A challenging early-season schedule may determine whether the Thunder decide to push for the playoffs or sell off their assets and start rebuilding, observes Brett Dawson of The Athletic. Oklahoma City will begin the season with 10 of its first 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 by FiveThirtyEight.com. That will take the club into late November, close to the unofficial start of trade season when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be dealt on December 15.
OKC’s obvious trade candidates are Danilo Gallinari, who has an expiring deal worth $22.6MM, and Chris Paul, whom the organization tried to move shortly after acquiring him from the Rockets. Dawson also points toward Dennis Schroder, who has two seasons left at $15.5MM each, along with Nerlens Noel and Mike Muscala as other rotation players who could be on the move.
“Obviously the most important season is (this) season, and we want to maximize that season the best that we can,” GM Sam Presti said. “But not at the expense of continually and aggressively making sure that we’re repositioning and replenishing the team so that we have a platform and a runway for the next great Thunder team to take shape. I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive.”
There’s more from Oklahoma City:
- Regardless of how long Paul stays, the Thunder can count on his competitive nature to drive the team, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Not only does Paul want to extend his streak of 50-win seasons, but the better he plays, the more he will drive up his trade value. “Obviously Russell (Westbrook) was an unbelievable competitor — I think Chris is an incredible competitor, too,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The biggest thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is to try to always be open and be honest and try to communicate. And I think that’s the way Chris is.”
- Hamidou Diallo showed in Summer League that he is fully recovered after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in mid-April, notes Nick Gallo of NBA.com. Diallo was an important part of the rotation early in the season, but got into just six games after the All-Star break. He looked good in July, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four Summer League games. “In this league you’ve got to be ready for anything at any given time, and sometimes you face adversity, but you still have to learn how to fight through and learn how to push through,” Diallo said.
- In an interview with Basket en Movistar+ (Twitter link), Alex Abrines speaks out about the mental health issues that drove him out of the NBA and credits Westbrook for trying to be a calming influence.