The Pre-Season's over. We do a lot of grading here at WTLC, but I wanted to mix it up a bit. This section will moreso focus on each player's progress on the summer, and determine whether they're meeting their own expectations. To do this, I'm going to give a one line description of where the player was last year, where they are after the pre-season, and where you want them to be going forward. I'll also include some general analysis.
For full disclosure, I wasn't able to see all of the pre-season games, but I did see all of the games on TV and attended two non-TV games in Oklahoma City. I also heavily listened to radio coverage of one of the other non-TV games.
Stats: 7 Games, 25 MPG, 12.7 PTS, 68.4% FG, 6.8 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.4 TO, 1.1 STL, 1.2 BLK, 3.9 PF
Last Year: A tough-nosed rookie who would always snag a highlight play, but was still learning the game's fundamentals.
Now: A solid pick and roll finisher with an extremely accurate hook from close range.
Future: One of the NBA's top starting centers, possibly more.
General Analysis: Steven Adams is looking like the hidden gem of the 2013 Draft. He was once unpolished, but it appears a summer of work with the Thunder (and relaxing in New Zealand) has propelled his game to new heights. Adams is now able to finish with both hands around the rim with ease. Adams' size also makes it easy for him to establish position on his opponent or roll to the rim in traffic. I've seen him back down and score on Kosta Koufos and Rudy Gobert rather easily. Defensively, Adams isn't a Serge Ibaka-level shot blocker. But the silly fouls, bad positioning, and missed opportunities were harder to find from Adams in the pre-season. His mind is definitely more attuned to the game, and his toughness brings out great defensive plays in itself. Hopefully Scott Brooks will start Adams, give him 30 minutes a game, and watch him become the pick and roll partner of Westbrook's dreams.
Stats: 1 Game, 11 MPG, 8.0 PTS, 100.0% FG, 0.0 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.0 TO, 1.0 BLK, 1.0 PF
Last Year: A smart veteran big that saw his spot in the playoff rotation diminish as the pace of the games increased.
Now: Same 'ol.
Future: Should get minutes with the injury to McGary, but wouldn't be surprised to see him registering DNP-CDs.
General Analysis: He hit two threes in the final Pre-Season game against the Jazz. He's only hit 5 over the course of his entire career, so that certainly is something. In any case, expect Nick Collison to be the same player he's always been. I'm not expecting him to fall off, but I'm also not expecting him to average anything more than 5 PPG. That will hurt the Thunder while Durant is out, which might prompt Coach Brooks to bench Collison and go small. In any case, he'll likely be in competition with McGary and possibly Jones for minutes in the long term.
Stats: 2 Games, 15 MPG, 11.5 PTS, 50.0% FG, 6.8 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.4 TO, 1.1 STL, 1.2 BLK, 3.9 PF
Last Year: MVP.
Now: Just as dynamic, just as much of a excellent passer, just as effortless of a scorer.
Future: Out for 6 weeks, after which he'll grab the most minutes and possessions on the team.
General Analysis: There's not much we learned about KD in the pre-season that we didn't already know. He basically only played in a couple of games and looked as effective as ever against some decent teams. We only got a brief glimpse of KD on Team USA over the summer before he quit, so we don't know much else about how he's progressed. Still, several short highlight videos released over the Summer show KD trying out some advanced moves meant to improve his balance and awareness of the rim. He's already accurate enough, so I can only imagine how dangerous KD might be were he more quick on his feet.
Stats: 3 Games, 24 MPG, 11.3 PTS, 46.9% FG, 50% 3PT, 5.6 REB, 0.7 AST, 0.6 TO, 1.6 BLK, 2.0 PF
Last Year: The rim protector that might have turned the tables against the Spurs in Game 1 or 2 of the Western Conference Finals.
Now: Perhaps a bit more patient, perhaps a bit more accurate.
Future: Playing the same role he always has, but will probably experiment with post ups and face ups in the absence of KD.
General Analysis: Serge Ibaka's stint at the 2014 FIBA World Cup wasn't anything to write home about. He was really good in games against bad teams (as you can see in this great highlight montage), but wasn't much of an offensive option in more important games. The Gasols took up the lions share of big minutes, and the fact that FIBA games are only 40 minutes long didn't help Ibaka's plight. Furthermore, Serge struggled to establish position, and had to mostly rely on his shooting and offensive rebounding ability to generate points. Still, Serge definitely has a lot more patience in the post now than he has had in the past, and doesn't struggle to score on occasions that he is in position. But until Serge can find a way to move with the ball, his role for the Thunder will remain unchanged.
Stats: 2 Games, 20 MPG, 11.0 PTS, 41.2% FG, 42.9% 3PT, 2.5 REB, 4.5 AST, 1.0 TO, 0.5 STL, 1.0 PF
Last Year: Our 6th man who may have become much more with a few heroic playoff performances.
Now: He looks better?!
Future: Will definitely see increased minutes and possessions in KD's absence, and should be fun to watch next to Russ.
General Analysis: He's the Thunder's best kept secret amidst a league crowded with point guards. Though the competition he played against in the pre-season wasn't top dollar, his high three point percentage and assist to turnover ratio is certainly promising. If Reggie Jackson can stay with shooters, generate the occasional steal, and hit his threes, then he may be ready to enter the talk of the NBA's elite. Until then, he's just an excellent ballhandling option and scorer.
Jones III, Perry
Stats: 6 Games, 22 MPG, 11.7 PTS, 41.7% FG, 28.6% 3PT, 3.5 REB, 0.5 AST, 2.0 TO, 0.1 STL, 0.5 BLK, 2.3 PF
Last Year: An out of the rotation tweener with questions behind his health and motivation.
Now: A solid scoring option who needs to shoot more consistently.
Future: Hopefully an occasional bench scoring boost.
General Analysis: Perry's stats are slightly deceptive, because he played a great deal of garbage time and really struggled in some games. But still, I was overall impressed with what I saw. Jones showcased a really mean floater and a limited ability to handle the ball, which was promising. Still, PJIII is not much of a post player, and his numbers from three aren't exactly blowing me away. He's effective when he can nail floaters and get to the line, but his defense and rebounding never really justify his inclusion in the game. Furthermore, he really stagnates the team's ball movement at small forward, especially if he's playing next to Roberson. I can see Jones getting a shot this year, but I'm not really sure he's got enough positives to warrant keeping him in the rotation.
Stats: 5 Games, 32 MPG, 15.8 PTS, 30% FG, 14.3% 3PT, 5.6 REB, 2.6 AST, 2.6 TO, 1.2 STL, 3.4 PF
Last Year: An inconsistent bench scoring help, replaced late season by a veteran.
Now: A dreadful shooter and defender whom only works as a slasher on the weak side.
Future: Either falling out of the NBA or averaging 10 PPG. Who knows?
General Analysis: Jeremy Lamb has been one of the toughest cases to crack on this roster. There are still games where you see how he can be serviceable. His extremely long arms make it easy for him to get fouled on the drive, and he can hit floaters occasionally. He's also tall for a shooting guard, and can grab a high number of boards. But for all the small positives, there are a heap of negatives. He shoots threes from too far beyond the line. He guards opponents too far beyond the line. He fouls too much to make up for losing the first step on D. He fails to accomplish anything out of the pick and roll. He has trouble holding onto the ball, or doing much of anything under intense pressure. The list goes on. Considering that Jeremy Lamb logged a lot of minutes against benchwarmers, I'm not exactly feeling optimistic about his prospects this season. But maybe the coaching staff is still willing to give him a second look.
Stats: 1 Game, 36 MPG, 14.0 PTS, 50% FG, 4.0 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.0 TO, 2.0 STL, 2.0 PF
Last Year: Starring for Michigan.
Now: A promising big who can run the floor and jump really high. Injured for 6 weeks.
Future: A role player that relies on floor spacing and hustle, or maybe more....
General Analysis: Unfortunately, the one game Mitch played in wasn't on TV. So I don't know much about what he did. But we're all hoping that he can make the full recovery and inject some life into the team's bench. I definitely feel better about him than I do about Jones, Lamb, or Roberson, but maybe that's because I haven't seen enough of him yet. Definitely check out his Summer League highlights.
Stats: 6 Games, 24 MPG, 15.0 PTS, 47.5% FG, 44.8% 3PT, 2.0 REB, 1.3 AST, 1.0 TO, 0.3 STL, 2.8 PF
Last year: One of the league's premier catch and shoot players, without much in the way of defense or ball handling.
Now: Same thing, except that we know he's a pretty bad defender and can dribble into his shots.
Future: Playing a key role on a deep Thunder playoff team.
General Analysis: I love what Anthony Morrow does for the Thunder. He's the only shooter that's ever graced this roster, and his abilities there add a completely different dynamic to the team. Furthermore, I really love his ability to shoot through contact and draw contact. He's made several shots with hands in his face, and completed at least three separate four point plays. Of course, the caviat is that Morrow can't do much ball handling. Defensively, Morrow will get caught going over screens and regularly allow his man into the paint, but you take the good with the bad. Expect him to get regular minutes in the rotation, along with a smattering of crunch time minutes even after KD's return.
Stats: 7 Games, 28 MPG, 5.6 PTS, 44.1% FG, 40% 3PT, 6.1 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.3 TO, 1.1 STL, 0.8 BLK, 3.6 PF
Last Year: One of the NBA's biggest and least offensively efficient shooting guards in occasional minutes.
Now: Improving offensively, makes you watch him defensively.
Future: Imagine Thabo Sefolosha with better athleticism and rebounding.
General Analysis: I'll admit, I was really puzzled as to why Andre Roberson saw minutes at all last season. He was downright atrocious offensively, and couldn't keep up with most players defensively. Seemingly his only value came from his length and rebounds. Now, it's a bit easier to see his benefits. He still can't dribble the ball anywhere, and he'll still pass up open shots. But his ability to get to the rim has certainly improved, and his shot is showing promise. Should Roberson get minutes, he'll definitely still be an offensive weakness, and should ideally be accompanied by a second guard or forward who can move the ball. Defensively, Roberson is up and down. I've seen Animal Style shut down Gordon Hayward, but I've also seen him commit some mistakes or find himself a couple steps too slow. There's still a lot of polishing to do, but this pre-season has proven to me that Roberson can be a reasonable Sefolosha replacement.
Stats: 5 Games, 22.9 MPG, 8.2 PTS, 26.1% FG, 22.2% 3PT, 1.8 REB, 3.0 AST, 1.6 TO, 0.8 STL, 2.2 PF
Last Year: Star of the Tianjin Ronggang Golden Lions in China.
Now: He can distribute and get to the line, but shoots himself out of a job.
Future: Hard to say whether he'll see minutes. Best shot is if Reggie Jackson starts.
General Analysis: This was the Thunder's traditional "let's sign a veteran for emergencies" type signing from this off-season. Telfair has proven himself to be a serviceable NBA point guard in the past, but he's a year removed from action. In any case, Telfair really struggled to hit his shots in the pre-season, despite being left wide open. It's been a problem throughout his career, and has always kept him from being truly effective. Still, Bassy's passing has always been on point, utilizing his impeccable ability to read the floor. Unfortunately, unless he's drawing fouls, it's hard for Telfair to be effective because he's just not an offensive threat. Defensively, his small stature presents problems, but it's nothing that can't be gotten around. All in all, the most Telfair can hope for is spot minutes. But with the lack of ball handlers on this team, Brooks may be forced to turn to Telfair regularly. (If you want to know more about Telfair, here is a good place to look.)
Stats: 6 Games, 22 MPG, 12.0 PTS, 36.9% FG, 10% 3PT, 3.3 REB, 6.7 AST, 4.17 TO, 1.8 STL, 1.83 PF
Last Year: The injured warrior who came back to lead us in the playoffs. I wish he was better in overtime, though.
Now: Officially back to full speed, if he could just make a darn three.
General Analysis: I think Russell's history has made it possible to look beyond his pre-season shooting numbers. Sure, his misses did look bad at times. But Russ's misses always look bad. Despite the low percentage shooting and irrelevance of the play in question, Westbrook looked as good as ever. He still led the team with flair, generated points, and was really scary when running at full speed. Westbrook's turnovers were high, but he had to log minutes with a lot of lineups that were injury ravaged. Most importantly, Russ looked really comfortable passing the ball to Adams and Ibaka. That's going to be absolutely essential during the upcoming season, and the kind of attack that could propel Russ's game to new heights.
What did you think of the Thunder in the pre-season? Let us know in the comments!