With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season rapidly approaching, we thought it only fair to share what makes each team so exciting. Ontologically speaking, all 30 teams deserve our eyeballs this season. Even disastrous lineups still present oodles of plays, personalities, highlights and headaches. Here are five things to keep in mind for each team before flipping the channel.
Next up, a Thunder team waiting for Russell’s return.
[5 Reasons To Watch: Kings, Lakers, Knicks, 76ers, Bobcats, Cavs, Magic, Warriors, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Clippers, Clippers, Rockets, Bulls, Pistons, Bucks, Nets, Pacers, Wizards, Thunder, Heat, Mavericks, Celtics, Raptors Hawks, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Grizzlies, Suns, Jazz]
As one of the only NBA teams who’s neither fully invested in “Tankapalooza 2013, the fight for Andrew Wiggins” (movie idea?), or a franchise that overhauled their roster (why would they?), the Oklahoma City Thunder are poised to have another successful season behind Kevin Durant and a returning Russell Westbrook.
Though reports indicate Westbrook isn’t quite ready to set foot in an NBA hardwood within the first month of the season, the Thunder can at least manage without him before trekking towards another strong challenge for an NBA Championship.
Over the last 12 months, the Thunder’s GM Sam Presti has been forced by small market constrictions to make some impossible moves. They traded newly dubbed Houston superstar James Harden and lost replacement Kevin Martin. In return, they saw the progression of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb and increased Serge Ibaka’s role with the club, hopefully turning him into a third star and not a third wheel.
Key Additions: Steven Adams, Ryan Gomes, Andre Roberson
Key Losses: Kevin Martin, DeAndre Liggins, Ronnie Brewer
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Be Very Afraid of Russell Westbrook
All right, this should be obvious, but let’s just say it because we have too: Westbrook is a monster. No really. Look at him. He’s a freak of nature.
Outside of the goofy glasses and laughable clothing options, Russell Westbrook is legitimately a top-10 point guard in the NBA, injury or not. The thing with this season is that fans all over the country as well as the diehards in Oklahoma are all waiting for Westbrook’s return.
For the Thunder, think of this as a blessing in disguise. While not having Westbrook means relying on Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb to take the bulk of his minutes, the moment Westbrook comes back, the result of all that time for the two youngsters becomes a nightmare for opposing defenses.
First, no team outside of the Thunder will be able to properly study Westbrook the first few weeks he’s back, which makes him even more of a mismatch if he comes out as explosive as we hope. Second, the front office and Scott Brooks will finally know how far along Jackson and Lamb have come, and if they can provide steady production in the rotation behind the three star players.
So yeah, it’s actually a blessing in disguise.
The Young Bench Players
After meeting Adams at the pre-draft festivities in Manhattan this summer, the first thing I thought to myself was “Man, this guy is massive.” And as ambiguous as that may seem, it’s the exact point I’m trying to convey.
Adams is 7-0, 255 pounds. The remaining seven footer for the Thunder is Hasheem Thabeet and his skill set is still…well…Hasheem Thabeet. Adding a solid player like Adams will increase the depth in the frontcourt the Thunder have desperately lacked in several seasons. It’ll come in especially handy against the big guys (the Gasol’s, Dwight, Duncan) in the later rounds of the Western playoffs.
Furthermore, with the addition Gomes and Roberson (who got nods from NBA GM’s for preseason rookie of the year), the club now possesses two gangly wing players that can take some pressure off of Durant in Westbrook’s absence. The operative word is some, but who knows if it’s enough. Durant had to do everything in the playoffs last season after Westbrook went down, so this is just a less stressful precursor until his return.
The progression of Lamb and Jackson becomes intriguing to watch as well. Jackson’s quick crossover in transition can embarrasss teams at times. He has shown glimpses of the player Brooks would love him to be. Now with over thirty minutes a game at his disposal and Durant to feed the rock to, Jackson’s numbers could skyrocket.
Add savvy veterans like Derek Fisher and Nick Collison in the mix and the Thunder could actually have a functioning rotation. Not the same as having the best shooting guard in the league as your sixth man, but an improvement over last year’s Westbrook-less offense only required Memphis to stop Durant and ignore everyone else.