Thunder GM Sam Presti is looking to a fresh start in Oklahoma City with Billy Donovan taking over the coaching reins, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The Thunder were overwhelmed by injuries last season, particularly to star Kevin Durant, and narrowly missed the Western Conference playoffs. A revival is seen as key this year with Durant becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. “The combination of the transition to a new coaching staff, a healthy team with the benefit of seven years of experience together that is now entering its prime years, and some additions to our roster that fit our age horizon also help fortify the existing culture,” Presti said, “and has created an organizational momentum that has everyone excited about the present but also very optimistic about the future.”
There’s more news from the Northwest Division:
- New Nuggets coach Michael Malone has brought an emphasis on defense to Denver, according to Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. Darrell Arthur said that when he was traded from the Grizzlies to the Nuggets in 2013, he was surprised how rarely defense and communication were taught by former Denver coach Brian Shaw. “It’s the exact same thing, what we did in Memphis to what coach Malone is doing,” Arthur said. “This is the way I was taught to play. I’m pretty sure this is the right way to play basketball.”
- Utah’s Rudy Gobert is among the most likely candidates for Most Improved Player honors this season, writes Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. The Jazz center finished third in voting for the award last season, but Brigham believes he can still get much better by improving his offensive game. Former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson, now with the Pistons, is also on the list, along with the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, the Sixers’ Nerlens Noel, the Magic’s Victor Oladipo and the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas.