Countdown to NBA Tip-Off: Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder Season Preview
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Chris Paul attends Black Ops Basketball Session at Life Time Athletic At Sky on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)

After a third consecutive first-round playoff exit, the Oklahoma City Thunder are rebooting as a franchise. With old faces gone and a boatload of assets in return, here is the Oklahoma City Thunder 2019-20 Season Preview.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2019-20 Season Preview

Flashback to Last Season

The Oklahoma City Thunder have had the reputation of being one of the most talent-heavy franchises, with little postseason success. After GM Sam Presti drafted three future MVPs in three consecutive drafts, the Thunder seemed like a contender. Now each of those three MVPs has departed, and last season’s struggles were the icing on the cake.

Despite being the favorites, the Thunder lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. No one foresaw that Damian Lillard‘s waving goodbye was an omen for bidding ode to an era of OKC basketball. Despite a 49-33 record and a sixth seed, the third-straight early exit signaled fixes were coming this summer.

Oklahoma City fans expected changes, but they could not have predicted the wild NBA offseason. Changes surely happened, and it left this roster looking completely different from a year ago.

Offseason Changes

The Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes kept the league waiting for his decision. During the first week of July, the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, and Los Angeles Clippers were the three teams in play. Yet when Leonard announced his decision to join the Clippers, no one expected the Thunder to feel the repercussions.

After Kawhi Leonard’s decision, Paul George was traded from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles. Growing tensions between George and Russell Westbrook eventually led to Paul George being dealt to the Clippers. In return, OKC got Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, and a record five future first-round picks. Understanding that contender status was no longer feasible, Westbrook himself requested and was granted a trade. Houston sent Chris Paul, two protected first-round picks, and two future pick swaps in exchange for Russell Westbrook.

Expectations for Next Season

Oklahoma City is not in a terrible state as some may believe, but an era of Thunder basketball is indeed over. The Thunder have the option to either rebuild or quickly reload for the future. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an intriguing young player, who will most certainly be the future point guard for OKC. The next steps are using the plethora of draft picks at Sam Presti’s disposal correctly. The Thunder will either keep and use them to draft and develop potential prospects. Or they can dangle them in a trade for a potential disgruntled NBA star. Karl-Anthony Towns or Devin Booker should be on their radar.

Oklahoma City does not necessarily need to tank away this next season. The Thunder have so many draft picks that they don’t need to risk for the draft lottery. The Thunder can leverage the 2019-20 season to assess the pieces to keep and build upon for the future.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2019-20 Season Prediction

Every contender in the Western Conference seems to have gotten better. Meanwhile, the Thunder are clearly preparing for a transition. After three straight first-round exits, Oklahoma City in the postseason is not a realistic goal. The Thunder are not lacking in talent, so they can still compete this coming season. 35 wins can be the baseline for this season, good for the 10th seed in the Western Conference and a potential team mid-lottery pick.

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