The Already Elite Thunder Team Just Got Better
The Orlando Magic and OKC Thunder made a trade that will bring Victor Oladipo to Oklahoma. (Photo provided by FanDuel.)
Victor Oladipo in Oklahoma City. How does that sound? It sounds pretty good to me, and I’m sure Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are happy as well. This is something we’ve been looking for since day one, an offensively stout two guard that can also defend the ball.
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Oladipo averages 16.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, and fortunately, he can defend the ball very effectively. Although he isn’t quite as explosive as Westbrook, they do possess the same mindset. He has the capability of being just as explosive, but he’s younger at just 24 years of age.
He has the ability to grow and become a better player in OKC, and as unorthodox as this may sound, this young player can make Russell and Kevin better players. The backcourt could be the best in the league, and so long as Kevin Durant stays in the city, this will be the championship team Thunder fans have been waiting for. His inaugural season with the Thunder will be his fourth in the NBA.
A team that was only 30 minutes away from the NBA Finals in 2016, which many still say is the best team in basketball, may have gotten a lot better. In the 2015-2016 season, Russell averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. Kevin averaged 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. Offensively speaking, if you add Oladipo’s 16.0 points per game to that, you are looking at 67.5 points combined by the Thunder backcourt.
Thunder GM Sam Presti on Victor Oladipo.
The Thunder averaged around 67.5 points between three players, including the player that many people say is the best center in the game right now, Steven Adams, who averaged 10.1 points and 9.5 rebounds in Oklahoma City’s 2016 playoff run. It was a sort of coming-out party for him, and if he can parlay that play into the rest of his career, this could be a deadly lineup for a very long time—reminiscent of the San Antonio Spurs.
Just as powerful as the Thunder backcourt is, the frontcourt may be just as powerful. They are a lot younger, but they will impact the league just as much as Durant, Westbrook, and Oladipo. Along with Adams, there’s Enes Kanter who was one of the finalists for the Sixth Man of the Year Award after averaging 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game during the 2015-2016 season.
Not to mention incoming rookie Domantas Sabonis, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft received in the Serge Ibaka trade. He’s a very tough and efficient post player. He plays with a very high motor and has superb fundamentals and work ethic. Just like his father, Arvydas Sabonis, he hones a polished back-to-the-basket offensive game and a developing perimeter jumper. He’s an elite rebounder as well.
In his second year at Gonzaga, he averaged 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field. Sabonis was one of the most dominant forces in college basketball last year, which I think will transfer over to the pros.
Including Sabonis, the three Thunder big men projected to get meaningful playing time next season will presumably average around 35-to-40 points per game. That, included with the 67.5 points from the backcourt has OKC averaging more than 100 points per game, just based off six players. That’s not even including Dion Waiters’ 9.8 points and Andre Roberson’s 6.0 points per game.
Once again, this team looks offensively superior to just about every team in the league. The only difference is they will be at the top of the NBA defensively as well, something that’s been wishy-washy for about three straight years.