Last Years Record: 20-62
Key Losses: Luke Ridnour, Donyell Marshall, The City of Seattle, Squatch
Key Additions: Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, Russell Westbrook
1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?
As with any bad team, our off-season moves usually start with the NBA draft. The Seattle SuperSonics began with a questionable pick of Russell Westbrook out of UCLA at #4. It wasn't totally out of the blue, but some might have rather had Kevin Love, who was drafted a pick later. Later in the draft, we selected Serge Ibaka, a Center from Spains Club Baloncesto L'Hospitalet. The SuperSonics also traded for D.J. White, giving up second rounders Walter Sharpe and Trent Plaisted. Lastly, the SuperSonics drafted DeVon Hardin pretty late, but before Pre-Season began he signed with an Isreali team. There's not much to say about the later moves. They made a good move in getting a potential project in White, over two worthless second rounders, and a good move in drafting someone they could potentially bring over later in Serge Ibaka. If he was drafted in the first round, he's gotta be good.
Then, there was the little move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. Most of it has been said, but for the people who would still like to know, I'll give a little recap. The people of Oklahoma City really don't feel the hostility from Seattle fans. A lot of the Oklahoma University fans went up to Washington for the game against Washington University, and they didn't feel any open hostility from the people over there. Zeb has relatives who live in Spokane, and they've told him also that nobody cares. In the words of Bens second-cousin, Jackson, "You can have 'em." Now, this is doing nothing to insult the people who were actually fans of the team. In Oklahoma City, we know what it feel like to lose a team (the USFLs Outlaws, Arena Footballs Wranglers, the Hornets). When Zeb left the final Hornets game, he would describe it as "like the last night of the ABA". It's never fun, we know that it was a terrible way to go out, but you've gotta pick up, move on, and hope that David Stern decides to expand the NBA again. Or, hey, just steal another team. As for how we feel? Totally psyched. Ever since we were little kids, we'd go to minor league baseball games or play NBA Live 98 and ask our parents why we couldn't have a team of our own. Now we have one, and we plan on having as much fun as possible, even if they suck.
Lastly, we had an off-season trade. We traded Luke Ridnour in a three-team trade, and when it's all said and done, we got Desmond Mason and Joe Smith. I think that if you look at it initially, it was a trade to bring the beloved Mason back to OKC in order to alliviate the hate that will come with a losing season. But if you look at it more deeply, we also get the best player from the Bulls last year. He will undoubtedly produce late in the season and late in the game, when most of our younger guys will tend to fade. Lastly, we get rid of a guy with large ties to Seattle. He grew up in Washington and starred at the University of Oregon. Undoubtedly, he was unhappy about the move, and it's not unreasonable to think that he asked to be traded. On top of that, he's one of the dirtiest defenders in the NBA, and not many NBA Point Guards like him very much.
2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?
Most here would make a joke about how bad we are, but we've heard it all already, so I'll cut to the cheese (as in how bad we stink! like a fart or stinky cheese! haha!)
Our #1 skill is, undoubtedly, rebounding. Our lineup, quite simply is huge. Durant is big enough to play PF, but he's an SG. We have a log jam of inside tendencied SF/PFs (Mason, Collison, Wilcox, Smith, Green), and our Centers (Swift, Petro) are like sticks. I mean, we don't have a Troy Murphy like rebounding star, but we can rebound the ball simply because we'll have so many tall guys with hands in the air.
The #2 skill we have is post defense. Like we said before, the Thunder have a lot of tall guys. Tall, tall guys. But, most of these guys are defensively minded. However bad one may think Petro, Swift and Sene are, it's obvious that they weren't drafted for their 3 point shooting. These guys are defensive specialists all the way. Our Power Forwards (Collison, Wilcox, Swift) are a bit more offensively minded, but its easy to argue that they also can play well on the defensive end. Again, nobody is an all-star here, but with so many teams going small these days, having tall guys who can play some sort of defense can pay massive dividends for team that like to slash to the hoop a lot. Now, I'm not going to claim that we can stop Kobe, but we can stop a lot of And 1s and easy buckets. And if they foul out, don't think that we're afraid to put in reserves that are almost as good.
Regrettably, our #3 skill is getting to the line. We have some guys (namely Kevin Durant and Jeff Green) who drive to the basket and then act like they just got hit with a brick wall, causing a lot of ticky-tack fouls. It makes the game boring, but it's very useful when the offense is stalled, and as long as they sink their free throws, it's all good. There are others who go inside a lot, like Desmond Mason, Damien Wilkins, and Jeff Green, but they generally have the intention of actually making the shot. Still, they also get to the line.
Our last major skill would have to be mid-range jumpshots. We shoot less 3s in a game as a team than Steven Jackson does, but we're mid-range monsters. Most of this comes from Wilkins, Durant, and Green. They do it less than driving, but when the mid range shots actually start going down, it's oh-so-sweet.
3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
The #1 weakness is just lack of overall talent. Our Team revolves around Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook. Those guys are all young, and not ready to be stars. Aside from that, we have Chris Wilcox, Nick Collison, Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, and Earl Watson....do you see a star here yet? While all guys have their respective skills, none of them have what it takes to lead a team or be a 20 point scorer every night. In a couple of years, sure, maybe Durant could do that....but right now, he doesn't look like Chris Paul.
The #2 weakness is the fact that we have no true point guard that can lead the team. Okay, we have Earl Watson, but he's no great distributor. Mostly he just passes off to the other guys and hopes that they can create something on their own. He is supposed to be able to shoot 3s, but nobody creates opportunities for him, and I haven't seen anything from him yet. As Royce, from the Thunderworld, once said, "he has backup PG written all over him." Russell Westbrook is more of a slasher, and is better suited to a shooting guard role. Sure, he has maybe 2-3 "great" passes per game, and people will remark on how he could be our next PG, but in the end it amounts to less than 5 assists. You can't have that on your starting PG. John Lucas III might make the roster, but he's more of an overall energey guy, and definately not starter quality. Now, some would say, "Why not just have Durant bring up the ball, and then rely on Westbrook to slash or Watson to shoot 3s?" Well, first of all, Watson is no Derek Fisher, and Westbrook is no Monta Ellis. They aren't good enough at their respective skills to have your star SF bring up the ball and just dump it to them when needed. Secondly, Durant is no Kobe Bryant. Even if he does reach his potential, he will never be Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. He's more of a Grant Hill....without the passing. Its hard to find a comparison. He can't create for his teammates very well, and most of the time he'll either try to drive to the hoop and get fouled or take a fadeaway midrange jumper with two hands in his face and clank it. He needs someone to create these open mid range shots or open lanes to drive for him, he can't create them on his own like Kobe or T-Mac can. And there's the fact that he can't shoot 3s. I know, sometimes he'll fire thme up at the end of games, but so does Kevin Garnett. We need a true point guard to really unlock the potential of all the midrange shooting and driving that we have.
Our #3 weakness is our lack of 3 point shooting. Some people put this as #1, but it's not a nessessity for teams to survive. Nevertheless, it is a weakness. The few guys who can shoot the 3, Watson, Wilkins, and to some extent Durant and Westbrook, are average at best. More importantly, no one gives them opportunities, and it doesn't look like Carlesimo gave them the green light to shoot many. Our team looks like it's from the early 1980s, when the 3 point line was just added. We continue to either go to the hole or shoot midrange, and avoid the line for the most part because nobody can shoot it. Most of the time, our scores will reflect this philosophy. The point that this weakness will effect us the most is late in games when we need to catch up and rely on Durants shaky long distance shooting. When we gave Ridnour away, no matter how good the social implications, we knew that we were saying goodbye to our only semi-reliable long distance weapon.
#4 is the fact that we have no offensive productivity. Just not that many guys are very good offensively. It's been said that the Thunder have to rely a lot of midrange shooting and inside play, but most of that comes from a select group of guys. We have a remarkable number of near useless, unskilled big men (Petro, Swift, Sene, maybe White) who give little to no productivity, meaning that we can't always have everybody be a scoring threat on the floor. And while we have other guys who can score, with our lack of PG to move them around, the Thunder are usually stuck shooting a lot of bad shots and driving the lane at bad times.
And our last major weakness is just how young our team is. Our only grizzled vets are Joe Smith, Desmond Mason, and Earl Watson. After them, we have some semi vets in Collison and Wilcox. And after them, the guys we have are still pretty young. It gives the title of the blog "Third Quarter Collapse" a whole new meaning. It's been said many times that if the NBA game was 3 quarters long, we'd see a lot more upsets. That will definately be true for the Thunder this season.
4. What are the goals for this team?
On the court, this team has absolutely no expectations. Almost everybody predicts them to finish dead-last in the West. Player-wise, we are looking to develop everybody. If we can find a star out of the blue, like David West was when the Hornets were here, we'd consider it a successful season. We're not looking to put a win-loss total on the Thunder this year. We just expect them to go out there, try their hardest, and have some fun.
5. What do you think of the Thunders Logo?
6. What do you think of the new uniforms?
Not much. To Zeb, the road uniforms look like the teal Pistons uniforms of the 90s. To others, they look like light-blue knicks uniforms. The home uniforms look a lot like the Warriors uniforms, and they are almost a mirror image if you look at them both above the team name. But the important thing to note here is that if you look at them design wise, they look like....the Hornets old uniforms. And who changed their uniforms this season? The Hornets! Conspiracy? Probably not. Reguardless, our uniforms suck, and Oklahoma City just looks crowded on the roads. High school teams have better uniforms. On top of everything, they had to include the incredibly gay logo on the back of the shorts, right on the butt crack. Who the hell wants to see that? I mean, comeon!
7. Who killed Thunder the Mascot?
Chris Cohan killed him, not Clay Bennett. While it is apparent that after the Thunder copied the Hornets, they decided to also copy the Warriors, Cohan wanted Thunder gone for a long time. He's been looking to change the logo for a long time from the Thunder styled logo to the flying W, but it costs $500,000 and he's too much of a cheap skate to do it. This was just an excuse to finally get rid of him. Still, Zeb thinks that he was the awesomest NBA mascot, and he'll always miss the muscley greatness. Lets bring him to Oklahoma City! Start a movement!
8. The Thunder have a plethora of project big men from a previous era. On a case-by-case basis, do you feel any of them are worth keeping around, or are they a waste of space?
You could put them in 2 groups. The first, "Like to Keep", consists of Collison and Wilcox, while the second, "Show me something or we'll cut you" consists of Sene, Swift, and Petro. Joe Smith doesn't count, since he's new.
9. Jeff Green was overshadowed by fellow rookie Kevin Durant last season. What role should he play for this team? Should they rely on him as a starter right away or continue his development on the bench?
Jeff Green should basically be our key sixth man. He's definately a good player, but his talent level at this point doesn't warrant playing him or somebody else out of the position to put him in the starting lineup. While Durant is now playing at SG, the general feelings of us at Blue Blitz is that he should be put at SF, and the team should allow someone like Russell Westbrook or Damien Wilkins to play SG, leaving Watson and Lucas III at PG. It just makes more sense than having a bunch of huge guys on the floor and forcing them to create for themselves. It would just be a lot better overall if the Thunder could trade a couple of big guys for a solid PG. With our current log jam though, it's obvious that Jeff Green is going to be starting for some time, unless Desmond Mason or Joe Smith step up to take it away from him.
10. How secure to you feel P.J. Carlesimos coaching job is after this season?
If this were a normal development team, this year would be still kind of a honeymoon period. But since this is Oklahoma City, it's not. Carlesimo plays a slow, plodding brand of basketball that scores very few points. To Oklahoma fans, if you're not winning, that's suicide. Even when Kelvin Sampson was doing well coaching the Oklahoma University basketball team, people would call for his head. When Billy Tubbs, a very fast-break minded coach, coached the same team, he could do no wrong in the eyes of fans. So, unless P.J. wins at least 30 games this year, we'd think that public opinion of him would push him very close to being ousted, albeit unfairly. Still, hopefully management will not give in to the requests of fans and keep him on at least through next season. If there was a guy who could coach a team of mostly big men who can't shoot 3s, it's this guy. Even without this situation, NBA coaches generally have extremely short lifespans unless you're named Sloan, Riley, Karl, Jackson, or Nelson. Mike D'Antoni and Avery Johnson were both fired shortly after being coach of the year, and Sam Mitchell is on the hot seat after doing the same, so that's got to say something.
11. How do you expect attendance to be like this year?
We'll pack the arena at first, but when the team starts losing games, less people will want to come to the games. Still, we'll never reach a low like Atlanta used to. We'd say it'll reach a low af maybe 10,000 for those snoozefests against the Clippers, but people will still pack the Arena for matchups against teams like the Spurs and for the last game of the season.
12. Who do you expect to be the "break out" player this year, if any?
We'll disregard the rookies, since it's impossible for them to "break out" from a previous season. This is a unique situation, because a lot of the guys are in that last year where its really possible to break out before they're declared a known quantity.
Zeb would go with Damien Wilkins. He's had a hell of a Pre-Season. He seems to be the only guys shooting well from the floor. On a roster absolutely loaded with so many big men, Wilkins is gonna get a lot of burn at SG. If he can really exploit his ability to score without having to go to the line, improve his defensive ability, and become the teams one reliable 3 point shooter he'll look really really good this year.
Ben's going with Wilcox. For years he has had the reputation of not bringing his all to the games and not leaving it all on the court. However, new city, new crowd, new uniforms (albeit ugly ones) could inspire more passionate play from the Thunder big man, which would be key to any sort of winning they hope to achieve this year. I mean, he was "Sleepless in Seattle", but in OKC, there's nothing to do but sleep, so he'll be plenty rested for those home games.
13. How long before we can expect this team to be a playoff contender?
According to Jim Traber, local afternoon radio host on WWLS The Sports Animal, 2 years.
According to Ben, we could be waiting a little longer, possibly 4 or 5 years. We're soo far from being anywhere near the playoffs right now and I have legitimate concerns about being able to draw in big name free agents to OKC. I mean, for the most part we'll be ok, don't get me wrong, but we're not signing anyone thats going to make us contenders right away, and hell, you can just forget about D-Wade and LeBron in the approaching free agent mega sweepstakes. Still, if we give the young players time to develop, we may be able to have our own homegrown playoff team. With some trade help and lower profile free agent additions, of course.
According to Zeb, this season. The NBA is a league where over half the teams make the playoffs, and a league where teams with horrible rosters, like the Hawks and Warriors, can challenge ginats like the Mavericks and Celtics. Granted, we shouldn't think about the regular season conference or division crown in a realistic sense. But the sky's the limit, and every team starts with the same amount of players, the same amount of game to play, and the same record: 0-0. The playoffs are possible every season, and that's something that is so magical about the NBA that is never realized in the NFL and MLB.
According to Jim is a horrible show.
14. Do you think that the Tulsa 66ers (The Thunder D-League Affiliate) should be used as a serious farm team?
It was a good idea for Clay Bennett to purchase them. Socially, it solidifies the connection between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, making the team moreso of an "Oklahoma Thunder". They should definately be used kind of like the Los Angeles D-Fenders are. They should try to run the same type of offense that the Thudner do. If you've got a Don Nelsonesque guy coaching up there, it's not going to help your team that much. But if you've got a guy doing the same thing we're doing here in Oklahoma City, you can find a guy who thrives well in the system and potentially get a really solid backup. Or, if we're lucky, we could find a star. Still, don't expect too much from it. The NBA is not baseball yet.
15. Who do you think on the team is most likely will throw the wildest parties that Oklahoma City has ever seen?
Ben says that it will be Robert Swift, because he looks like the ultimate party type. Kevin Durant has the most bucks to make spectacular parties, but I see him as more of a small posse kind of guy. Ain't no party like a Petro party! Masons got a family, and he's an art kinda guy, and not even in the drug sort of way. Wilkins is hard to define by just looking at him. Zeb says that it will be Joe Smith, because he's obviously most experienced with partying. I mean, what do you expect he did all of those years in the NBA at all of those different cities he played for? Had massive parties, of course! We would say Weezy, but he's too laid back, and he seems like the type of guy who would hang around in the back and use his silky smooth saxophone to woo the ladies.
Predicted Record: 17-65