Today's post will mark the first 1-on-1 series where I will bring in a special guest to help me analyze certain aspects of the the Thunder's season, giving differing views and opinions on hot topics concerning your Oklahoma City Thunder.
I've been juggling ideas for the 1-on-1 conversation with Casey Womack, who happens to be the special guest for today's post. Casey is an avid Thunder fan that attends the University of Central Oklahoma and has a knack for Sports Journalism. You can follow him on twitter at @CaseyWomack.
The topic we will be weighing in on is, "Three things to watch for going into the Thunder's preseason." With that said, let's get started...
1. Which player will win the backup role to center Kendrick Perkins?
Casey - With the Thunder acquiring Daniel Orton and Hasheem Thabeet, the backup role to Kendrick Perkins is up for grabs. However, the spot is Cole Aldrich’s to lose. While Aldrich did have a poor showing in the Vegas Summer League, he was still adjusting from going to six-minutes a game up to around 32. Also, many have to remember that Cole Aldrich is no impact scorer. He’s a high-energy player that sets good screens, decent post defense, and runs the floor well. That’s all OKC needs him to do. Finally, if the Thunder has to settle with Thabeet or Orton being a backup, expect to see me covering my eyes six minutes a game.
Jared - The Thunder have parted ways this offseason with center Nazr Mohammed. This sent the Thunder organization on a scramble to find a big man to relieve Perkins in the rotation and ultimately led to the acquisitions of Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton. Thabeet has yet to live up to his 2nd overall draft pick by the Memphis Grizzlies due to a career plagued by injury. If Thabeet can stay healthy, look for him to have a breakout career in a Thunder organization known for developing players to their full potential. It is hard to tell how Orton will play out with the Thunder coming from a less than stellar performance with the Orlando Magic. He seems to be living the dream by playing for the Thunder since he is an Oklahoma native.
Let's not forget about Cole Aldrich. Coach Brooks stated in a few interviews this offseason that it is his spot to lose. It will be interesting to see how Aldrich will fair going from few if any minutes in a game to a full-time backup role. Another thing to consider is Perry Jones III and Nick Collison moving in from the forward position to play center for a few minutes since Coach Brooks is known for a systematic rotation in his game plan.
2. How will Eric Maynor bounce back from ACL surgery?
Casey - All reports that have come out since training camp started has bragged about Maynor’s performance. He has worked his tail off to be back by the start of the season and it has clearly shown. Plus, Maynor is no Russell Westbrook. He’s actually the total opposite of him point guard wise. Maynor has great patience, ball vision, and a solid shot from beyond the arch. All of which a torn-ACL would have a hard time affecting. Expect to see him picking up right where he left off.
Jared - Let's face it, it is impossible for a back-up point guard to come into a game and get Westbrook-like numbers off the bench. Two seasons ago however, Maynor did a spectacular job contributing for the team, especially in the Western Conference Finals against the Mavs. It is easy to question the health of a player coming off of any surgery, but when it comes to a player like Maynor, there really should not be question of a comback season since he is known for his work ethic. Plus, some say that after ACL surgery, players come back stronger than before. Look for Maynor to continue to improve throughout this preseason.
3. What does All-Star point guard Russel Westbrook need to improve in his game going into the season?
Casey - Every year that Russell Westbrook has been in the league, he has added an element to his game that has made him even more dangerous. In 2010, it was the 10-foot pull up jumper. Last year, he added a consistent 3-point shot that made him the All-Star we all know of him today. If it were up to me, I’d love to see Westbrook add a floater in the paint that Tony Parker has mastered. If it were up to Oklahoma City, it would be cutting down on all of the turnovers that comes with Westbrook’s style of play. But if I were a betting man, Westbrook will come into the season with a much better post game. Westbrook would have the advantage in the low-post over 95 percent of all point guards in the league. He showed glimpses of a post game in the playoffs. Expect to see it much improved after this summer.
Jared - Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers...
There are many parts of Westbrook's game that critics love to attack. He's somewhat selfish, he's reckless, he's emotional. Blah blah blah. This is what makes Russel, Russel. I guaruntee you that if Westbrook wasn't a part of the Thunder lineup the past three years, the Thunder wouldn't have made it as far as they did in any of those seasons. The only negative I can possibly take from his game is the turnovers. Although, last postseason the turnover numbers went down tremendously. If that trend carries over into this year, then watch out NBA. It's almost scary imagining what this guy can do knowing that he is still developing his game.
Here's a bold prediction for you. Russ will average 24 a game with 10 assists and less than three turnovers. Boom.