Will OKC Rebuild or Reload This Season?


OKC’s offense unequivocally ran through Russell Westbrook and Paul George last season. The duo posted 30.1 and 28.5 usage rates respectively, and collected at least 40 percent of the club’s counting stats.

Losing its two superstars leaves OKC starving for production and a face of the franchise. Who will be the sparks that could help OKC reload this season?

The New Guys

The players acquired in the trade that sparked this article will be harder to place.

Danilo Gallinari has a chance to be the focal point of an offense for the first time in his career. Last season he posted highs in shooting percentage, rebounds, and points with two other 15+ point scorers. It’s easy to see how Gallo’s numbers might jump. Even if they stay consistent, it solidifies him as a strong scoring option. A contender may even poach him before the trade deadline.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be an interesting case going into his sophomore year. The second team all-rookie standout is in a new place, on a new roster, and playing for a new coach. There’s a chance that he sees his role increase as a starter, but it’s also possible he becomes a staple on OKC’s thin bench.

His future is promising and his résumé promises better counting stats with a larger role. Of his 341 made field goals, 205 of them were unassisted. With one of the game’s best lasers in Chris Paul and a plethora of willing teammates, he may be in for easier shots. If he’s more of a bench contributor, everything that made him a good self creator last year could make him a better one this year.

Steven Adams

Year after year Steven Adams finishes top-20 in rebounds averaged. This year he may finish closer to the top 10. Adams is by far the best returning rebounder on OKC’s roster, and it’s not close.

Adams hasn’t surpassed 10 rebounds per game in his career. What’s different this year is that there are no teammates to compete with him this season. Based on last year’s numbers, Danilo Gallinari would be the second leading rebounder at 6.1 per game. The rest of the team hasn’t grabbed over five per game in their careers, excluding Nerlens Noel, yet even he hasn’t hit that mark since 2016.

Adams could easily compete for a rebounding title this upcoming season. It’s him against the field, and an explosion in his rebounding numbers are more than likely.

Terrance Ferguson

Ferguson has a chance to have a breakout season in the absence of OKC’s former stars. The now 21-year-old not only needs to stand out to secure his spot during this rebuild, but he’ll have the green light to do so.

The 21st pick in the 2016 draft hasn’t had many chances to show off his ball skills, but now the court is open for him to do so. Ex-OKC veteran Raymond Felton mentioned that ball handling will be a major part of the teams’ offseason workouts during his exit interview.

What makes his possible development on this front so intriguing is that he may be moved to the bench for Andre Roberson. Dennis Schröder and Ferguson running the backcourt of the second team could lead to a major spike in Ferguson’s numbers.

Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan is a fifth year head coach, but this is a potential make or break season for him. A coach’s worth is generally measured by wins and losses, but this season will be much different for Donovan. After years of having top-flight talent good enough to make the playoffs, Donovan will truly have to stretch his coaching muscles.

Donovan’s been blessed with rosters led by Kevin Durant, Westbrook and George. Now he fields Chris Paul, Adams and Gallinari. The latter’s talent is nowhere near the former’s, but that core is still good enough to fight for playoff contention.

For the first time in Donovan’s NBA coaching career, he doesn’t have two all-time greats moving the pieces on the chessboard. Instead, he has one, and while that one is past his prime, he’s still more than competitive.

Donovan now has a roster where he’s the 1A decision-maker. He has as much control over what happens on the floor as a coach can have. His roster is deep but now there’s little-to-no release valve in late-game situations. It’s up to him to put his players in the right positions time and time again to maximize his top guys.

Donovan’s test will be arduous but it’s nothing he hasn’t done it before, even if at a lower level. He led Florida to back to back national championships with an ultra-talented roster, but not before helping Rick Pitino bring Kentucky back to prominence and flipping Marshall’s basketball woes.


About Allen Pettigrew

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