Things didn’t quite click with Carmelo Anthony last season, and they were willing to send him away, but they actually got Dennis Schroder in return which was a bigger need for the Thunder. This opens the door for a few younger more athletic players to get more minutes. Between Paul George and Russell Westbrook last season, they had a lot of usage and ball-stoppers. That will change taking Melo out of the picture, and should lead to some more offensive movement. Overall this is going to be a plus for the Thunder, and on both sides of the ball.
The Thunder are in one of the toughest divisions in basketball. Every team finished over .500 last season. The Thunder finished second to Portland, by just one game, but Denver finished last and by three games. Taking the 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 seeds in this division, it should be a battle once again this season. If Oklahoma City can stay healthy, they have what it takes on both sides of the ball to take down this division and also make some noise in the Western Conference. If they run into some help problems, it will be a race for others to take advantage of.
Russell Westbrook will be turning 30 in a few months, and is coming off right knee surgery. As of the beginning of the season he has yet to be cleared for full contact. Westbrook is a 110% energy guy all the time, and any sort of limitations would be a knock to the Thunder. If Westbrook was to miss a good portion of the first half, this puts Dennis Schroder into the starting role, and also more on the plate of Paul George. This takes away the bench scoring role Schroder was coming in for, which hurts the bench scoring for when Westbrook is out.
With Carmelo Anthony gone, you are looking at Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson both coming into a bigger role. Grant was an excellent bench player who brought energy, so it is likely the Thunder will keep him in that role. Minutes were fluctuating most of last season for Grant, but she should have a pretty carved out role this season. The combination of Patterson and Grant should help the Thunder defensively, especially keeping them split with minutes. Grant has more offensive upside because he will be with the second unit, and Patterson isn’t as versatile as Grant in that department.
Oklahoma City has not had a bench scorer since James Harden, and they finally got someone to pick up some of the scoring slack off the bench. Dennis Schroder is that guy, and they got him in the Melo trade which works out really well for the Thunder. The Thunder desperately needed another scorer, and eventually this is going to workout for some Westbrook insurance for the first part of the season with the injury. Schroder had his question marks as a starter in Atlanta, but he has enough talent to be a bench player moving forward. In the Western Conference, a talented bench is needed on most nights.