Hello! We’re just hours away from tipping off the new Thunder season and I wanted to say a quick hi to everyone. My name is Kevin Nesgoda and I’ll be the site manager for the season and grooming the future of the site. There are some big shoes to fill here in “replacing” both J.A. and Jon. Yes, I am from Seattle and I have very critical of the organization in the past on certain moves. Please, do not hold any of that against me. The reason I took this position is because of the writing team here. I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff here at WTLC over the years and I love the people at the site. They are a great group and I wanted to make sure there was good leadership in place to help them grow and help the site grow.
I look forward to hearing from a lot of you this season and hope you enjoy what we write. In the comments please hit us up with stuff you’d like to see going forward as well.
Now, on with the show!
What are you expecting from the team this season?
Mystery Contributor: I don’t expect Oklahoma City to make the playoffs this year but if no moves are made and this current roster plays out the entire season it wouldn’t shock me if they were in the hunt for the eighth seed towards the end of the season.
Reid: I expect the high 30s in win totals, and a totally different style of play, borderline unrecognizable from the last decade of Thunder basketball. I don’t think we’ll make the playoffs, but we’ll all finish the year feeling pretty good.
Ben: Development. I want Shai to get 30 + minutes a night, including ample minutes where he’s the only guard, I want Bazley and Diallo in the rotation, I want T-Ferg to try and dribble, and I want Adams to splash some 3’s.
Kevin: General improvement. There is not a lot of expectations on the team this year, so I think as fans you need to be patient with the team and see how they improve from game to game, week to week, month to month. If the Thunder are a better team in April than they were in October then the season can be considered a success.
Does Steven Adams finish the year with the Thunder?
MC: Adams will finish the year with OKC, due to the fact no contender will be willing to take on his contract. Most contenders tend to take moves for knockdown shooters, or superstar talent, which Adams is neither of.
Reid: That contract is for sure an issue. But if he’s hitting 3’s (he made one!), and he starts rebounding above Drummond levels (EASY now that Russ is gone), and scoring 2-4 more points a game, he’s gone.
Ben: I think he finishes out the year and gets moved in the summer after having a career year in points and rebounds.
Kevin: His contract is very tough to move and another team or two would have to get involved and this makes moving him a lot tougher. A lot of teams are going to be inquiring (Clippers, Blazers) about him throughout the year. I think he does get moved before the deadline.
Does Danilo Gallinari finish the year with the Thunder?
MC: Danilo won’t finish the year with Thunder, although this is predicated on whether or not the Thunder can get rid of Chris Paul and Steven Adams’s contracts. If neither Paul or Adams are traded, Danilo will traded elsewhere in a salary dump for the Thunder.
Reid: Maybe? He’s in a great place to build off his career year from last year. How good he is and when he’s at his best determine is he’s moved or not.
Ben: Gallo is almost a lock to get moved. He has a contract that a lot of teams can fit, provides a ton of value to teams that already have a star or two but need a little extra punch from their role players, and doesn’t factor into OKC’s long term plans. Some contender or pseudo-contender pulls the trigger on trading for him, and probably only needs to give up a single first-round pick to do it.
Kevin: This is the easiest one. He will more than likely be gone before Christmas. He’s got an expiring deal and if the Thunder agreed to take some salary, he’ll be even easier to move.
Does Chris Paul finish the year with the Thunder?
MC: Chris Paul finishing the year is based on his performance. If now that he is primarily on ball again plays well and his numbers show it he will most likely be moved very quickly. Yet, if he shows more regression then he will stay in Oklahoma City mentoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Personally, I think Paul will look like his old self so he won’t stay in a Thunder jersey for long this season.
Reid: No. He’ll play like he did last year when he didn’t share the floor with Harden (very, very well), and he’ll be gone by Christmas.
Ben: CP3 is still a top 50 player in the league at worst, but his contract is enormous. The better bet is he gets moved in the offseason when he only has 2 years left on his deal and teams realize there is almost no talent to be had in the barren 2020 free agency class.
Kevin: As Ben said the cupboard is bare for the next free-agency season. Miami really wants him, but they currently don’t have the assets to get him and the Thunder don’t want to Dragic. There will be a lot of interest, but Presti won’t move him for the sake of moving him. Moving does allow Shai to play more point guard and this is where the Thunder needs him the most this season.
Does Billy Donovan finish the year with the Thunder?
MC: I believe Donovan will finish the season with the Thunder based on the fact that they don’t have high expectations entering the season unlike in years previous. However, I expect Sam Presti to fire Donovan in the offseason once he establishes a roster that will start the Thunder’s rebuilding process.
Reid: Yes. It’s a low stakes year. You’d have to do something illegal to get fired in this situation.
Ben: If he survived 3 straight first-round exits (2 of which he should have won), he can survive a year where everyone knows the team is likely headed nowhere.
Kevin: Yes, this is easy. Unless they could get a Pop, Carlisle, or a 100% revitalized Phil Jackson then Donovan isn’t going anywhere.
What is something about the Thunder that you expect to surprise people this season?
MC: My biggest surprise is that this team will play spoiler a lot of nights to some of the elite teams in the western conference. I believe the Thunder will cause losses to some of the elite teams in the western conference that will affect playoff seeding later on.
Reid: I think we’re just going to be a really tough team. I think Ferg and Hami and Adams will have breakout years, respectively. For the former two, that means becoming established as solid/good rotation players. For Adams, that means being an all-star reserve level player.
Ben: People will be surprised by how much passing the Thunder do compare to years past and how many more plays with multiple actions they run. People will also be surprised to see how few wins that translate to if the talent isn’t there
Kevin: Even though they are going to be toward the bottom of the West they are going to be a tough team to beat. That is unless lots of pieces start getting moved. Then this team is going to lose by 20 plus on most nights.
What is the record you think the Thunder achieve this year?
MC: I predict a record of 42-40 for the Thunder. A seven-game drop off from last season and will have them more than likely in the 9-12 seeding range. With this record, it would be a typically miss the playoffs in the west, but would make the playoffs in the east scenario.
Reid: I’m going 38-44.
Ben: I went on some other team’s podcasts this season and felt like a homer for saying OKC would get to 30 wins, and now I’m the pessimist among you guys! Oh well. I say 33-49.
Kevin: The Thunder have a brutal first 20ish games. There are only a couple in there that should be winnable, but most of them scream loss. If things go downhill fast I think the moving of parts will happen quicker than expected. The team won’t come close to sniffing .500, I think they’ll finish in the 30-32 win range.