Going into this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder will actually have some expectations.
Major television networks will actually be airing the team more. There's actually a big rumor going around that ABC wants the Thunder for a Christmas Day game. Is that huge? Yes.
Russell Westbrook will be entering a season with zero critics questioning his ability to play the point. In fact, he's almost pulled a complete 180 degree turn from where he was last season. He'll be looked at as one of the better guards in the league, especially at slashing.
There is quite a bit of curiosity about the Thunder this season. People will be wondering where they'll go after a 50-win season.
I actually have a few questions of my own that I hope are answered by the All-Star game.
1. How will Kevin Durant's performance change after experiencing international play?
Kevin Durant has said he has worked extremely hard to improve defensively for Europe's stellar offensive players. He's also said on Twitter that he has worked extremely hard on his shot and his ball-handling for this year's FIBA play.
It will be interesting to see how he takes advantage of his newfound skills after a year where he won the scoring title.
2. How will Jeff Green respond to a little bit of criticism after a subpar year?
Jeff Green took a little bit of heat this offseason after some people thought he should've been traded for one of the highly touted free agents. Personally, I'm glad that he stayed.
He won a lot of games last year for the Thunder and will improve. Although, it's ultimately up to Uncle Jeff. How bad does he want to get better? Only time will tell.
3. Will coach Scott Brooks focus more on offense this year after working solely on defense in last year's offseason?
Scott Brooks publicly said last season that the team never worked on offense before the season started. For a coach to take a risk like that is pretty awesome.
Either way, it paid off as Oklahoma City was one of the best defensive teams last season.
However, this is a new season and the team knows the foundation of Brooks' defensive scheme. I'd like to see coach Brooks implement some more plays to get Russell Westbrook one on one with a guard or a pass to leave James Harden open in the corner.
4. Can the Oklahoma City crowd be anywhere near the level they were at in the playoffs in this year's regular season's big games?
Oklahoma City's crowd last season was awesome. Just plain awesome. From the t-shirts to the mascot, everything was electric. Every player on the team has said that it gave them extra energy and that it somehow brought the team closer.
The question is how will the crowd be during a regular season Thunder-Spurs game? Since everyone has said that Oklahoma City has a college-like atmosphere, they should do college-atmosphere type things.
How cool would it be to see a white-out for a regular season game against the Lakers or Heat at home? That would make the Thunder stand out so much and attract a lot of attention from the media.
5. Will Kevin Durant be more of a vocal leader after being the head honcho at this summer's FIBA World Championships?
Kevin Durant has always been the quiet leader. He has led by example his entire basketball career. From his AAU days, to Texas, now to Oklahoma City. But there comes a point where he has to learn what Kobe learned.
He can't do everything just by shooting the ball every possession. He'll have to do stuff like get on Westbrook when he doesn't think he's playing hard on the defensive end like he does on the random occasion.
6. Will Russell Westbrook find a three-point shot?
This might sound like a minor thing, but to me, this is what will take the Thunder to the next level.
If Westbrook could have a consistent three-point shot, defenders would have to play up on him from the top of the key. It's painful to watch Westbrook have the ball at the top of the arch and defenders are playing back on him from the free-throw line.
If they were forced to play up, he'd easily be able to run right past them with his speed. Then if they play off to try and contain him from getting to the basket, he nails down a trey ball.