The 2020-21 NBA season is set to tip-off on Dec. 22. To get you ready for the year to come, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Today, we take a look at the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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2019-20 season record
44-28, 5th in Western Conference
Aleksej Pokusevski, No. 17 pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Théo Maledon, No. 34 pick in 2020 NBA Draft
Al Horford, Trade
Ty Jerome, Trade
Justin Jackson, Trade
George Hill, Trade
Frank Jackson, Free Agency
Chris Paul, Trade (Phoenix Suns)
Dennis Schröder, Trade (Los Angeles Lakers)
Terrance Ferguson, Trade (Philadelphia 76ers)
Steven Adams, Trade (New Orleans Pelicans)
Danilo Gallinari, Free agency (Atlanta Hawks)
Nerlens Noel, Free agency (New York Knicks)
Note: Trevor Ariza is an excused absence from the team. Reports indicate an impending contract buyout.
|PG||George Hill||Théo Maledon||Frank Jackson|
|SG||Shai Gilgeous-Alexander||Hamidou Diallo||Ty Jerome|
|SF||Luguentz Dort||Admiral Schofield||Darius Miller||Justin Jackson|
|PF||Darius Bazley||Aleksej Pokusevski||T.J. Leaf||Kenrich Williams|
|C||Al Horford||Mike Muscala||Moses Brown||Omer Yurtseven|
3 key storylines
Shai's biggest role yet
In averaging a career-best 19.0 points per game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City in scoring in just his second NBA season.
Prior to his third season, the Thunder parted ways with the second through sixth leading scorers from 2019-20 - a combined 73.5 points per game. Hamidou Diallo, who averaged 6.9 points per game last season, is the team's second-highest returning scorer after SGA.
Long story short, Gilgeous-Alexander will have an opportunity to take on a very expanded role on the offensive end.
SGA was very efficient last season, attempting just 14.5 field goals per game and taking 20 or more shots just six times. Those figures, along with his usage rate are all sure to increase as he looks to take another step forward in his development as a pro.
All things considered, Gilgeous-Alexander is far ahead of the curve as a third-year player. At 22, he's already started in 13 playoff games where he's posted an average of 15.1 points per game and has received the blueprint of how to become a franchise-leading guard from last year's backcourt mate in Chris Paul.
OKC might not be expected to be a major player in the Western Conference but Gilgeous-Alexander should be expected to break his current career-high of 32 points.
A new era
While Gilgeous-Alexander is without question the franchise player, newly-hired head coach Mark Daigneault is the team's new leader.
Daigneault, 35, is one of the youngest lead men in the NBA. Coming from OKC's G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, Daigneault is the perfect voice to lead a young roster comprised of 13 players aged 23 or younger.
Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort, who were each relied upon heavily during the Thunder's postseason run last year, will be looked upon to take a leap this season, while 18-year-old 7-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, has the potential to be one of the biggest steals of this year's draft.
If nothing else, this team will be fun to watch get up and down the floor but internally, this season will be a key for OKC to begin to build a foundation to be a title contender within the next several years. With veterans like George Hill and Al Horford in the locker room, these young players will learn plenty of invaluable lessons both on and off the floor.
After making over 10 trades in the offseason, it is unclear whether or not the Thunder are done dealing.
As mentioned above, Trevor Ariza is away from the team during training camp as an excused absence and reports have linked him to the Los Angeles Lakers as a potential buyout candidate.
Horford, who expressed his excitement towards getting to work with the Thunder, has an opportunity to bounce back after a somewhat down year with the Philadelphia 76ers and still has plenty of value as a cerebral big man. The 34-year-old Hill has been an active presence in training camp and is coming off of a season in which he led the league in 3-point shooting, which is something that could very well get better with age.
Needless to say, each of these three vets could still be very valuable in the eyes of contenders.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has acquired an abundance of draft capital over the past two years and could very well continue to do the same this year.
5 games to watch
vs. Houston Rockets, Dec. 23, 2020
Not only is this opening night but it's a postseason rematch, albeit featuring a number of different players. However, if James Harden is still on Houston's roster, Luguentz Dort can reprise his role as a primary defender.
vs. New Orleans Pelicans, Dec. 31, 2020
Here, you'll see the beginning of a familiar theme. After spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Thunder, Steven Adams returns to Chesapeake Energy Arena as a visitor. It's also a meeting between cousins Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Jan. 13, 2021
The defending champs come to town two weeks into the new year and with them, bring Dennis Schröder, who was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist last year with OKC.
vs. Phoenix Suns, Jan. 27, 2021
Two weeks after facing Schröder, OKC wraps a five-game West Coast swing with a visit to The Valley of The Sun where they'll meet Chris Paul, who had a very special year as a member of the Thunder last season.
vs. Atlanta Hawks, Feb. 26, 2021
Towards the end of the first half of the NBA schedule, OKC hosts Danilo Gallinari and the Atlanta Hawks. In addition to that, there's an entertaining matchup of third-year guards in SGA and Trae Young.
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