Paul George and Russell Westbrook were traded as a part of a full rebuild mode initiated by Thunder GM Sam Presti. In return, the team acquired a flurry of draft picks, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and veteran star Chris Paul.
Last season and postseason were disappointing for the Thunder. They barely made it into the playoffs despite having a superior lineup. The team was eliminated by the Portland Trail Blazers behind Damian Lillard’s 50-point performance. The latter personally took down the Thunder with a three from the logo.
The team has retained big man Steven Adams. The 7-foot center has been one of the key pieces of the team. He is known for his lockdown defense and tough build. He is one of the feared players in the paint.
He averaged 13.9 points along with 9.5 boards last season. But with the new roster, along with Chris Paul’s presence, he may have his big break this season. We can expect Adams to be more active in the paint, crashing boards while muscling his way in for scoring.
Andre Roberson also remained with the team. The 6-foot-7 guard is the Thunder’s elite defender, but he's currently out due to injury. He was instrumental in locking down star players in different teams. His speed made him a dangerous defender to have on the court. The guard is set to return from his injury this season. He has joined full practices with the team and is taking final steps towards returning to play.
Both Adams and Roberson were instrumental in the Thunder’s historic run last 2016. They eliminated the Spurs in 6 games. Adams had 15 points and 11 boards as he battled against Tim Duncan all game long.
Roberson had the biggest assignment and was able to deliver. He had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks - all on Kawhi Leonard, who was his matchup for the game.
Chris Paul’s presence on the team adds a bit of mentorship to the young core that the team has right now. With a lot of young players, the Thunder are eyeing a rebuild for the time to come.
Despite that, they were able to show some good results following the preseason. Their victory in their first game shows much promise. SGA was able to drop 24 points in his first game as a member of the Thunder to lead them to a 119-104 victory against Dallas.
SGA’s young career can take a different turn as he is set to play with Paul. The sophomore can take a lot of learnings from CP3, who will be likely leading the Thunder now. The future is bright for the 21-year old guard on his new team.
The Thunder will most likely not make the playoffs. The Western Conference has been a bigger beast with names like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard in California already. The Thunder might finish around the 9th or 8th seed.
But assuming that the Thunder offense will click, Thunder shooters will become consistent, and their defense becomes the staggering one the Thunder used to be known for, then there is no doubt that they can finish at 6th or more.