Jealous of the talent on the Thunder? You’re not the only one. With Westbrook, Durant and Green headlining the roster and rookie Harden in the wings, Friday March 19th at the ACC is a night to circle on the calendar. Last year Nick Collison out-hustled Bosh on a key play to give us our worst loss of the season (at the time – much worse followed) but we got a measure of revenge in a game where we looked our best.
Predicted Starting 5
Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic
Best Offensive Player
Durant, is there any question really? He’s got a chance to be the most explosive scorer in the league. I have no idea what a scoring ceiling would be for him, because honestly, I’m not sure there are limits.
Best Defensive Player
Some people might say Russell Westbrook, and yes, Westbrook is a very nice defender. But Thabo is OKC’s lockdown guy. He can guard three positions and he absolutely changed the defensive mindset of this team when he joined late last year.
Best New Player
James Harden. He’s exactly what the Thunder needed. A scoring two-guard that can lighten the load for Durant while also giving Westbrook another bailout option. The Thunder were the worst offensive team at shooting guard last season, so the addition of Harden is just what the doctor ordered.
Player that will be missed
Desmond Mason. Statistically, he was terrible last year. Just putrid. But he was a tough defender and a local hero. We loved having him here because of what he meant to our state.
Weakest link in you top 8 rotation
Shaun Livingston. Not because of his skill or his ability, but mainly because we can’t be sure what we’ll get out of him. He says he’s 90 percent and he’s looked solid on occasion. But can he play every back-to-back? Can he handle full-time backup point guard duties? I think these questions are exactly why Sam Presti signed veteran Kevin Ollie.
Greatest weakness as a team
Youth and inexperience. The team has talent. Nobody is questioning that, but with a starting five that averages just 24 years of age and a bench that is even younger, you can’t be sure what kind of progress they’ll make. Learning to win close games is going to be key if this team is going to do any kind of damage this year.
Biggest question heading into the season
How much improvement did the team make this off-season? Not in a player acquisition sense, but a player development one. It’s all about progress for this team and Presti is relying on young players getting better. As long as they do, everything will be alright.
If I was GM for a day, I would…
Pretty much stay the course. As far as anybody can tell, nothing needs to be changed right now. Sure a big name player could help turn the team around RIGHT NOW, but Oklahoma City isn’t interested in right now. The Thunder need a shot-blocking, rebounding enforcer in the middle but instead of making a deal for one, the plan is to hopefully develop Serge Ibaka or Byron Mullens. So if I were GM, I honestly don’t know that I’d change anything right now.
My opinion of the Raptors
I think they are one of the most intriguing teams in the East. Chris Bosh is a top five or six player, but like any great player, he needs help. Hedo Turkoglu will certainly help, but I’m honestly very interested in what DeMar DeRozan can bring to the table. The East isn’t terribly difficult to make a playoff run in and I’d say the Raps are definitely in the discussion for the 7th or 8th spot.
If I had to assign a movie title to my expectations of the season, it would be…
Waiting. We are patiently waiting on OKC. Waiting for our stars to take shape, waiting for Presti to bust out his cap space, waiting for this team to win. We’re patient because right now, we’re just stoked to have a team, but at some point, we’ll be done waiting and ready to win.
I’m going with 35-47. Depending on the development of Russell Westbrook this could be more or less. We’ll just kind of have to wait and see.Follow @raptorsrepublic