Ball Don't Lie - NBA

As the NBA preseason marches on, Ball Don't Lie looks at all 30 teams, outlining off-season transactions, projecting win totals, spinning tracks, and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Today, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Last Season: 20-62

Key Players Added: Desmond Mason (three-team, six-player trade), Joe Smith (ditto), Russell Westbrook (draft), D.J. White (draft), ugly light blue threads

Key Cities/Players Lost: Seattle, Luke Ridnour (three-team, six-player trade, ended up with Bucks), Adrian Griffin (ditto), Francisco Elson (free agent), Donyell Marshall (waived)

Kelly Dwyer's Endless Grey Ribbon: It’s an incredibly young team, a rebuilding team, built around a future stud that seems to know nothing beyond trying to put up points. The Thunder also like to run, there’s that "youth" thing again, and Kevin Durant shoots a lot.

So, even though they might fall short in other areas, the offense is sound, righto?

Nup. Last year’s team (the ones that played in Seattle) was dead last in the league in offensive efficiency. They were dead last even before jettisoning offensive-minded types like Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West in February. Then, in the offseason (besides moving to another state and making a lot of people sad), Oklahoma City traded its offensive-minded starting point guard, drafted a defensive-minded point man, and added a small forward (Dez Mason) who boasts the worst shooting form in the NBA.

On the wrong track, then, righto?

I don’t think so. And I think you’ll agree.

The Thunder are going to be horrible this year. Kevin Durant still can’t buy beer, the roster is young, and the 492 draft picks GM Sam Presti has accrued have yet to be cashed in. Things are A-OK, though.

Presti’s obviously planning for the future, and he’s doing it the right way. The Thunder have a slim payroll (that could get even slimmer should they trade Chris Wilcox or Joe Smith’s expiring contract), they really do have a ton of first and second round picks coming down the pike, and Durant is so young that it hardly seems smart to try and rush things.

Here’s hoping they do trade Wilcox and Smith. Chris will be in his prime and he can really put a team over the top without needing plays called for him, while Joe can still contribute and has a salary that matches most MLE-types. These two are very trade-o-ble, and you just hope that GMs will look past the fact that they’re dealing with the savvy Presti and work toward improving their team.

While we’re waiting, the Thunder will struggle to win 20 again. The home court advantage might play into the team’s hands, but beyond that this will be a horribly inefficient team with too many shortcomings to list.

That doesn’t mean things won’t pick up, considerably in the future. Here’s looking at 2010-11, kids.

Expected Record: 20-62


Tsk Tsk Tsk, Looks Like Rain:

Real Talk, Blog Talk (aka excerpts from other blogger team previews):

BallerBlogger: "Durant wasn’t that great last year, struggling with many of the things most rookies struggle with. Unsurprisingly, since he was asked to carry a bad team offensively, he struggled mightily with shot selection. However, he also made great strides as the season went on. In the second half of the season, his three point attempts dropped drastically, he shot 5% higher from the field, his free throw attempts went up and his turnovers dropped. Those are fantastic signs of growth for a young star like Durant. I’m expecting huge things from Durant this year. He’s only 20, and already he has one of the most diverse offensive games in the league. He’s 6′9 with ridiculous length and a prodigious skill-set for his size. I expect that we’ll see his three-point percentage rise significantly this season as he adjusts to the longer arc. When Durant adds some strength to his frame and wraps his head around the NBA game, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. I think that happens sooner rather than later. Durant will average 30 a game sometime in the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened this year. Yes, he’s that good."

Blue Blitz: "Jeff Green should basically be our key sixth man. He's definately a good player, but his talent level at this point doesn't warrant playing him or somebody else out of the position to put him in the starting lineup. While Durant is now playing at SG, the general feelings of us at Blue Blitz is that he should be put at SF, and the team should allow someone like Russell Westbrook or Damien Wilkins to play SG, leaving Watson and Lucas III at PG. It just makes more sense than having a bunch of huge guys on the floor and forcing them to create for themselves. It would just be a lot better overall if the Thunder could trade a couple of big guys for a solid PG. With our current log jam though, it's obvious that Jeff Green is going to be starting for some time, unless Desmond Mason or Joe Smith step up to take it away from him."

The Thunderworld: "What are the goals for this team? To go .500 at home. Most people are picking them to finish last in not only the West, but the entire NBA. Most experts don't think they'll improve on their 20 wins from last year. But by playing good .500 ball at the Ford Center this year, they'll be assured of 20 wins right there and then if they play decently on the road, they could be looking at a 30 win year, which would be a huge, huge boost. Look, no one gave the 2005 Hornets a prayer to compete. They won 18 games the year before and appeared to have gotten worse. But behind a bump from a rabid city and a really, really good point guard, the team challenged for a playoff spot. There's no reason the Thunder can't aspire to do the same. (Key word: aspire. Look it up.)"

Get Struck'd, Thunder Fans:

Associated Wax: The Waitresses, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?

Michael Bay's Twitter Season Projection:

michael_bay: There's a bright golden haze on the meadow. The corn is as high as an elephant's eye, and it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky.
about 2 hours ago from web

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