Opponent Scouting: OKC Thunder (preseason)

Welcome back. There is Pistons basketball tonight. I hope there is a way to watch it.

Tonight at 8:00 pm EST the Pistons will open up their preseason on the road in Oklahoma City to play against the Thunder. This is of course preseason so nothing matters but who cares.

If you don't know who I am, I'm Joe. I've been doing this for the past three years now, there will be a post before and after every game, these posts are largely informal and should be seen as a way to start the conversation and not the final say.

The Them:

The Thunder had a disappointing year last year and never quite got it working right. This offseason they rid themselves of Carmelo Anthony and got back Dennis Schroder in return which will probably make them better. They also retained the services of Paul George in a big win for the franchise.

For this game, I'm pretty sure that Westbrook is not going to play. He had a surgery of some sort and I recall hearing that he was going to miss the preseason. If this info (or anything else in this preview) is wrong please forgive me because I'm not looking into it since its preseason. Going totally off the top of my head here.

With Westbrook out that means Dennis Schroder will be playing more, Schroder is very fast and quick, a smart finisher at the hoop and decent passer even if he can't really shoot and doesn't play a lot of defense. It will be interesting this season to see how Schroder reacts to being on a winning, competitive team after spending last season on the tanking Hawks.

Paul George is still here, he's awesome, one of the best two-way players alive. Steven Adams is a very large human with a nice touch around the rim, good defensive instincts, and has been the best offensive rebounder in basketball. Jerami Grant is a good defender and great athlete on offense, Patrick Patterson is a good shooter from a front-court spot, Alex Abrines can shoot a bit, Nerlens Noel is here now although given how his last stop in Dallas went it would be wise to not expect too much from him for now. Andre Roberson still hasn't recovered from injury (that he suffered against the Pistons ironically) so he won't be playing. Raymond Felton is still fat but kind of ok as a backup. Terrance Ferguson can jump very high.

I thought this team would be awesome last year and was wrong, so even though I look at the roster and have high hopes again, I am holding back a bit. For this preseason game, we won't even get any clues as to what theoretically would be the most intriguing question about the team which is how much they use Schroder with Westbrook and how those two coexist. But with Westbrook out, there will be no such thing of course.

Matchups to watch:

  • Andre Drummond vs. Shooting: So we've all heard the talk all Summer and then he hit a three in the open practice. I'm still a bit worried about the whole situation, but Drummond has improved so much in other areas that he gets the benefit of the doubt. Watch just not how many threes he takes, but how much time is spent standing around outside the line.

  • Drummond vs. Adams: It's preseason, but this is always a fun matchup. Adams is one of the few dudes with the strength and tenacity to go toe to toe with Drummond in the paint and vice-versa.

  • Pistons wing rotation: Other than health and Andre's threes, the wing rotation has been the biggest question this offseason. Reggie Bullock should be fairly cemented into the starting lineup, and my guess is that the other spot is Stanley Johnson's to lose, but Glenn Robinson is giving real pressure and Luke Kennard looms as well.

  • The Pistons rookies: Both Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown are unlikely to ever bust into the rotation this season (which is fine, the Pistons are deep on the wings this season but could be very thin next year) so there is a good chance that the preseason is our best chance to see them against NBA competition this year.

  • Henry Ellenson vs. Being not terrible: I still believe he can be a useful bench player, but he has to be better than in the past. The problem is that if Ellenson proves unplayable the Pistons have a huge hole at the backup 4 spot so we better hope he works out.

  • Luke Kennard vs. Ball-handling: There was a lot of talks this offseason about Kennard taking on more ball-handling with bench units, even some suggestions of playing him at point guard (the same thing was brought up at the end of last year as well FWIW) so it will be interesting to see if there are signs of them being serious about that.

  • The Jackson/Griffin/Drummond balance: It's preseason so don't read too much into it. But it will be interesting to get the first glimpse of how Dwane Casey envisions these three coexisting. On paper, they could be a very snug fit, but it will require some creativity on the part of the coaching staff. Regardless, how do Griffin and Jackson split ball-handling? Does Drummond ever get to do much of his dribble hand-off stuff? How heavy are the pick and rolls? How often do Blake and Jackson go isolation?

So in conclusion...

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Andre takes a pair of threes and hits them, otherwise is inside doing what he does best.

  • Henry Ellenson looks like he did at the very end of last season, which is to say, playable.

  • Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas look really solid.

Run for the hills if:

  • Anyone gets hurt even a little bit. The Hornets had their season badly impacted last year when Nic Batum hurt his elbow against the Pistons in the preseason. Please don't have that happen to the Pistons.

  • Andre takes a bunch of threes and misses them, isn't diving to the rim and getting rebounds.

  • The offense looks disorganized and isolation-heavy.

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • It's a preseason game I'm not making predictions lol.

What do you think? How will the offense look? How will minutes be split between Stanely and Glenn Robinson?

Joseph SinkeComment