Hot Take Marathon: OKC is Golden State's Biggest Challenger Out West
*The NBA offseason is cooling down, but the takes at OTG aren't. This month, we are hitting you with the Hot Take Marathon. Check back every day for a spicy NBA take!*
You’ve gotta feel for the Houston Rockets. They were a healthy Chris Paul away from genuinely competing for last season’s Larry O’Brien Trophy. The timing couldn’t have been worse, and with their offseason being from spectacular, their window of opportunity continues to close.
Meanwhile, one of their main competitors from last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder, solidified their core and bolstered their stocks. Taking a flyer on former lottery pick, Nerlens Noel should pay dividends as he’ll only enhance their defensive identity as he looks to prove himself and secure a bigger payday next year.
The decision to re-sign Paul George has obvious benefits especially now that they’ve gotten rid of Carmelo Anthony. Letting go of Anthony not only helps the Thunder defensively, but should allow for a more cohesive offense. The bonus of securing Dennis Schröder in the trade should also give them another offensive weapon if coach Billy Donovan can utilise him with the second unit and alongside Westbrook. Think of the German as a new version of Reggie Jackson, who headed OKC’s second unit in 2013-14.
A healthy Andre Roberson will also work wonders for the Thunder. His injury forced a major reboot, completely altering their play, especially defensively.
Him at full health allows George to play more of a roaming role and conserve energy for the offensive end.
The Thunder have notoriously performed well against the Warriors, whether that’s due to Westbrook’s vengeful attitude or maybe they just match up well with them. They split their matchups 2-2 in their regular season outings. Depending on how the schedule works out, the Thunder should continue, if not improve on that trend. A lot will hinge on whether they have to face the fullest version of Golden State which includes a healthy DeMarcus Cousins.
All signs point to an improved OKC next season. With their improved lineup and overall attitude they’ve got all the tools to make Golden State wary in the regular season barring any major injuries. Houston, Utah, San Antonio and even New Orleans will all challenge for the number 2 seed but ultimately it’s the Thunder who have the best chance. My thoughts are backed up by the pod-God himself, Bill Simmons:
Out of all those teams they made the most improvements and should at make things uncomfortable for the Warriors in their quest for a fourth championship in five years.
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