Saturday the 19th has come, and that means it’s time for Sixers-Thunder. To learn more about what has been a weird Oklahoma City team, I chatted with Charles Chaney of ThunderDigest.com.
Question #1: Former Sixer Jerami Grant has become a staple of OKC’s rotation thanks to the many tools unlocked by his freakish athleticism as well as his improvement from beyond the arc into a capable jump-shooter. How important is Jerami to the Thunder?
Color me one of the few who didn’t quite get the trade. Ersan Ilyasova was a shooter Oklahoma City needed at the time. Yet the Thunder took this raw, unproven player that was coming from a very bad Philly team. But he’s grown and really shows why Sam Presti is one of those general managers who probably have a lifetime clemency due to their decisions over the years. Grant’s growth this season is validating many concerns that the Thunder might have overpaid for him. He’s grown in his three-point shooting, which was just atrocious last season. Grant is similar to serge Serge Ibaka, though not quite as dominating on the defensive side of things. Grant’s success is pretty important in the grand scheme of things. Oklahoma City is 26-13 with Grant as the starter and 0-4 without him.
Question #2: The Thunder have two elite players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George and one of the league’s most perpetually underrated bigs, Steven Adams. But do they have enough to be true contenders to win multiple series in the Western Conference? If not, what do they need to attempt to add in the coming few weeks to get to that level?
Steven Adams is underrated among fans. Any coach in the NBA you talk to will be fully aware of what Adams can do. While he’s neither the best offensive or defensive center in the league, he’s strong, physical and down right unafraid of anyone. If someone took the time and researched it, he’d probably up there with Joel Embiid in terms getting his opponent lulled into a technical. What’s the big question about the Thunder are if they have enough shooting. Oklahoma City is last in the NBA in three-point shooting, 27th in free-throw shooting and middle of the road from the field overall. The Thunder don’t have the sharp-shooters to win the games we’ve seen this season when the score is in the 130s or even 140s. However, it’s their defense that gives everyone fits. They’ve won some ugly, ugly games, and need to find that balance. You cannot beat the Warriors (or, arguably, the Rockets) by simply defending for seven games. You have to win some shoot-outs.
Question #3: The Thunder and the Sixers in a nationally televised game should be a ton of fun. What is one matchup you’re looking forward to watching?
If anyone says anything other Westbrook vs. Embiid is a liar, a damn liar I say. These two have been at it the last two years.
Also: This could be the year Oklahoma City’s 18-game winning streak vs. Philadelphia could end. It should be a really good game.
Big thanks to Thunder Digest for helping familiarize us with the Thunder as we prepare for today’s matchup!