Here’s What To Expect From Chris Paul’s & The Thunder As They Enter The Season; Who Could Be Traded; Where They Could End Up In The West (Videos) – BlackSportsOnline
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Here’s What To Expect From Chris Paul’s & The Thunder As They Enter The Season; Who Could Be Traded; Where They Could End Up In The West (Videos)

For the last few years, the Oklahoma City Thunder entered the season with some type of expectation. Whether it was being a championship contender, competing to be one of the top teams in the western conference, or just making the playoffs, those expectations were there.

After training camp and 4 preseason games, it’s very evident that, that is completely different this year. There are no real expectations coming into the season. We know that player step on the court and expect to win every game no matter what. However, not many know what to expect for this years Thunder team.

With the departures of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Jerami Grant and the additions of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul, and Danilo Gallinari, no one knows what to make of this team. Paul and Gallinari are two candidates to be traded before the trade deadline and Gilgeous-Alexander is a promising young guard but he’s young and and isn’t expected to lead the Thunder to the playoffs  just yet.

Gilgeous-Alexander is the new face of the Thunder and has shown flashes of being a star this preseason. He’s been virtually unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He’s a point guard but has played shooting guard and even small forward which shows his versatility. If there’s one thing to nitpick about his game so far, it’s his passing. With Paul on the roster, his passing won’t matter much but if and when Paul gets traded, Gilgeous-Alexander will have to step into that role. It could be that Paul is the distributor and he’s the scorer but right now he hasn’t shown that he is ready for that role just yet.

As long as Paul is on the roster, he will be the leader and brings something to this team that has never been there. The leadership of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant can never be questioned but the leadership style of Paul is on another level. He’s one of the best floor generals the NBA has ever seen and that will help other guys like Gilgeous-Alexander, Steven Adams, and Gallinari. It just remains to be seen how long he will be on the roster.

As soon as the Westbrook Paul trade went down, there were questions about how long Paul would be a member of the Thunder before he was traded. For Paul to be traded at this point in his career, with his massive contract, he will need to play close to his prime so teams can see he’s still worth it.

From his limited time in preseason, he has some work to do. It was limited time so it’s not a huge sample size to go off of so it might not be a big deal. Paul does have the motivation to play like the Chris Paul we all know, it’s just if he can at this stage of his career. His impact on others nonetheless will be clear.

One of those guys who has been benefited from Paul’s impact is Steven Adams. This could be the best year of his career. In every game he’s played in preseason, they have made it a point to get him the ball early. Without Westbrook and George, there will be more shots to go around and he will be a guy that gets a chunk of them. He’s also still one of the best rebounders in the NBA and could lead the lead in that category. He’s even added skills like being able to occasionally step out and take a three and grab a rebound and run the break which plays right into the team identity.

Having a team identity is extremely important to the success of the franchise. Teams that stick to their identity have no problems competing and winning. For the Thunder to compete and win games, their identity needs to be defense and running. They have shown flashes of playing great defense and have also shown flashes of playing no defense. Same goes with running. At times it seems like they want to and other times it seems like they don’t know what to do.

Consistency is key. As long as the team that is currently constructed stays together, they will be able to compete with every team in the NBA. It might not translate to wins, especially vs western conference teams, but they will at least put a good product on the floor.

If they do stay together, due to the western conference being so deep, the ceiling is the 10th or 11th seed. If the team breaks up as predicted, they will probably be bottom three in the west.

Flip the page to see highlights from preseason.

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