For the first time in at least four years, Oklahoma City Thunder media day was rather casual for a change. The atmosphere inside of the Chesapeake Energy Arena was very calm and drama-free.
“We’ve got the chemistry,” said Paul George to ESPN. “Me being around these guys going on about to be two years now, there’s an expectation and a level we know we need to play at. I think the consistency part you’ll see with us now being able to play well against the sub-.500 teams. But I definitely think this team has a chance. The reason why I signed back here is because I believed in it. And everybody in here believes. It’s on us, we’ve got our work cut out and it’s not going to be easy, but we’re up for it.”
With the Carmelo Anthony situation deep in their hindsight and Paul George undoubtedly bought into the Thunder, the only major headline was Russell Westbrook’s knee and even he shut the door on that topic. The only thing that felt new or unfamiliar was the extra faces on the training camp roster and Dennis Schröder.
Schröder is an interesting topic, actually, and so is Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant.
Ponder on Oklahoma City’s weaknesses last season: defense, offensive fluidity and the bench as a whole. Defensively and offensively the Thunder struggled and one of the prime reasons was Melo. With a starting lineup of four very capable, athletic and agile defensive options, Anthony didn’t fit the mold.
That provides an opportunity for someone like Jerami Grant or Patrick Patterson to jump into that starting power forward role and excel, thus completing OKC’s ideal defensive starting lineup. Moving Grant into the starting lineup will also do wonders for their offensive spacing and overall fluidity. The verdict is out on who will start at the fourth position but due to athleticism and upside, Grant is the best fit.
Suave Report’s projected starters:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Andre Roberson
SF: Paul George
PF: Jerami Grant/Patrick Patterson
C: Steven Adams
Dennis Schröder & Nerlens Noel:
The bench has potentially five solid weapons, one of which has proven to be highly productive in Schröder. He was one of the go-to options for the Atlanta Hawks and fits Westbrook’s style of play. He’s the perfect backup for Russell. Noel is a special case, he’s another athletic guy, but got caught in two systems that didn’t work for him. He’s looking for a fresh start in an organization that’ll maximize his full potential and after seeing Grant’s improvement once implemented in the OKC’s system.
Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, and Alex Abrines:
Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, and Alex Abrines could also have breakout seasons off the bench. Ferguson and Abrines have more experience and have faced a decent deal of adversity in their time with the Thunder, so ideally, this year would be a perfect breakout season for the both of them. The conditions match up.
Diallo is an interesting topic. The climate from media day felt like the Thunder haven’t figured out what role they want Diallo to play but one thing everyone knows about it his athleticism. He may be the best athlete on this athletic Thunder team and if implemented correctly, he could be a force to be reckoned with and a vital piece of OKC’s bench. Diallo is a rookie out of Kentucky that has the stereotypical mold of a slasher. Although he’s only 6-foot-5, 198 pounds, he plays like he’s a 6-foot-9 Jerami Grant. If he develops just an average shot, he will be very effective.
Projected “second team:”
PG: Dennis Schröder
SG: Alex Abrines
SF: Terrance Ferguson
PF: Jerami Grant/Patrick Patterson
C: Nerlens Noel
Raymond Felton, OKC’s backup point guard from last year will be implemented a lot in the second team. His minutes will likely be cut from 16.6 minutes last season but he’ll still receive meaningful playing time. Felton is a great weapon to have in the arsenal for the Thunder.