After a week long break, the Oklahoma City Thunder are ready to continue their Pre-Season campaign. Much doubt surrounds this team, and their flaws appear to be apparent. But getting in games against real NBA opponents should provide us with a much better litmus test of how they’ll do. With all due respect to the teams of the NBA, not all of them have the passing and shooting of Real Madrid or Barcelona.
What the Mavs will throw out
The Mavericks look at the pre-Season as a time to work out their young players, test out the training camp invitees, and give their old dudes some rest. There might be short appearances for guys like J.J. Barea or Andrew Bogut, but by and large the active roster will be kept to those under 30. Furthermore, don’t expect big names like Harrison Barnes to get big minutes. Once the game is in the second half, Carlisle will mainly be playing guys that will have little to no effect on the upcoming season.
However, Carlisle will likely be emphasizing his style of offense, and teaching the playbook to his players. Expect lots of swing passes across the court to escape pressure, as well as long distance shots. The Mavericks don’t have a ton of point guards, so the ball will likely move between a lot of different players. Also, without the veterans playing, the Mavericks will be really thin down low. If Adams and Kanter can get the ball in the right spots, so many easy baskets will be theirs. But by the same token, the Thunder will have to watch out for the athleticism from the Maverick bigs.
Who to watch on the Thunder
From the Thunder’s perspective, this pre-season should cool down after those two intense contests in Spain. The Thunder lost to Barcelona in overtime last Monday, and eeked by Madrid in regulation last Wednesday. Both games saw the Thunder act as ambassadors of sorts. So the onus was on Donovan to make it a competitive game.
Now though, I’m expecting the rotations can be at least a little bit more relaxed. But all of the Thunder’s big names will still get significant run. Donovan has always been a tinkerer when it comes to lineups, and generally doesn’t waste good scrimmage time. So we won’t see much of the Thunder’s training camp signees, and will likely field semi-realistic lineups throughout.
Nothing that we’ve seen from the starters and stars has been too surprising so far. No Thunder player from last season appears to have significantly changed. Most of these guys are done doing much significant development as players. The new guys? Oladipo is talented, but flawed. Sabonis has shown a clear head and tight nerves. Both of them should be rock solid additions. These games will be less about developing them as players and more about finding ways of working them into the offense. I’ve seen Oladipo work primarily on the weak side. But Oladipo also dribbles around screens inside the three point line, when he’s the featured guy on offense. Sabonis primarily scores on pick and rolls or spacing out for three.
As far as the bench goes, the guard situation is worth keeping an eye on. Alex Abrines will presumably get the minutes at the backup two. But Abrines is a rookie, and it remains to be seen whether his three and D-focused game will translate to the NBA. Abrines has proven useful so far, but both games have been against European teams. Over at point guard, Ronnie Price and Semaj Christon will be battling for the spot. Price comes in with a lot more credentials. But Price is well known for his lack of consistent shot beyond 8-10 feet. And if Christon could prove himself just a bit more offensively useful, that could be enough to displace Price. Christon will have to watch the fouls, though.
How the game will go
I’m expecting the game to be competitive in the first half. There’s just no incentive for the Thunder to lock in at this point. And I really doubt that OKC will be capable of covering Dallas’ rotation players at the three point line. But the Thunder will likely have the size to carry themselves to an easy victory in the second half.
Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 109, Dallas Mavericks 98.
What do you think of tonight’s game? Drop a comment and let us know!
Injuries: Dirk Nowitzki (Questionable), Devin Harris (Out), Salah Mejri (Out), Steven Adams (Questionable), Cameron Payne (Out), Mitch McGary (Out)
Time: 7:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Location: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
TV: NBA League Pass