Familiar superstar teams with new coach in an important season
POSTED: Oct 14, 2015 12:13 AM ET
GameTime: Season Preview - Thunder
Dennis and Smitty discuss whether it's now or never for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
New coach Billy Donovan inherits a powerhouse and, even better, a healthy Kevin Durant, who missed 55 games last season with a bum foot. This season could be the Thunder's best chance to win a title with Durant -- and maybe their last if he bolts next summer in free agency. Plenty of steep, yet reasonable, hopes for Oklahoma City this season.
Kevin Durant has no minutes restrictions and will be a go from Day One. ... OKC drafted Cameron Payne, who can swing to both guard positions but might find minutes tough to get. ... Billy Donovan signed on with OKC, the second team to offer him an NBA gig. Remember, he took the Orlando job in June of 2007, then reneged and boomeranged back to college at Florida.
1. Dion Waiters averaged only 26 minutes last season as the starting two-guard because he shot 39 percent and was so-so defensively. His minutes won't improve until he does.
2. Kevin Durant says he's the best player in basketball. Well, until he wins a title or at least delivers epically in the Finals the way LeBron did last June, feel free to disagree.
3. Durant and Westbrook missed a combined 70 games last season and OKC still fought for a playoff spot. Can you imagine any other team doing that?
Oklahoma City told Enes Kanter to test the summer free-agent market and come back with an offer. He fetched a four-year, $70 million bid from Portland, which was tough for the Thunder to swallow, but they did, and now Kanter must prove his worth. He's a skilled offensive player who averaged 18.7 points (and 11 rebounds) in his 26-game stretch with OKC last season, but the Thunder have enough scoring. Improved interior defense is what will keep Kanter on the floor.
Russell Westbrook | 28.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 8.6 apg.
The triple-double king will scale back shots, but not fury, with Kevin Durant back.
Dion Waiters | 12.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 39.2 fg%.
The weak link in an otherwise strong starting five must find a niche.
Enes Kanter | 18.7 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 56.6 fg%.
Gifted with soft hands and a 15-foot stroke, Kanter is OKC's best inside scorer.
Kevin Durant | 25.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 27 games.
A healthy Durant is a dangerous Durant, especially in his walk year.
Serge Ibaka | 14.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.42 bpg.
Now armed with a consistent mid-range jumper, Ibaka is more of a complete player.
Steven Adams | 7.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.23 bpg.
Sturdy and strong, Adams wouldn't be a bad choice as starting center.
D.J. Augustin | 7.3 ppg, 3.1 apg, 35 3p%.
He supplies backcourt depth and at times can allow Westbrook to shift to two-guard.
Anthony Morrow | 10.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 43 3p%.
Long-distance sniper brings an added dimension to an already-potent scoring team.
Everything's in place for the Thunder to play for a championship. That, and Durant will be extra motivated to give weight to his self-proclaimed Best Player in the Game statement. Yes, it's crowded at the top, but maybe it's OKC's turn.
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