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Thunder vs. Pistons game preview: What to watch in Summer League debut

The last time the Oklahoma City Thunder notched national-television screens, the Chris Paul-led Thunder suffered a Game 7 heartbreak against the Houston Rockets. Now, 340 days later, the Oklahoma City Thunder are back on the big screens. This time, they’ll be taking on the Detroit Pistons in their Summer League debut.

Hosted at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Thunder (0-0) and Pistons (0-0) are set to square off at 7:30 CST on ESPN2. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, the Pistons enter the contest as a 5.5 point favorite.

The Oklahoma City Thunder roll into Vegas headlined by sophomore Theo Maledon. Behind Theo, rookies Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Aaron Wiggins are anticipated to receive hefty minutes. As for returning names, Charlie Brown Jr., Josh Hall, and Jaylen Hoard are productive pieces expected to carve out roles. Off of the bench, Rob Edwards and Ryan Woolridge join the Thunder after stints with the Blue.

A full breakdown of the Thunder’s 13-man roster can be found here

After hitting big in June’s NBA Lottery, the Detroit Pistons nabbed Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 Pick in the draft. Behind Cunningham, the Pistons harvest a bushel of returning talent highlighted by sophomores Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Sekou Doumbouya, among others.

With the Thunder’s tallest player standing at 6-foot-9 — they’ll enter down in the height column. That’s a stat that Grant Gibbs has yet to face as a Head Coach. Look towards frontcourt pieces in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jaylen Hoard, and Oscar da Silva as players expected to hold down the interior. If successful in shutting down the paint, Oklahoma City has solid odds to nab a victory.

The Pistons won’t make it easy for the Thunder to strap down the paint, as their tantalizing frontcourt creates a serious challenge for Oklahoma City. Isaiah Stewart posted 15 points and 22 rebounds in a late-April matchup versus the Thunder — he simply outmuscled the competition. At the power forward position, Tyler Cook outscored Moses Brown 26-22 in the G-League bubble. The accolade of outscoring Brown occurred just one other time in the G-League season. Cook isn’t oversized as he’s a modest 6-foot-8, but his springy play makes him a double-double machine who can brute force his way inside, or rack up an abundance of rebounds. 

For Oklahoma City, their money-maker will rest in their new draft acquisition. Josh Giddey will enter a jousting match versus Cade Cunningham in this game as at 6-foot-8, he’s the perfect matchup against the Pistons’ new centerpiece. Giddey excels in the halfcourt, riddling off passes to his teammates, but if he can get it going from a distance — this game gets flipped on its head. If Giddey sticks to distributing, Tre Mann, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, and Aaron Wiggins are spot-up candidates. At 6-foot-5, Mann makes an intriguing matchup as the guard is both lethal off the ball, and creating off of stepbacks and floaters. If given proper minutes, look towards Oklahoma City Blue standout Rob Edwards to put up points in a jiffy.

The contest will mark Oklahoma City’s first of four contests before either playing the league championship or in a friendly match.

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