Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, Cole Aldrich and Nenad Krstic all missed games due to injury this preseason. Collison won't be ready for the regular season opener because of a knee injury. None of the ailments are incredibly significant, but much of the Thunder's success last season was based on the team's health. And a list of walking wounded players isn't the ideal way to start this season.
Free throw shooting
The Thunder made 77.6 percent of its foul shots throughout the preseason. But hidden in that figure is how three exceptional nights from the stripe made up for four ghastly outings. OKC ranked second in fouls shooting last season at 80.5 percent. But in four of its seven exhibition games, the Thunder converted just 95 of 136 (69.8 percent) free throws. Coach Scott Brooks even joked about firing the team's hypothetical free throw coach.
It's both unfair and unwise to judge the No. 11 overall picks first on four preseason games. But foul trouble certainly looks like it will be an issue for Aldrich at least early on in his NBA career. The big man out of Kansas fouled out of two games, one in 17 minutes and the other in just 10 minutes. When he's on the court, though, Aldrich makes his presence felt, battling for loose balls, setting hard screens and swatting and altering shots at the rim.
Under normal circumstances, poor defensive efforts in the preseason wouldn't be a cause for concern. But when you consider the Thunder's injury woes the team's shaky performances might warrant a raise of the eyebrow. Collison, perhaps the team's best position defender, remains out and Sefolosha and Krstic have been slowed with finger injuries. So it's not unreasonable to think the preseason lapses we saw in the preseason could spill over into the regular season.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were both slapped with technical fouls this preseason under the league's new "respect for the game" rule. It's an issue that every team needs to be mindful of going forward. But for the Thunder, a team that saw its players accumulate only 13 techs last season, the new rule is one that players must be mindful of so that momentum doesn't change hands more often through giving up free points at the foul line.
By Darnell Mayberry