The OKC Thunder complete their mini 4-game preseason in snowy Denver against the Nuggets.
The big question facing the OKC Thunder in their final preseason game is how much offensive chemistry fans will witness. Although the OK3 are slowly figuring out their rhythm and timing there have been tangible benefits elsewhere.
Foremost among these has been the overall defense the squad has delivered. Through three games Thunder opponents have averaged 93.3 points per game. Putting this in perspective let’s examine the two NBA squads the Thunder faced. OKC held Houston to 104 points. Yet in their other two matches the Rockets averaged 130 points (144 points – Sharks and 117 -Knicks). New Orleans was held to a pedestrian 91 points against OKC but averaged 108.9 in two games against the Bulls.
Granted this is an extremely small sample and none of the other opponents are defensive juggernauts. Still, there are palpable signs the Thunder will be an upper tier defensive squad. Something this scribe predicted three months ago. Especially when factoring in defensive stalwart Patrick Patterson has yet to play a single minute with his new squad.
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Steven Adams is reborn:
Add the big kiwi to your most improved candidate list. Clearly the New Zealand native is benefiting the most from the OK3 and the floor spacing they offer. He’s dealt with diminutive centers (Rockets’ PJ Tucker) and behemoths (DeMarcus Cousins/Anthony Davis) and flourished in both incidences.
Pundits serve up hypothesis of small ball lineups where Patterson plays the five. I’m anxious to see if Donovan will consider a clutch time starters lineup with Patterson replacing Anthony. At the very least Donovan can rotate Melo and Patterson. Coach is famous for tinkering with his lineups, so watch for this iteration in the future.
Billy Donvan has to be pleased with the growth of his youngsters. Jerami Grant took the offseason seriously arriving back with a few new tools in his box. Terrance Ferguson might be wafer thin, but he plays like he believes his frame rivals LeBron James. That combination of confidence, solid I.Q and zero fear could find the rookie playing with the varsity squad more than the Blue.
Despite Josh Huestis two huge blocks in the win against Melbourne it’s hard to say where OKC plan to fit the forward into the rotation. Dakari Johnson showcases glimpses, but he’s been saddled with fouls which come in rapid succession whenever he’s on court. And, while these two G-League Blue constants are ready to take the step, perhaps utilizing both simultaneously isn’t the ideal scenario.
To wit, it feels like Sam Presti needs to make one more deal to land a veteran big. A center who can play serviceable backup minutes for Adam’s and who ensures depth in case of injury.