Cover Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images


[In the 30 days leading up to the season opener, we'll preview all 30 NBA teams, from Tanking Teams to Lottery Leaders to Warriors Wannabes. Tanking Teams are fighting for the No. 1 pick. Lottery Leaders could make the playoffs, or they could land in the lottery. Warriors Wannabes are title contenders. Then there are the Warriors in a league by themselves. Team 7 in our preseason rankings is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Check back every day for previews of every team in the NBA followed by our complete preseason rankings.]


Key Losses: Carmelo Anthony, Kyle Singler, Dakari Johnson. All three of these losses are actually gains for the Thunder. The biggest move here was clearly Anthony, who seemed nearly impossible to move. He's a future Hall of Famer, but just isn't the Melo we used to know. He's always been a defensive liability, and had an albatross of a contract. Trading him not only freed up minutes and shots for younger, more deserving players, but also allowed the Thunder to acquire players who can contribute immediately.


Key Returns: Paul George, Steven Adams, Raymond Felton, Jerami Grant. The Thunder had a phenomenal offseason and that isn't just because they ditched Melo. Before we address the move that keeps the Thunder in the hunt, it's important to applaud this front office for bringing back important role players. You can't have a better backup point guard than Felton. He can score when called upon, is solid on defense, and shot a serviceable 35 percent from deep last year. Grant is another player who is underrated when it comes to the success of the Thunder. He has the ability to stretch the floor, can guard the four or the three, and is a gifted athlete. Grant will remain important off the bench. And don't forget what Adams brings to the floor on both the offensive and defensive end.


As you could've guessed, the real plus here is George surprisingly re-signing. He's one of the top 20 players in the game, is a force on both ends, and takes the pressure off of Westbrook offensively. He's one player who can take over games and could be an MVP candidate, if he stays healthy.

Key Additions: Dennis Schroder, Nerlens Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Hamidou Diallo. The Thunder's second unit looks infinitely better thanks to some of the moves they made. Diallo and TLC are both lengthy wings who can end up being nightmares for opposing offenses. They'll be competing for minutes, but both could end up being defensive stoppers when this team desperately needs one.

Schroder is the big addition here above all else. Not only does he provide help on both ends, but he immediately becomes a contender for Sixth Man of the Year. He won't be expected to score at the high clip he did last season, considering the Hawks had absolutely no one. but he can if he has to. Adding a player who averaged a career-high 19.4 points per game to your second unit is certainly something defenses need to look out for. He does need to get back to solid shooting from deep though, as his 29 percent shooting from three won't fly.

Noel is a low-risk, high-reward player who could end up thriving. Despite the fact that he hasn't met high expectations, you know exactly what you're getting with him. He's a solid pick-and-roll threat, can command attention on lobs, and immediately makes the low-post defense better as a rim protector. If he and Adams are on the court together at any point, it's going to be hard to score in the paint against them. 

X-Factor: Andre Roberson. Yes, we all know how good this team is thanks to Westbrook and George. The former is the greatest triple-double machine this league has ever seen and he might not even be the best player on this team, thanks to the latter. Adams is another monster who needs to be watched closely, but this team is different with Roberson on the court. The Thunder have the luxury of not needing him as a scorer, but desperately need him as the lock-down defender he is. With him on the court, Roberson can guard the opposition's best guard, allowing Westbrook to save his energy for offense. He can essentially cover any player who isn't a big man as one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. If Roberson returns to his old form, prior to the knee injury that kept him out for the majority of the 2017-18 season, this team goes to the next level -- one that can compete for a title.

Betting Odds: The Thunder's over/under win total is 49.5 and their odds to win the NBA championship currently sit at +3400.


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