Bricktown Beat

Thunder @ Hornets Preview, What to Expect in Our Season Opener.

Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0) @ Charlotte Hornets (0-1)

Tip Off: 6pm CST

How To Watch: FSOK

Overview

The Thunder excepted to kick off their season against the Rockets on the 23rd, in Houston. However; due to the Rockets failing to meet the league requirement of having eight players active, the game was postponed. This game will be a great test as both the Thunder and the Hornets are really both trying to feel out what they have in their roster talent wise, and what direction their team may be going this season.

Game Notes:

The Thunder have two players listed as out tonight:

Ty Jerome (Left Ankle Sprain)

Trevor Ariza (Personal)

The Hornets have two players listed as out tonight:

Cody Zeller (Hand)

Grant Riller (Knee)

Saturday’s Starting Five:

PG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

SG: George Hill

SF: Luguentz Dort

PF: Darius Bazley

C: Al Horford

Key Matchup:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander vs. The Charlotte Guards

In the preseason, SGA showed off why Sam Presti and the rest of the Thunder organization believe he could be the next great point guard for the franchise. His display of drawing defenders in on fastbreaks, and hitting the open man show great signs of progress in his game. Even in the halfcourt, Shai was not shying away from creating shots for others.

With Ty Jerome out for the team tonight and George Hill starting tonight’s game off at the 2, expect to see SGA playing 30+ minutes at the point. He will be the team’s primary distributor, and have the go-ahead to create shots of his own.

This game will be a great test for SGA, the Charlotte’s three-guard lineup of Ball, Graham, and Rozier will give him a constant battle all night. With Rozier coming off a career night SGA will need to be active on defense to limit him from scoring.

Even if you take Rozier out of the equation, both LaMelo Ball and Devonte’ Graham have the chance to erupt. Ball, this years 3rd pick, has had the spotlight on him since his early days in high school. The 6’7″ guard struggled to find the bottom of the basket in his debut, shooting 0-5, but his outings before his time in Charlotte show he is more than capable of scoring.

Who To Watch:

CHA- Terry Rozier- PG

Rozier dropped an astounding 42 points (on 15/23 shooting), 3 rebounds, and 2 assists in Charlotte’s 114-121 opener against the Cavaliers.

Rozier dropped 17 points in 25 minutes during the Hornets preseason run, but I would not rule out Rozier dropping 20+ tonight coming off the performance he had on Wednesday evening.

CHA- Gordon Hayward- SF

Hayward played quite well last season in what was seemingly a backseat role in Boston, dropping splits of 17.5/6.7/4.1 in 33.5 minutes.

Hayward seems to be a focal point of the Hornets offense, and with him given the greenlight to manage the team’s offense he was impressive in his debut. Hayward scored 28 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists in 36 minutes.

Darius Bazely- PF

Bazley put on full display why he is one of the brightest players in the league this preseason, showcasing really every skill you would’ve like to have seen from him. The 20-year-old forward possesses great athleticism, a knack to create for himself, and to dribble the ball to free up others.

Bazley was not given as many reps as you would have liked managing the ball in the preseason. But, with Hornets big Cody Zeller sidelined, the Hornets will we very thin at the PF/C spots, giving Bazley a golden opportunity to dominate on some of the Hornets bigs off the bench.

The starting power-forward for the Hornets is P.J. Washington, Washington is a perfect test for Baze as he comes in at 6’7″ 236 lbs. Bazley has the height advantage and athletic advantage over the less-nimble Washington, so he should have some times to shine.

Aleksej Pokusevski- SF/PF

Pokusevski, the Thunder’s 1st round selection, is celebrating his 19th birthday today. Poku should have the chance to make it a very memorable one. With forward Trevor Ariza out for tonight’s game, and Darius Miller potentially having a limited run after coming off an injury, Poku should be seeing the court a lot.

Poku averaged 11.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in his preseason with the Thunder, shooting 35% from deep. The expectation is that he will be given a 15-20 minutes role off the bench tonight as a catch-and-shoot player with the shot or two to create with the ball in his hands.

Honorable Mentions:

Theo Maledon- PG

Maledon should be given a solid role off the bench tonight, he showed tremendous ability in the preseason, and it could easily transfer over tonight.

Josh Hall- SF

Hall, an UDFA and one of the Thunder’s 2-Way players, will have a big opportunity to impress tonight if given a chance. As with so many forwards gone, he may hear his name called.

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