It is no secret that the legendary Russell Westbrook lacked consistent help from his supporting cast last season. General Manager Sam Presti brought in some new faces in hopes of keeping the Thunder competitive but so far it has not panned out. Here we will discuss the players that are on make or break seasons for the 2018 campaign ( provided they are still on the roster once the season begins ).
Many were elated when Oklahoma City acquired Oladipo last season in the trade that sent Ibaka to Orlando. A young and crazy athletic two way guard, What’s not to love? The potential to be great is there. Victor Oladipo averaged 13.8 as a rookie in Orlando and followed it up with an impressive sophomore campaign averaging 17.9. So much for a sophomore slump am I right? However, Oladipo’s production has since fallen off as he has only average 16 and 15.9 in his last two seasons. Early in his career it seemed that he was primed to become a true offensive force but he has yet to take that next step. These numbers are not bad by any means but i think it’s safe to say that more was expected of him. Many felt that his drop off in Orlando was fueled by a poorly managed front office and a loss of passion from all of the losing. With this in mind, many felt that Oladipo would be rejuvinated and open to growth once again in a new system with more capable teammates. Since entering Oklahoma City Oladipo is shooting a career high 44.2 % from the field. This leaves hope in the eyes of Thunder fans everywhere that he may be able to elevate himself to a consistent 18-21 PPG type of player that the team needs desperately. Oladipo signed a 4 year extension for 21 million annual last offseason which is roughly 1/6 of the Thunder’s cap space. With that type of cap hit more is expected from a player who possesses all of the tools to become a tremendous two way guard. Entering his fifth season, it is crucial for Oladipo to take a leap this season for the Thunder to take the next step.
Another man who has something to prove ( if he’s still on the team at the beginning of the season ).
I personally like Enes Kanter ……… off of the court, on the court he is inconsistent. Kanter is a guy who can explode and get 25 in 18 minutes thanks to his amazing ability to rebound the basketball. Although he possesses the ability to play at this level one must consider the glaring flaws in his game as well as usage. First, It’s no secret that Kanter is not one for defensive awareness. Second, For this reason Billy Donovan does not grant him ample playing time for the money that he is being paid. Kanter may be moved before the season in order to make pushes for free agent targets but as of now we will assume that he will be on the squad come opening day. Kanter is a good player and a solid free throw shooter for his position. He’s netting about 17 million a season, here are his numbers from last season:
PPG : 14.3 on 54.5%
REB : 6.7
AST : 0.9
FT : 78.6%
Kanter only makes this list because he has trade value. The Thunder can use him to trade up in the draft, acquire better fitting pieces, or clear cap for free agency. Kanter is a productive bench player but must take another step up in his game to get himself security on the team moving forward.
Last but not least,
Doug McDermott has shown improvement every year since entering the league. His scoring average starting at 3 PPG as a rookie and reaching as high as 10.2 last season before being traded to Oklahoma City. He averaged 6.6 PPG after being traded to the Thunder. As valuable role playing sharp shooter, McDermott must improve on his ability to create shots since he is normally in the game with the second unit which does not have a facilitator. McDermott will be entering a contract year next offseason and must improve on his efficiency a bit. He averaged around 19 minutes a game to get his points. In 19 minutes you would like to see more than 6 points of production from one of the few snipers that the Thunder have on roster. McDermott also has trade value and good upside in his youth as he has improved his production in every season before coming to OKC. The Thunder would be wise to be patient with Doug but the decline in his numbers upon arriving may indicate that he is not a good fit. This upcoming season will be an important determining factor.