me, isn’t as glaring an issue. OKC hasn’t had shooting for several seasons, and the offense always finds ways to score, usually because of a high-paced offense that scores well in transition. The bigger concern is the man in charge. Donovan has shown a propensity to fall in love with illogical lineup combinations, especially when it involves playing two point guards together. If we had to watch Westbrook and Semaj Christon play together, expect to see a lot of Russ-Schroder lineups, and expect them to fail spectacularly. Additionally, the schemes on both end of the floor are so dependent on individuals. The offense hasn’t worked without Russ on the floor for years, and he’s going to be coming back from a surgery. Last season, this led to a sluggish start. Likewise, the defense absolutely cratered without Dre last season, and we don’t know when he will return. It’s very possible that this team is sitting below .500 after 20-30 games.”
Around the League: Dejounte Murray tore his ACL…. The Suns fired GM Ryan McDonough…. Inside Kyrie Irving’s bag of tricks…. NBA starters that need to move to the bench…. 10 bold predictions for 2018-19…. The latest Jimmy Butler news…. How can we best measure individual defense?