With no presumable NBA all-stars on Oklahoma City’s roster, it’s easy to fall asleep on the entire season. Whether this year is a wash or not, there are some things to look forward to.
The Thunder still have Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schröder, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, so there’s plenty of potential for things to pop off this season.
Below are three storylines that I’m looking forward to seeing.
The return of Chris Paul and the return of his offensive game.
After the worst season of his career with the Houston Rockets, he’s no longer an all-star caliber point guard, but this year in OKC he has the potential to be a fringe all-star. Last season, Paul averaged 15.6 points, the lowest average of his career, 8.2 assists, his third-lowest of his career, and 5.4 rebounds per game which was the second-highest of his career. Without another overly ball-dominant player like James Harden playing alongside Paul, you can expect his point average to increase. Having Adams who’s much like Clint Capela in the paint will benefit Paul’s assist numbers, with him not having to share his assists with Harden.
It’s safe to predict Paul will be more of a 19-point, 10-assist per game point guard again this season as the outright, undisputed leader of OKC’s starting lineup.
Steven Adams’ stats will increase, he’ll receive more all-star consideration.
This one is easy. Steven Adams will do better because of Russell Westbrook not being there. In no way is this a slight of Westbrook, but there are only so many rebounds a team can get in a game. Last season with the Thunder, Westbrook averaged 11.1 per game and Adams averaged 9.5, which was still the highest of his career.
Considering Steven Adams had career highs in points (13.9) and rebounds last season, where he had to share everything with a ball-dominant Westbrook and Paul George, common analytics points towards him having a breakout year for the 2019-2020 season. My prediction is that Adams will be a 20-point, 12-rebound caliber big man this year, pushing for an all-star selection.
Billy Donovan will be seen in a different light after this season.
The year ended horribly for head coach Billy Donovan. He was thoroughly outcoached in the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and for the first time, it appeared as if the team’s star players didn’t respect him. Although Donovan may not be the most assertive, or the best manager of strong personalities, this year is the perfect opportunity for him to get back to equilibrium.
This season presents the perfect opportunity for him to do so. Other than Chris Paul, there aren’t any overly-outspoken veterans on the roster. The team’s core is young and impressionable, something Donovan has excelled in managing over his college coaching career.
Watch how this team responds this season.