I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, oh Lord” – Phil Collins (In The Air Tonight)
There is an energy in the air that was missing this time last year, and I can feel it 10,516 miles away, and I love it.
12 months ago the Thunder at this point of the season was preparing for an uphill battle without one of its longtime soldiers. That is irrelevant now, as we’re embarking on a new adventure. We have new soldiers to go to war with, and you bet your tail we’re going to fight, and with our leader, you’re going to need to kill him to stop him, and he has only one target in his sight.
Sam Presti restocked the weapon’s vault with some heavy artillery adding Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Patrick Patterson. Last year was a one-man wrecking crew that won 47 games and a first-round exit in the playoffs. Every position Oklahoma City needed to fix they did, and now Russell Westbrook is not a one-man wrecking crew now he’s the leader of a three-headed beast.
The Thunder is not just a team with three all-stars it has some solid support to go along with there All-Stars.
Steven Adams looks to be back to his best after last season were he averaged 11 points on 57 percent shooting on an average of 8.2 shots a game with 7.7 rebounds per game. Adams took a back seat to the greatness of Westbrook last season but if you watched any of the Thunders preseason games, this preseason Adams looks to be a solid piece of the puzzle on offense and defense that seems to fit quite well with the top tier talent.
Andre Roberson is going to be an integral part of this puzzle. Roberson’s elite perimeter defending is going to be essential to this teams success. It is vital that he can develop something on offense to make him more than just a defensive ace and command respect on the offensive side of the ball from the opposition to help his teammates and not be a liability that the opposition can sag off and double team someone else.
Roberson was terrible on offense especially from behind the arc and free throw, scoring 24 percent from behind the arc and 42 percent from the free throw line. Westbrook is going to be crucial to Roberson’s development on offense Roberson could become a cutting to the basket option if Andre and Russell can build a connection in training with Westbrook’s passing ability it might just come down to Roberson’s work ethic and commitment to evolving his offensive skills.
Patterson has had a slow start to the season with after he underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee earlier in the preseason and hadn’t had an opportunity to play any minutes this preseason. When Patterson becomes available, he might just be the best addition to this team as crazy as that might seem as Presti just brought in two perennial All-Stars. Patterson shot 40 percent from the field. His 37 percent perimeter efficiency was above the league average with the Toronto Raptors. Patterson will give the Thunder consistent perimeter scoring and solid clutch time defense. Where his real value lies is in his versatility on offense with his mid-range game and around the rim.
Alex Abrines could be the most significant winner of the additions of Anthony and George. With Westbrook, Anthony and George receiving all of the defensive attention Abrines will see a considerable increase in open shots this season. After being a 38 percent shooter from three averaging three shots a game last season and 39 percent from the floor shooting on an average of five shots a game, Abrines could see them both rise into the 40 percent range with all the open shots he will get.
Jerami Grant, Terrence Ferguson, and Josh Huestis are going to be exciting young talent to watch this season. Ferguson has the highest ceiling to be a potential star. Grant and Huestis have the work ethic to be good contributors to this teams success.
Coach Billy Donovan is entering his most important season of his professional career after having a successful collegiate coaching career winning two NCAA championships with Florida. Getting everyone on this roster to buy in is essential to this team reaching any form of success. If even one player does not buy into the all in mentality the franchise has set with its offseason moves taking a risk on George and Anthony who could decide to leave at the end of this season they will find themselves out in the first round again.
Donovan needs Westbrook to be the one to display that all in mentality. After averaging 31.6 points averaging 24.0 shots a game on 42 percent shooting with 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds per game with a usage percentage of 41 percent that cant happen this year with George and Anthony on his team Westbrook cant have the ball in his hands 41 percent of the the time. Westbrook has shown his all in off the court signing his extension that keeps him in Oklahoma for six years now he has to prove it on the court.
This is an exciting time to be an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, and you can feel that excitement permeating in the air. This is the beginning of something great. There is going to be peaks and valleys throughout this season but you shouldn’t waiver in your belief in this team there is going to be growing pains but come playoff time this team will be raring to go strap yourselves in this is going to be a hell of a ride.
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