The Thunder are slated to return to NBA action on August 1 against the Jazz in the NBA’s Orlando bubble restart, and that date will be an opportunity for OKC to reassert itself as a top defensive squad, per Nick Gallo of OKCThunder.com.
Throughout their first 64 games in 2019/20, the Thunder ranked among the league’s upper third across several defensive categories, Gallo goes on to observe. These impressive top-10 rankings included slotting first in opponent fast-break points (10.5 per game), first in opponent free throw attempts (18.6 per game), sixth in three-point defense (34.4% allowed) and ninth in defensive rating (108.4 points per 100 possessions). At 40-24, the Thunder are currently the No. 5 seed in the crowded West.
The starriest new Thunder acquisition for the 2019/20 season, All-Star point guard Chris Paul, observed that the team’s strength is not just predicated on their athletic prowess. “You can’t just have the athleticism,” Paul said. “You can be as tall as you want to and all that stuff but guys that know how to play are going to manipulate the game on you so the only way you can get that knowledge is to study it and watch games.”
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Among the Nuggets‘ anticipated team traveling party for the NBA’s Orlando restart, two members tested positive over the weekend and a third had a positive test since then, though all are presently asymptomatic, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. The team closed its practice facility in response to the news. The Nuggets as an organization have been dealt with six COVID-19 cases since March.
- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who does intend to play for the season restart, spoke about the Orlando bubble with Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter video link). “I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% comfortable, just because I understand there’s no way that this can be kept 100% safe,” Lillard said.
- Timberwolves assistant GM Joe Branch has been a big asset for the team both inside and outside of the basketball court, according to The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski. “He’s really caught the vision that I had for our group and how we want to treat our players in going above and beyond,” team president Gersson Rosas raved. “He’s got incredible rapport with players and their families and a very proactive team-first approach with the staff.”