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NBA: Is the "Thunder Up" for the 2018-19 season?

Ashish Jadhav
778   //    27 Aug 2018, 07:49 IST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors
Oklahoma City Thunder Stars: Paul George and Russell Westbrook

After an experimental "Big 3" situation and an upsetting playoff campaign last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder looks to come back stronger this season.

Last year, the Thunder managed to seal the fourth seed in the Western Conference with a 48-34 record. They had to exit the playoffs after Donovan Mitchell and company eliminated them 4-2 in the first round. Utah Jazz was, of course, a good team, but rather a mismatch that Thunder couldn't handle. After the season-ending injury to Andre Roberson (left patellar tendon), their run in the postseason was threatened and the Jazz managed to expose the Thunder's many imperfections.

OKC Thunder were seen as one of the potential teams to challenge Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference after they got a makeover by adding Carmelo Anthony and Paul George with Russell Westbrook to form a star-studded team. The Big 3 performed at times but were inconsistent when it came to crucial games.

This off-season Carmelo Anthony was traded to acquire guard Dennis Schröder from the Atlanta Hawks and forward Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot from Philadelphia 76ers in a three-team deal. After a highly stipulated free agency Paul George agreed to a four-year, $137M max contract with OKC. The team had troubles managing their bench for past two seasons but now appears to have depth and more key players.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Indiana Pacers
Backcourt and Frontcourt powerhouses of OKC Thunder

Steven Adams is a powerful force on OKC and averaged 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds, 62.9% FG last season. Entering his sixth year in the NBA, Adams has the ability to draw possessions through rebounds and steals. He has grown over the past years as a versatile center who can attack the basket from the post, create second chances and can play without the ball while also assisting the ball movement within the paint as well.

Jerami Grant had a terrific last season. He came strong off the bench contributing at both ends of the floor. Grant has reportedly worked on his distance shooting this offseason to upgrade his arsenal. He is expected to fill in the starting spot left by Carmelo Anthony.

Andre Roberson, who is part of the team's core, recently stated that he expects to return by this December. He is a big asset when it comes to his scoring and defensive ability. Once he is back and completely healthy as before, OKC will regain its defensive power.

ESPN Forecast panel recently ranked OKC Thunder as the third best team in the Western Conference behind the current NBA champions - the Golden State Warriors and then the Houston Rockets. Western Conference is heavily stacked and is going to witness a bloodbath for the top spot but the Thunder has a swag of its own. The team is young, skilled and athletic. If they make the cards fall in place and make their star power work efficiently, OKC just might be the contenders for the Western Conference throne.

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Ashish Jadhav
I live Basketball.
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