Almost three weeks ago the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a summer miracle by re-signing Paul George to a new contract. All it took was for his teammate in Russell Westbrook to throw a party. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the 6-foot-9 forward signed a four-year, $137 million contract.
Obviously, at certain points last season OKC struggled to move the ball. During the summer of 2017, the team traded for both Carmelo Anthony and George. Unlike Westbrook and Melo, George has the ability to play off the ball. However, the lack of ball movement affected George’s level of aggression.
Yahoo Sport’s Shams Charania reported that Anthony was traded to the Atlanta Hawks. With Anthony gone, George will have more spacing on the floor. In addition to spacing, he will become the second option on offense.
Respectfully so, if you’re a Thunder fan, what should you expect out of PG-13 this season?
Oklahoma City: Offensive Balance
Prior to trading Anthony, OKC often played down to their competition. In addition to playing down to competition, they struggled to score easy buckets in late game situations. If you need a visual think of playing hot potato with your little brother or sister.
During the 2017-18 season, the trio struggled to generate constant ball movement. Westbrook led the team in usage percentage averaging 33.2 percent per game. Following Westbrook, George averaged the second highest USG at 25.4 percent. To no one’s surprise, Melo would come in third averaging 22.6 percent.
This season Oklahoma City fans should expect PG-13 and Westbrook to be balanced on the offensive side of the ball. Over the years Westbrook has improved as a passer and as an overall point-guard. Last year the UCLA product averaged 10.3 assists per game.
The 29-year-old’s improved passing will benefit George because of his ability to catch and shoot, find the open spot on the floor, and cut to the basket. When healthy, the Fresno State product is one of the best two-way players in the league.
Without Melo, the team will be able to space the floor and get role players involved. Similar to Kawhi Leonard, the former Indiana Pacer can dominate a game without always having the ball in his hands.
— NBA (@NBA) December 28, 2017
Evaluating Past OKC Rosters
Oklahoma City’s current roster kind of resembles the rosters in the past with Kevin Durant. Durant and Westbrook were Batman and Robin despite who was who and the rest of the team would be role players. Historically speaking, when there were more than two star players on the team the ball started to stick on offense.
Once upon a time James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Durant, and Westbrook were all on the same team. Yes, they made it to the finals, but cap space and ego led to the collapse of the former OKC era.
Expect Westbrook and George to mesh this season on both sides of the ball. Both players can create for themselves and make plays for their teammates.
PG-13 Offensive Takeover
Last season, the eight-year veteran averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while shooting 43 percent from the field. In his last year in Indiana (2016-17), the Californa native averaged 23.7 points per game.
Despite the 1.8 point difference, there is nothing to worry about as an Oklahoma City fan. Keep in mind that the 28-year-old had to share the ball, adapt to a new system, and bond with his new team. This season I expect George to become more comfortable and assertive.
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan will enter his fourth year at the helm. Although the fourth-year coach has a combined record of 150-96 (.610 percent), he has struggled to create a solid offensive system. A lot of times the players encounter difficulty when it comes to trusting one another.
I expect this year to be different because of the free agents that the Thunder have signed. This summer Oklahoma City signed Nerlens Noel and re-signed Raymon Felton and Jerami Grant. Let’s not forget that the team also traded for Dennis Schroder who has something to prove.
Also, both Westbrook and George will often be on the court at different stretches while the other is on the bench. Another expectation for PG-13 will be for him to increase his scoring average by a few points and his assists as well. Donovan will have an easier time balancing the lineups considering all of the team’s summer transactions.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) May 24, 2018
What About the Playoffs?
Of course, none of this matters if Oklahoma City doesn’t make it to the playoffs. The 2018 NBA playoffs didn’t end the way the Thunder would have liked. OKC lost 4-2 to the Utah Jazz in the opening round of the playoffs.
Although the Western Conference goes through Golden State, there is still hope for the Thunder to make it far in the playoffs. Even though Durant is a better player than George, last season proved that the former Pacer pairs better with Westbrook.
Throughout last season you could see that PG-13 wasn’t phased by the raw emotion, passion, or outburst of Westbrook. During this season, I expect George to be on the receiving end of Westbrook’s assists when he draws two defenders and kicks the ball out.
Maybe the fact that both players are from Californa provides a bond. LeBron James may be in the West, but I expect the second year duo in George and Westbrook to get to the Conference Finals. Before you throw your computer to the floor think about it.
The Houston Rockets have taken a step back with the loss of Trevor Ariza. Golden State will probably make another Finals appearance. Utah can only get better but OKC won’t make the same mistake twice. The Minnesota Timberwolves have too many internal issues and Portland struggles to find favorable playoff matchups.
Now that the Leonard drama is over, the San Antonio Spurs will likely creep into the playoffs for an early exit.
That leaves Oklahoma City as a team more than capable of making a deep run to the Western Conference Finals.