Blazersedge 2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Thunder and Timberwolves

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Record:  20-62, 5th in Northwest Division, 15th in Western Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

30th  in ppg differential (-8.8 ppg)

27th in opponent scoring (106.3 ppg)

28th in three-point % 

29th in turnovers

26th in opponent turnovers

 

Others:

16th (tie) in the league in scoring (97.5 ppg)

23rd in field goal % 

18th in opponent field goal %

24th in free throw attempts per game

9th in free throw percentage

16th (tie) in assists

23rd in steals

12th (tie) in blocks

Average offensive rebounding team

Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Joe Smith, Desmond Mason, Russell Westbrook (R), D.J. White (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Luke Ridnour, Adrian Griffin, Francisco Elson, Donyell Marshall

 

Roster

 

Coach:  P.J. Carlesimo

 

Key Players

PG:  Russell Westbrook, Earl Watson

SG:  Kevin Durant, Damien Wilkins

SF:  Jeff Green, Desmond Mason

PF:  Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith, D.J. White

C:  Nick Collison, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene

 

Comments

 

OK, I feel constrained to say it (and probably will every time I mention this team for quite a while):  moving the Sonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City and naming them the arena-footballesque “Thunder” was a bad idea.  We’re not just talking “forgetting to take the tin foil off of the mini Reese’s cup before you eat it” bad.  We’re talking “Letting your kindergartener watch South Park” bad.  We’re talking “Betting your life savings on Kimbo Slice” bad.  We’re talking “Encouraging your wife to bid 25 thou in that ‘Win a Date with Russell Crowe’ charity event” bad.  Seattle fans are no doubt going to feel an awful twist in their stomachs when the start of the regular season comes around.  That’s going to last…oh…about a dozen games.  At that point Oklahoma’s Attorney General is going to issue a cease and desist order for the Thunder’s ad campaign inviting people to come watch NBA basketball…clearly false advertising.  Then the twist will be in the stomach of the Thunder’s season ticket holders.  And no, it ain’t the Thunder Chili doing it.

 

This team’s problems can be broken down into two general categories:

 

1.  They’re putrid.

2.  They didn’t get anyone this summer to make them less putrid.

 

Some will argue about Russell Westbrook and his brilliant future career.  Maybe he’ll have one.  But the key word there is “future”.  Throw any point guard onto a team that can’t shoot from distance, can’t shoot from mid-range, and doesn’t draw fouls and you’re looking at a sad and lonely guy.  Throw a rookie into that situation and he’s going to be in trouble.  Westbrook could easily score big on his own, but that does not a point guard, nor team victories, make.  The truth is you could throw coveted summer signing Baron Davis on this team and I’m not sure how much better they’d get.

 

Kevin Durant had a brilliant rookie year in terms of scoring.  He’ll be one of the Next Big Things offensively in this league, as we all knew when he was drafted.  If he develops legit three-point range in addition to his slashing, twisting, driving, and spinning game he’ll be near unstoppable.  He could score 30 a game and still watch this team lost two out of every three, though.  Jeff Green is a solid all-around player who would fit on any team.  Chris Wilcox is a great rebounder when his head is right.  Nick Collison can be a nice scorer and rebounder.  That’s fairly faint praise, however.  Even those players are semi-misfits and the rest of the roster qualifies fully.

 

With this hodgepodge of players it’s hard to pin down a system that’s going to produce results for Oklahoma City.  They’d like to be a running team but they don’t defend or rebound well enough to run.  They could try to use a multi-pronged halfcourt approach between Durant, Collison, and those scoring point guards but they can’t pass only Durant has the ability to get his shot consistently.  Their turnover deficit is downright offensive:  commit a lot, force very few.  This sabotages any plan they make on either end of the court.

 

In short, it looks like another season of patchwork play, praying a bunch of youngsters (some tending towards middle-agers) develop quickly, and swallowing defeat after defeat.  I believe P.J. Carlesimo is a good coach, but he can’t create an effective team out of what he’s got.  He’s going to swallow a ton of losses until he’s let go 2-3 years from now and another coach takes over a team stocked with high draft picks.

 

(Homer Note:  I wonder if the Blazers could steal Jeff Green sometime before then.  He’s someone I’d like to have in our small forward corps.  We might be able to make the Thunder a nice deal too if they’re looking for slightly more experienced players.)

 

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Record:  22-60, 4th in Northwest Division, 13th (tie) in Western Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

26th in the league in scoring (95.6 ppg)

26th  in ppg differential (-6.8 ppg)

27th in opponent field goal %

29th in free throw attempts per game

26th in assists

29th in blocks

 

Others:

21st in opponent scoring (102.4 ppg)

18th in field goal % 

21st in three-point % 

21st in free throw percentage

12th in steals

17th in turnovers

18th in opponent turnovers

Average offensive rebounding team

Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Kevin Love (R), Mike Miller, Jason Collins, Rodney Carney, Brian Cardinal

Significant Subtractions:  Antoine Walker, Marco Jaric, Greg Buckner

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Randy Wittman

 

Key Players

PG:  Randy Foye, Sebastian Telfair

SG:  Mike Miller, Rashad McCants

SF:  Rodney Carney, Corey Brewer

PF:  Kevin Love, Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes, Brian Cardinal

C:  Al Jefferson, Jason Collins, Calvin Booth, Mark Madsen

 

Comments

 

On paper the Timberwolves look just as bad as the Thunder did last year.  At least they got some help.  Kevin Love is looking promising so far, and he is their main hope, of course.  But they didn’t stay pat.  They re-tooled their middle positions with offensive-minded Mike Miller and workhorse Rodney Carney.  This allows Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer to resume their rightful places learning off the bench, hopefully providing a spark now and then.  Randy Foye still has work to do at the point guard position, and Minnesota may want to look at acquiring a true, talented point in the next couple years to perhaps allow him to be a high-octane third guard.  Sebastian Telfair has not shown consistency either, which makes point guard an area of concern for the roster.  Still, you’d think they could improve on last year’s scoring drought with this lineup. 

 

More curious, almost to the point of being amusing, is the Six Power Forwards of DOOM approach to the frontcourt.  Their only true centers are Booth and Collins, both injured.  Kevin Love and Al Jefferson should both score in droves.  Craig Smith can also score and rebound.  Between those three Minnesota might become one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league.  The question is, will they be able to mount any defense at all?  That was their downfall last year and you don’t see many sterling defenders yet.  Frontcourt workhorses, yes.  Backcourt scorers, yes.  Guys who are going to lock down, either individually or as a unit?  Randy Wittman has a lot of work before him to create that.  If Minnesota can’t defend better than they did last year they’re not going to be able to muster enough points to win consistently, even with the offensive upgrade.

 

In the end there are still too many holes and question marks to think the ‘Wolves are going to take a major step forward this year.  But you can see where their hand is being built.  They have a couple nice pieces available to move and a couple more upon which to build for the future.  Saying there’s light at the end of the tunnel goes too far, but at least they’re moving in the right direction.

 

Read more about the Minnesota Timberwolves at CanisHoopus.com.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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