We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Oklahoma City Thunder .
“Real g’s move in silence like lasagna.”
It was a catchy one-liner from hip hop artist Lil’ Wayne a couple years ago.
And in so many ways it describes how Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti seemingly came out of nowhere to orchestrate one of the more stealth trades last season in landing Paul George in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Russell Westbrook had a phenomenal season, winning the MVP while averaging a triple-double of 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game.
Still, as good as Westbrook was, he was going to need help if the Thunder were to be anything more than first-round fodder for teams with more depth and overall talent.
In comes George, whose trade demand led many to believe he would wind up in Los Angeles with the Lakers, or possibly with the Celtics, who were among the favorites to land the two-way standout who has been named to four All-Star teams (2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017) and three All-NBA defensive teams (first team in 2014, second team in 2013 and 2016).
He’ll be a free agent next summer, with most anticipating he’ll play for the Lakers. A successful run in Oklahoma City could lead to a change of heart for George, as well as Westbrook, who has a player option after this season which would allow him to hit the free agent market as well.
Westbrook and George give Oklahoma City a dynamic tandem for sure.
Still, their place among the top teams in the West is cemented in part by the pieces surrounding their 1-2 punch of Westbrook and George.
Steven Adams is a bruising, physical 7-footer who gives Oklahoma City a strong presence around the basket defensively and an active body to attack the glass.
Last season, he averaged 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and should be able to be even more impactful with Sabonis out of the picture and the addition of Patrick Patterson, who is a stretch big capable of providing more opportunities for Adams at the rim.
The Thunder’s potent scoring punch gets headlines but Oklahoma City has a very underrated defense that returns most of its key players from a year ago when they ranked among the best teams defensively.
Oklahoma City was ranked among the top 10 in several key defensive categories such as a defensive rating (105.1, 10th in the NBA), defensive rebound percentage (.790, 3rd) and blocked shots (5.0, 10th).
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Paul George (Indiana); Patrick Patterson (Toronto); Raymond Felton (Los Angeles Clippers).
Key losses: Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Domantas Sabonis (Indiana);
Rookies of note: Terrance Ferguson.
Expectations: 54-28 (first in the Midwest Division, third in the West)