The Raps travel to the mid-west on U.S. Election Day to take on the NBA finalist Thunder, a squad whose future was recently roiled by the shocking trade of brilliant 6th man Guard James Harden. The League’s most famous bewhiskered player was banished to Houston over a contract dispute, so Kevin Martin & rookie first-rounder Jeremy Lamb are wearing OKC blue-and-orange.
While some commentators, notably Bill Simmons, think OKC’s GM Sam Presti has damaged his franchise’s development with this trade, I don’t agree. Kevin Martin is a skinny veteran always-in-motion shooter who will get the Thunder 20 PPG off the bench. His defensive shortcomings will be minimized by paint-protectors Serge Ibaka & Kendrick Perkins (the Thunder also received 2 first-round draft picks, including the one we “shipped” to Houston as part of the Lowry trade – I think it’s a good deal for both teams). OKC still has Forward Kevin Durant & Guard Russell Westbrook to pour in points; those 2 are both serious MVP candidates. Young, strong, fast, & only getting better. The Thunder are proof that what Bryan Colangelo has been trying to do for years can work; namely, draft smartly, develop the kids patiently but firmly, & wait for the explosion. Trades & (in particular) free agency are lower priorities for cities not viewed as prime destinations. Of course, just because a plan of action can work doesn’t mean it will work, as we long-suffering Raps fans can attest.
A Raptors victory would be a substantial upset. We will struggle to score against this team, which blocks a ton of interior shots. The Thunder’s second unit will give ours trouble. Nick Collison, Thebo Sefelosha, & Eric Maynor are just 3 players who would be starters on many NBA squads. I’m intrigued by Hasheem Thabeet, the Congolese giant who has disappointed several teams. Can the Thunder get useful minutes on defence from him?
Lowry should maintain his marvelous start to the season tonight, but we won’t win unless a struggling Andrea Bargnani finds his stroke. We will need to “hang around” & not let OKC pile up a lead. Landry Fields must contain Durant, which he can only do by denying him the ball. Easy to say, tough to do. Look for the Raps to play some zone D, in hopes of limiting OKC’s outside shooting.
This game, regardless of final score, should be a hoops-lover’s dream.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.