After a long, exciting run with Russell Westbrook at the helm, the Oklahoma City Thunder finally decided to hit the reset button this offseason, trading the eight-time All-Star to the Houston Rockets in exchange for another stud point guard in Chris Paul, as well as a haul of draft picks. That haul doesn’t compare, however, to the one they got from the other major move they made this summer in trading Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers. That return netted Oklahoma City the biggest collection of draft choices in a single trade ever.
So although at the present, particularly, this upcoming season, the team will likely be taking a pretty big step back, the Thunder are set up wonderfully to create their next contending-caliber team in the future.
It should be noted, however, that even though Oklahoma City lost two All-NBA talents this summer, they should be able to field a pretty scrappy, tough and relatively talented assortment of players this season, so – barring more upcoming deals, at least – the Thunder’s rebuild shouldn’t be as ugly as some of the others we have witnessed (or are witnessing) around the Association.
STAYING: Steven Adams, Deonte Burton, Hamidou Diallo, Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader, Nerlens Noel, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroeder.
ADDED: DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort (Arizona State), Danilo Gallinari (LA Clippers), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LA Clippers), Devon Hall (Oklahoma City Blue), Myke Henry (Ironi Nahariya), Eric Moreland (Toronto), Mike Muscala (LA Lakers), Justin Patton (Philadelphia) and Chris Paul (Houston).
GONE: Jawun Evans, Raymond Felton, Paul George (LA Clippers), Jerami Grant (Denver), Donte Grantham (LA Clippers), Markieff Morris (Detroit), Patrick Patterson (LA Clippers) and Russell Westbrook (Houston).
STRENGTHS: The starting five has a good amount of talent on it, talent that should be able to mesh well together … Between Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Andre Roberson, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams, the Thunder have a nice blend of veteran experience and youthful upside in their projected starting unit … Oklahoma City also has a pretty impressive point-guard rotation, featuring the aforementioned Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander, as well experienced backup and former starter Dennis Schroeder, all of whom will spend time at lead ball-handler for the team this upcoming season … The Thunder have a couple of promising young wings in Hamidou Diallo and Terrance Ferguson who have shown promise in the past, and will get every chance this season to prove they have another level they can reach … If Oklahoma City decides to continue the teardown and ship away more veterans, Paul, Gallinari (who is on the final year of his deal) and Adams are all the types of players who could interest contenders at the around the trade deadline, which could net the Thunder even more future assets.
WEAKNESSES: After years of Westbrook’s ball-dominant style, Oklahoma City’s new-look squad could have trouble, at least early on in the season, getting used to playing more of a team-oriented type of basketball … Lack of certainty regarding the future of the roster could also affect the team, as there’s reason to believe any of the Thunder’s talented vets could be traded at a moment’s notice … Paul hasn’t played in more than 61 games in any of the last three seasons, while Roberson is coming off a season-and-a-half injury-related layoff, so the team isn’t exactly the perfect semblance of health heading into 2019-20 … Just like with Thunder teams of the past, lack of surefire shooting outside of a couple of players will rear its ugly head for them at some point this year, which will be a problem if they’re actually trying to win games … Oklahoma City is taking a serious step back in explosive athleticism this season after losing Westbrook and Jerami Grant, and replacing them with Paul and Gallinari, an attribute that used to win them games.
PREDICTION: 4th in the Northwest Division, 12th in the Western Conference.