The Thunder are three preseason games into the 2019-2020 season and after a win in Tulsa over the Mavericks, a win at home over the NBL’s New Zealand Breakers, and a humbling loss to the Mavericks in Dallas on Monday night, the Thunder’s strengths and weaknesses are becoming more clear.
Other than the obvious drop-off of talent, the Thunder have more to look forward to than not.
The young core is in place. Pending continued development, it’s clear that the duo of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Darius Bazley will be dazzling to watch for years to come. In three preseason games, Shai has averaged 19.3 points per game on 49.4 percent shooting. Bazley’s numbers haven’t been as eye-popping, but he’s shown a lot of promise and the capability to be a solid defender which is impressive for someone that’s born in 2001.
It’ll be interesting to see who the third young standout will be. Terrance Ferguson and Hamidou Diallo are expected to take a sizeable step in a positive direction this season but haven’t shown a ton in the preseason. So whether they do or not, SGA and Bazley are an exciting duo to look forward to.
This team will go as far as their veterans LEAD them. We’re talking about Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, and Dennis Schröder. These aren’t superstars, but they are very productive players that won’t be able to save the season but lead this young core to a surprisingly enjoyable one.
The veteran’s impact is obvious. The first two preseason contests the Thunder won, CP3 and Adams played. But their third game against the Mavericks didn’t include either, and OKC lost 107-70. Given, for the first time, Kristaps Porzingis and Luka Doncic were in the lineup, so the lopsided loss is justified on the Thunder’s behalf. At the same time, they would’ve performed better with their veterans playing. They looked like a ton of potential without guidance as Paul and Adams sat the bench.
This team will be heavily dependent on their veterans this season, which is concerning. This is why the Thunder could either win 37 games this season or 25. There’s a lot of uncertainty about Paul and his future in OKC with his name constantly in trade talks. The thought that he’s been prone to lengthy injuries is also unsettling. Without Paul, you’d move a still productive, but less talented Schröder into his position.
It wouldn’t be disastrous, but it could easily be the difference between 5-6 games.
Andre Roberson’s absence through the entire preseason is concerning. After being out for 19 months, this is the exact opposite of how things should be moving. After being out for 19 months he must get as many reps as possible before the real show (the regular season) begins.
The Thunder will play the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena for their last preseason game.