Bricktown Beat

Preseason Takeaways: Are the OKC Starters the Real Deal?

Going into the preseason, the expectation for the Oklahoma City Thunder starters were really up in air. Would SGA be able to take the next step and be our PG of the future, could Dort elevate things on offense, how would Bazley adapt to becoming the starting PF, and would Al Horford even be able to produce on our team?

Obviously, the same size is small, but here are my key takeaways on every Thunder starter for us this preseason.

Shai Gilgeous Alexander

Preseason Stats: 12.7 Points, 2.3 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 47% FG, 20% 3pt. 21.2 MPG

The first question that may immediately pop-out is what’s with the numbers being so slow?

The answer: His role this preseason really varied, he was not the ball-handler for all the minutes he was on the court. In the three preseason games, the ball-handling job was distributed between SGA, George Hill, Theo Maledon in Wednesday’s game, and a bit of Darius Bazley. Trying to paint a picture that SGA was not the primary ball-handler is just disingenuous as he was with the ball most of the time, but fully expect him to have way more reps with the ball in the regular season.

Play in Transition

SGA’s play in transition, is what distinctly popped out watching back on his preseason tape. The 0 to 100 speed SGA put on display was insane and it led to breakdowns in the opposing defenses pretty much every time he was leading the fastbreak.

At the start of this play, SGA was really just cruising up the court, but right as he passed the timeline things changed. The sudden uptick in speed took his man completely out of the equation as the only way for his to prevent the layup would have been to foul him. With SGA’s defender out of the play both of San Antiono’s big men Trey Lyles and Lamarcus Aldridge came to help out. This 1-on-3 situation made it too easy for SGA as his kick out to Isaiah Roby was right on target and gave him a wide open look (which he passed up on for one even more open.)

This was not an occurrence just in transition. SGA had plays near identical to this just instead of on the fastbreak, they were in the half court.

These decision making skills in the paint and ability to take over 1-on-1 is a very promising sign for both the finishing and playmaking aspect of his game. Expect for him to be dropping 6+ assists a contest.

In terms of shooting, things were not pretty, he shot 2/10 from beyond the arch. You cannot make any real conclusions from a sample size this small, but something to think about is this: A ton of SGA’s points came off the catch and shoot, as Chris Paul did a great job finding him for open looks. His chances at having an open catch and shoot shot now are way lower due to him being the main PG, so most of his points he will have to create himself. He showed he could do so all of last year, but with him being more of a target on opponents gameplans, he may need to find ways to score with defender’s blanketed all over him.

Recap: SGA proved his playmaking is the real deal, the only thing up in the air is his shooting.

Luguentz Dort

Preseason Stats: 2.5 Points, 2.5 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 9.1% FG, 14.3% 3pt. 20.6MPG

For Lu Dort, there were two things to monitor in the preseason.

1) How would he respond to Zach Lavine?

2) Would he have a consistent shot?

In regards to guarding Zach Lavine, he struggled. Lavine dropped 16 first quarter points in the CHI-OKC preseason game. Lavine’s playstyle is similar to Harden’s as they rely on shot creating from outside, but also will go right at you as they are both some of the best penetrators in the game. Lavine’s speed is really unparalleled when attacking the basket, at Dort simply could not keep up.

For shooting, Dort was a combined 1-11, with his only make coming from 3 (going 1/7 from 3.) Though the shooting numbers are atrocious, there is some good that comes out of this. Dort was shooting the ball with the same confidence he had in game 7 of the playoffs last season.

Recap: Dort struggled containing Lavine in his two preseason games and could not fin the bottom of the basket on offense, however his confidence level despite struggling is a net positive.

Darius Bazley

Preseason Stats:8.5 Points, 6.5 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 41.2%FG, 50.0%3pt.20.9MPG

Coming into the preseason, Bazley was being touted as the team’s secondary ball-handler alongside SGA, he really did not get a lot of reps there, but when he did he showed he had the capability to create for himself.

What he show a lot of was that he has not lost a beat from behind the arch, going 3/6 from downtown. Defenders really were caught up in a lose-lose situation because playing tight on Bazley leaves them susceptible to being blown-by and sagging off results in him shooting 50% from 3…

Bazley’s speed and athleticism is that of a Small Forward and placing him at Power Forward makes it near impossible for bigs to cover him.

Look at this play. What other Power Forwards in the league can do this?

Now you aren’t getting that kind of speed from Bazley in the halfcourt but the point still stands that he does not move like a traditional big and it gives him a step up on the competition.

The biggest thing to look for in Bazley’s preseason was if he could defend Chicago’s bigs. He held the paint down for the most part, and proved he can be a long-term PF.

Recap: Bazley was not given as many ball-handling opportunities that you would like but still made the most of them. He continued to play great from 3 and was able to make some great plays inside. Defensively, he held up well enough, he’ll be able to play at PF.

Al Horford

Preseason Stats: 16.0 Points, 7.5 Rebounds, 0.5 Assists, 63.2%FG, 66.7%3pt.

17.8MPG

For Al Horford, the expectations were kind of air in the air. On one hand, he’s one of the most established centers in the NBA, but on the other hand, no one really knew how he’d fit with the team. At age 34, and being a pretty immobile center playing with a young, fast paced starting unit with SGA, Dort, and Bazley makes him look out of place on the surface.

That would most likely be the case if not for his shooting. Horford 6/9 from deep in the preseason, and did not disrupt the offense by any means. If anything, he was the one producing it.

Horford dropped his splits of 16/7.5/0.5 in just the first halves of both his preseason games. His 16 points made him the leader in scoring and his 7.5 rebounds had him as the second highest rebounder on the team, only behind rookie Aleksej Pokusevski who had 9.3.

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