A quick write-up on the glaring questions the Thunder left their fans with after their win over Barcelona in the pre-season. Many fish puns included.
See? What did Douglas Adams tell you? Keep calm, and don't panic. Well, maybe worry instead of panic. The Thunder's first preseason win was a closely contested match against Barcelona with a final score of 92-89. Enes Kanter lead Oklahoma City with 24 points, 8 rebounds, and a clutch free-throw to put the game on ice.
But Oklahoma City, now 1-1 in the preseason can head back to the United States after their European road trip with three big questions on everyone's mind.
1. Will Steven Adams be okay?
After a landing awkwardly on someone's foot and hobbling off the court in the Thunder's first preseason game, starting center Steven Adams sat out their second preseason game against Barcelona with a sprained ankle. Adams will be reevaluated when the team returns to Oklahoma City but all signs point to him being perfectly fine for the regular season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. Against Barcelona though Enes Kanter got the start and the lack of Adams's rim protection was immediately felt. Kanter's inability to defend was exposed by Barcelona as they were able to dunk and attack the rim with relative ease. Kanter recorded zero blocks for the game against Barcelona. Hopefully Adams takes the entire preseason to rest up his sprained ankle, as his interior defense is desperately needed by the Thunder.
2. What is up with the Thunder's defense?
Seriously. What is up with the Thunder's defense? In their first game against Real Madrid Oklahoma City gave up 142 points, getting torched from beyond the three-point line allowing Real Madrid to shoot at a 54.1% clip. Against Barcelona it was more of the same allowing 45.2% of the Spanish club's 3-pointers to go in. Understandably it is the preseason with way too many players getting on the floor at times for Oklahoma City but something has to give. Against NBA talent the Thunder are going to be in a dire situation come the regular season if they do not tighten things up on the perimeter. As for the interior, the Thunder have been lacking Steven Adams for the vast majority of the preseason so far and will look to soldier on defensively without him. Billy Donovan and the Thunder coaching staff have a massive project ahead of them as they try to clog up a very porous defense.
3. What will Oklahoma City's power forward rotation look like?
After two preseason games under their belts, Enes Kanter, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova all have played well for Oklahoma City. Kanter has been the typical offensive juggernaut both starting and off the bench with averages of 26.5 points and 9 rebounds. Ilyasova has been a three-point specialist so far for the Thunder, shooting 66.7% from beyond the arc. Ilyasova has also averaged 8.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in both preseason games. The biggest surprise though is Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis has earned the starting power forward role in both EuroLeague preseason games and hasn't disappointed. Sabonis has averages of 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists scoring from both inside and outside the arc.
With all three players playing so well and vying for the lion's share of minutes things will be difficult for head coach Billy Donovan. If the season were to start today it would not be a surprise if Sabonis earned the start due to his playmaking ability and ability to score from different locations. Ilyasova would be the primary backup for Sabonis with players like Nick Collison and Mitch McGary never touching the floor for Oklahoma City. Enes Kanter would then slide back to his natural center position and continue his dominance off the bench for Oklahoma City due to the fact that his play-making ability is non-existent, when compared to Sabonis. But, the Thunder can continue to run their "Massive Mustachioed Lineup" in late game situations with both Adams and Kanter sharing the floor at the same time.
As Oklahoma City returns to the United States after spending time overseas, NBA fans and analysts got the first look at life for the Thunder after Kevin Durant. While the immediate reaction after the first game was to panic, the second game exposed some flaws in the Thunder that should make some fans worry a bit. Twice now they have floundered on defense and look like fish out of water, playing down to the talent level of their opponents. Being baited into allowing an alarming 3-point percentage is also killing the squad, by giving up any semblance of a lead. Oklahoma City will look like little fish in a big pond when they play sharks such as the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers if they do not correct this problem as quickly as possible.
Now that their two-game excursion in Europe is over we say so long to Barcelona. And thanks for all the fish.