After four months, eleven trades and three pre-season games, the 2020-21 NBA season is ready to tip-off in Oklahoma City. With so many changes both on and off the court, we gathered the crew back into the conference room to make our predictions for how this year will play out.
First things first: will the Thunder finish over or under 23.5 wins this season?
Jason Uhrynowycz – Under. This season is more about experience and growth than wins and losses. Not to say OKC won’t be competitive as they have an assortment of young talent with plenty of upside, but the focus should remain on building towards the future while laying the foundation to achieve sustained success going forward.
Hunter VanDeusen – I am taking the over here. The current projected starting lineup, SGA-Hill-Dort-Bazley-Horford, is simply too strong. OKC will surprise people with some early season success, before Presti sends Hill and maybe Horford to contenders. I believe OKC’s early season success leads to around 27 wins.
Kade Kimble – Over. I do not see a world where the Thunder intentionally lose games. Although they traded an abundance of players, the team still has a lineup that I am confident can win around 25 games in this 72-game season.
Cody Beat – I think that the win total will be entirely dependent on if any of the vets on the roster are here for a bulk of the season. Hill and Horford have the NBA pedigree to bring a team close to the middle of the pack, especially one with a rising star in SGA. I would expect Hill to be traded before the deadline, and for Horford to be here for the year. I’ll take the over and say the Thunder win 28 games.
Dillon Young – Over. I’m actually a little worried about how the “TANK!” crowd will handle the Thunder winning games. They might be young, but there’s still 23.5+ wins of talent on the roster. I think the Thunder can “try” during the season and still end up with a high draft pick.
With the Big Kiwi, CP3, Gallo and Dennis gone, SGA now holds the keys to the team. Will he successfully fill into the lead role this season?
Hunter VanDeusen – Shai comes into his 3rd season fully prepared to take the reins of an NBA team. The preseason gave us a glimpse into an improved SGA. Shai showed flashes of brilliance offensively, however like Sam Presti said, improved defense will elevate him to new levels. Playing with elite effort on the defensive end will translate to all areas of Shai’s game including his leadership.
Kade Kimble – I am very confident that SGA can take this team and run with it. Shai has worked day and night to get to where he is, ultimately putting him in the position to lead a youthful Thunder team. Luckily, he had CP3 to learn from this past year, showing him the ropes to leading a team.
Cody Beat – SGA on paper has the talent to become an upper-echelon guard in the association. This year will be huge in his development considering it is his first as the guy. Can he lead a team as the alpha? Can he evolve more on the defensive end of the ball? I think back to Harden’s first year in Houston and see a lot of similarities in their games at this point in their career. Harden averaged 25/5/6 his first year in Houston, I would not be surprised if SGA flirts with that stat line this year.
Bobby Howard – For much of Shai’s first two years in the league, we’ve seen the sparks that he could potentially be the man: primary ball-handler, All-Star, etc. We’ve only seen a few minutes of SGA without Paul or Schroder to lean on and they weren’t exactly remarkable. While I am bullish on Point-Shai, I do think it will take a few tough months for him to truly get the hang of being the nightly focal point of the offense.
Dillon Young – This one is interesting. I’m not sure Shai can be a “Batman” on a championship caliber team, but I do think he can be the man on a bad team. I’d expect a lot of growth from Shai this year, along with some slumps that come along with his new-found responsibilities.
Who was the Thunder’s pre-season MVP?
Jason Uhrynowycz – Lest we forget, Al Horford is a 5x All-Star and former All-NBA / All-Defensive teamer. Sans a forgettable year in Philly, Horford has averaged 14 points and 8 rebounds like clockwork during his 13 year career. By the looks of his pre-season performance (16 pts / 7.5 reb), the talented vet is ready to continue that trend. Don’t sleep on Uncle Al.
Hunter VanDeusen – MOOOOSE. After going 7-10 from deep in the preseason, Musky looks primed and ready to be the sharpshooter for this Thunder team. Muscala’s smooth stroke from deep led to a team high +24 in the preseason and an MVP worthy performance. Could the 29 year old vet be on the verge of a breakout season??
Cody Beat – I’m going out of the box here and saying Poku. A lot of questions surrounding his playing style and body frame after the draft, but this Serbian appears to be the real deal. He may look like a young Bambi running around on the hardwood, but he quietly averaged 11 points and 9 rebounds a game while shooting 35% from 3. Not bad for a mid first-round pick.
Bobby Howard – The preseason is about irrational hype for performances that ultimately do not count. For me, no player produced more of that hype than Theo Maledon. The young Frenchman has a seasoned feel for the game and is an incredibly smooth scorer that can handle the ball at an NBA level. Sure, he had one outstanding game, one average game and a DNP, but my lasting memory of this preseason will be Maledon and our (probably foolish) excitement of possessing the next Tony Parker.
Dillon Young – I drafted Al Horford in my fantasy basketball league and I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I am to see him play well in the preseason. For this reason, Big Al is my MVP of the games that don’t matter.
Dortmania took Oklahoma City by storm last season. Who will be the next fan favorite in OKC this season?
Jason Uhrynowycz – Barring a complete flop this season, the (almost) 19 year old 7’ foot rookie out of Serbia, Aleksej Pokusevski, should step into the role of fan favorite almost immediately. “Pokumon” has already displayed a unique ball handling skill set and 3-point shooting ability that is not common for an athlete of his stature. It will be exciting to watch the young man grow (and eat) into the player Sam Presti and the Thunder envisioned when they drafted him #17 overall. Gotta Swish Em’ All!
Hunter VanDeusen – Only one Thunder player is the star of a documentary. Fresh off his fascinating documentary “Gap Year”, Darius Bazley looks ready to step into his new role in OKC. From fashion to social media to the nickname, was there ever a better fan favorite for a tanking team than “The Intern?” I think not.
Kade Kimble – Mike Muscala. The moose was one of the fan favorites on last year’s team, and one of the few that remained in OKC. Muscala will enter his second year with the team with much more room for playing time and more shots. With this year expected to be a tanking year, Muscala will give us Thunder fans something to get extremely hyped for.
Bobby Howard – How could it not be Poku? The man has a body built like a string bean, rocks fanny packs to the arena and has never met a shot he didn’t like. There will be on court growing pains, sure. However, there is no player on the roster that would create a more exciting hot streak than our young Serbian son.
Dillon Young – It’s going to be Darius Bazley. I really expect Thunder fans to find a love for Baze like they did for Steven Adams. His natural talent mixed with his great sense of humor will lead to a lot of “Bazley” jerseys in the arena when fans are allowed back in.
The Thunder are not likely going to win a lot of games this season, but that doesn’t mean this team won’t be tons of fun. What are you most looking forward to seeing this season?
Kade Kimble – Progression. This is the easy, most obvious answer. I am excited to see if Shai can push further to the all-star level that he is destined to get to. I also hope that we get a better feel for Bazley and his true potential. This young Thunder team has much potential to be a fun team to follow and cover simply because of the personalities and chemistry.
Hunter VanDeusen – Sam Presti. The current roster most likely wins too many games, so what does Sam get back in return for George Hill or Al Horford? Can the Thunder rehab the value of Al so much as to receive another first round pick? Does Presti get involved as a 3rd team in a Harden trade to take on unwanted contracts? In a season that might be tough on the court, I’m excited to see what Presti does off.
Cody Beat – Development from the young guys on the roster. Presti has replenished and re-tooled this roster swiftly, seeing most of the production from last year’s team gone. It appears the organization is all in on seeing if SGA can be a top tier player. Throw in the other young players such as Bazley, Dort, Maledon, and Poku it should be a year to see how fast these guys can evolve their games. The organization should have a better understanding of what this core can do heading into a deep 2021 draft class.
Bobby Howard – The piece of mind of knowing that any result is a good result. If the Thunder lose, that’s fine! Each L we take is one ping pong ball closer to Cade Cunningham. If they win, that’s also awesome! Winning is a fun time and this group of guys will be fun to cheer for. This season will be a relaxing, enjoyable journey, but only if you let it.
Dillon Young – A few things. A possible All-Star season from Shai? Can Lu Dort put together a full season of being a legit NBA starter? How big of a leap can Darius Bazley take? I’m also excited to care about/watch the top prospects in the college ranks for once.