Well folks, it’s finally here. The NBA Season gets underway tomorrow night with a double-header on TNT. The Boston Celtics take on the Miami Heat at 7:30 P.M. and the Houston Rockets take on the Lakers at 10:30 P.M. Be sure to tune in to the Celtics/Heat game. The whole world is going to be watching this one!
This will be the first of what I hope will be a weekly look at the week ahead for the Thunder. The format is simple. I’ll start with a quick rundown of the upcoming games for the week followed by a match up summary.
I’ll also include a Players to Watch section. The purpose of this is to highlight players who are worth noting on that particular night. Clearly I could put Kevin Durant as the player to watch every night. But the idea is to highlight other players who might be worth watching. For example, the Thunder play Detroit on Friday and I think it’s worth watching Detroit’s Greg Monroe. The Georgetown big man was taken in the lottery and I have to admit I thought he’d be a bust. But in preseason so far he’s put up some pretty good numbers and the Pistons have already said he’s going to get a lot of run this year.
Another example might be a new free agent signing (i.e. Carlos Boozer), an intriguing rookie (Terrico White) or the most underrated guy on the team (Jeff Green).
The point is, this section is designed to be broad.
The idea is to get you thinking about different players (not just the superstars).
I know what LeBron can do. I’m more interested in following other players who impact the game.
Oklahoma City Thunder: The Week Ahead
Week 1 (October 26 – November 1)
1. Chicago at Oklahoma City (8PM ET) on ESPN and ESPN3
2. Oklahoma City at Detroit (8PM ET)
3. Oklahoma City at Utah (7PM ET) on NBA TV
Chicago at Oklahoma City (8PM ET) on ESPN and ESPN3 (Wednesday)
The Thunder will be in action 3 times this week in what promises to be an exciting season for the club. They open the season on Wednesday night at home against Chicago.
The Bulls finished last season 41-41 before losing to Cleveland in five games in the playoffs. In acquiring Carlos Boozer in the off-season, they’ve addressed a nagging problem in the front court. With the emergence of Joachim Noah and the aforementioned Boozer, the Bulls will have one of the best rebounding front courts in the NBA.
This could be a tough match up for the Thunder as the Bulls strength is the Thunder’s biggest weakness. While Jeff Green has been very consistent at the power forward spot, he’s more of a SF/PF tweener (too slow to guard three’s and not really big enough to be a dominant four). He’s also not a great rebounder (only 6.0 rpg) last season.
With Nenad Krstic averaging only five boards per game last season, there's not a lot of production out of the frontcourt.
Believe it or not, the Thunder were sixth in the NBA in rebounding last year. This is largely because Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant rebound so well from their positions, that it masks the lack of rebounding from the front court. They could struggle against Chicago in this department, and if the Bulls shoot well, they could be in for a long night.
I don’t think KD will allow them to lose at home on opening night. I think it will be a tight game with the Thunder winning by single digits.
Players to Watch: Carlos Boozer (CHI)
Oklahoma City at Detroit (8PM ET) (Friday)
This game is not televised (unless you have the NBA League Pass) or live in either OKC or Detroit. It’s a long flight from OKC to Detroit and with only one rest day in between, this is a pretty quick turnaround for the Thunder.
Detroit takes on the Nets in New Jersey on opening night; returning to Detroit to face the Thunder on Friday. In other words, the Pistons shouldn’t be suffering from jet lag.
This could be a trap game for the Thunder.
Detroit added a number of scorers to the roster in the off-season (notable rookie Terrico White and Tracy McGrady). They’ve still got Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon (and an emerging Austin Daye).
Detroit is always a tough place to play and Russell Westbrook and Thabo Sefalosha can only guard so many scorers before someone actually scores. On paper OKC is the better team, but I fear they could lose this one.
Players to Watch: Greg Monroe (DET)
Oklahoma City at Utah (7PM ET) (Halloween Sunday)
Trick or treat?
The Thunder fly back across the country over the weekend to take on the Jazz on Halloween.
The Jazz lost virtually nothing (in fact they probably gained) in letting Carlos Boozer walk in free agency. They acquired Al Jefferson from Minnesota for two future first round picks, and center Kosta Koufos.
For those unfamiliar with Al, he’s a beast. He was averaging 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game during 2008-2009 before he tore his ACL. In coming back from his injury last season, he averaged 17.1 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. This is understandable given it naturally takes any player time to get comfortable following surgery. His numbers should go back up to his 2008-2009 campaign this season.
Last season also saw the emergence of Paul Millsap for the Jazz. He put up terrific numbers when Carlos Boozer was out with injury and is a large part of the reason the Jazz felt comfortable letting Boozer go.
It looks as though the Jazz are going to start Jefferson at center and Millsap at the four, along with an incredible long Andrei Kirilenko guarding Kevin Durant and a stout defender in Raja Bell on Sefalosha and James Harden.
Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the league and will give Russell Westbrook all he can handle.
I don’t like this game for OKC either.
After traversing the country to Detroit, and flying back to Utah, they’re going to have a difficult turnaround. The match ups don’t really favor OKC and the post production from Millsap and Jefferson should make it really difficult on Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.
Player to Watch: Gordon Haywood (UTA) and Kevin Durant (OKC)