Tramel: You mean besides the Harden trade? I’d probably say Reggie Jackson. The Thunder seems to love him. Eric Maynor remains the clear No. 2 point guard and should be. But Jackson is giving the Thunder pause to reconsider his status. Biggest disappointment? Among the people left? Great question. If I say DeAndre Liggins, will Rohde and Darnell come and club me over the head? Let’s say Daniel Orton. He only got to play one game. I saw that game, and he played fine. I was surprised he hasn’t been brought back. (Orton has since been called back to the Thunder)
Slater: I’m with you Darnell, Serge’s offensive game looked completely refined. I try not to take much from those glorified exhibitions. But when you see a guy who looked so uncomfortable and awkward at times last year, look so smooth and confident for an extended stretch, you’ve got to take notice. Overall, in six preseason games, he went 41/70 from the field (59 percent) and averaged 16 points per game, scoring at least 12 every game. And how about the newfound range on his shot? He went 4/7 from three, showing a nice stroke from the corner. Whether he’ll implement that into his game (or if Scott Brooks will let him), remains to be seen. But that’s got to be a good sign. And disappointment? I’ll go with my disappointment for the die-hard fans. Only one of the eight preseason games were on TV. The people need their Thunder fix.
3. What’s the main storyline or concern you’re keeping an eye on in the first month of the season?
Mayberry: It’s obviously going to be tracking how this team evolves in light of the recent shakeup. That’s not just going to be the storyline for a month. It’ll be the storyline for the season. Rarely do championship teams ship off a key component. The Thunder was so close to a title that, like it or not, the entire season now will be a referendum on the Harden trade. If the Thunder shows no signs of slowing down, it will be viewed as a great trade. If not, we’ll forever ask ourselves one simple question: what if OKC had Harden this year?
Rohde: How long will it will take the Thunder to jell with Kevin Martin, which is a wide range of focus.
Tramel: Kevin Martin. How will Kevin Martin assimilate into the rotation. How will he be used. How good of an offense player is he? How bad of a defensive player he is? That will be fascinating to watch.
Slater: As you guys have stated, Kevin Martin assimilation into the lineup remains the key storyline in OKC. But what about across enemy lines? How the Lakers star-studded starting lineup (and no-name bench) mesh together will have as much impact on the Thunder as anyone else. If it takes time, or injury woes hit some of their veterans, the Thunder may cruise to another West title. If the Lakers can put it together in Year 1 of the experiment (and look like the league’s most dominant team), OKC may be forced to improve at the trade deadline. Either way, with that team in that city, it will be interesting to watch.
4. Is there another team, besides Oklahoma City, Miami and the Lakers, that you believe can win it all?
Mayberry: Boston and San Antonio come to mind. They’re veteran squads that have been there before. They know what it takes and are watching their respective windows close. Both also matchup well with their chief competitors in their respective conference, Miami for Boston in the East and the Thunder and Lakers for the Spurs in the West. If there’s one team I’d pick outside of Miami, Boston and the Lakers to win it all it would be San Antonio.
Rohde: San Antonio and Boston, maybe the LA Clippers. Not Denver and definitely not Houston.
Tramel: San Antonio and Boston can. I don’t think they will. Both are a little old. But both are capable.
Slater: Is it short-sighted if I say no? I guess things can happen (like health problems to all the big teams), but I really see this as a three horse race. Miami’s going to win the East, I really don’t see anyone as a legitimate threat there. And OKC and the Lakers are on a collision course for a late May date in the Western Conference Finals. Those three talented squads make up the top tier, then there’s a clear drop-off before the league’s second group. But if we’re sitting there in June, laboring through 87-84 Boston-San Antonio slugfests, feel free to remind me about this definitive paragraph.
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