The 2019 Thunder are going to be very different from the 2018 Thunder and that’s mainly because Carmelo Anthony is now gone. No offense to Carmelo, but he did not work on this team and this team did not work with him on there. With him gone, there is hope. This was a top defensive team last season and should pick right back up there this season. That said, this team finished 48-34 last season and I’m not sure they will top that number this year. Their win total is set at 49.5 wins.
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The team did make a couple of nice moves in the offseason, including an absolute steal of a trade to get Dennis Schroder for Carmelo’s contract. Schroder definitely played his way out of Atlanta, but in coming here he’s instantly the best back-up point guard in the league. If this team can convince Westbrook to play some off-ball with Schroder handling the ball, they could unlock something that we’ve never quite seen from a Westbrook team and it could be awesome.
One place this team does not lack is in big men. Steven Adams is one of the more underrated players in the league as he is a beast on defense and willing to do all the little things. They have Jerami Grant taking a bigger role this year and he should fill a similar role. Throw in Patrick Patterson and Nerlens Noel, and it’s easy to see why this team was top-3 in rebound percentage last season and should be again this year. They are tough.
This team’s fortunes come down to Westbrook and Paul George. They are pretty much 90% of their team’s offense and each game will come down to how they play. If they can create a cohesive unit, I like them. If they do the kind of “take turns” stuff that they so often did with Westbrook/Durant teams, I don’t like them.
There is always injury issues as well. Westbrook will be coming off a surgery and will probably miss opening night. As hard as he has went the past few seasons, he should be considered an injury risk from here on out.
I just don’t really think this team is going to go over. 46-49 wins feels like where they will land. There is too many scoring questions behind the top two, I’m not sure I believe in Billy Donovan as a coach and the depth is worrisome. The lack of Andre Roberson early with Westbrook making his way back at the same time could lead to a sluggish start that keeps this team under. That’s where I’m going.
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