The Thunder escaped this game with a one-point win and are understandably still developing a comfort level and optimal spacing in their third preseason game with their summer acquisitions. Carmelo Anthony is looking for his rhythm on both ends of the court. Defensive rim protection is an issue when Melo and Jerami Grant are on the back line together, even though the movement offensively is appealing to watch. Josh Heustis continues to be active in limited minutes, showing he could be an option to play more center behind Steven Adams.
Russell Westbrook looks to be in his usual form, dictating pace and choosing his spots to attack or distribute offensively. I would expect nothing less from the MVP than what we witnessed last season, but the question remains of who can effectively fill in for Russ at the point guard position to keep his minutes at a reasonable level. Raymond Felton showed some of what the Thunder were hoping for today before going down with a sprained left wrist–that he can be a playmaker with or without Westbrook on the court with him. Semaj Christon and Daniel Hamilton have played short stretches there, and maybe Paul George can fill in for minutes in a lineup with Roberson, Anthony, Grant and Adams.
This summer’s 21st pick in the Draft, Terrence Ferguson, is showing great activity and defensive awareness at the shooting guard position. He will be a useful option for Billy Donovan if he can keep it up throughout the regular season, but be prepared for some growing pains with any rookie.
In the era of “small-ball,” the Thunder should Go Big this season with Grant playing power forward and Adams at center. This could free up Anthony to slide to small forward and Paul George to shooting guard. Teamed with Westbrook, this dimension of options on the wings creates size and speed advantages at multiple positions. The Thunder will have plenty to look at before going to Denver to face an upstart Nuggets team with a strong frontcourt of their own to deal with.