With the 2018-19 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we're dedicating one day to each team in the league, starting with the five teams in the Northwest Division, beginning with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
2017-18 season record
48-34 (No. 4 seed in the Western Conference)
Projected 2018-19 season record
50.5 wins (No. 3 seed in the Western Conference)
• Dennis Schröder (trade)
• Nerlens Noel (free agency)
• Carmelo Anthony (trade)
3 key storylines
Year two of Russ and PG-13
To the surprise of many, Paul George immediately agreed to re-sign with Oklahoma City to handle what he and Russell Westbrook consider unfinished business.
Year one of the pairing saw George earn All-NBA Third Team honours after averaging 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while Westbrook was All-NBA Second Team after averaging a triple-double (25.4 ppg, 10.3 apg, 10.1 rpg) for the second-consecutive season. With a year of chemistry under their belts and big new additions, more wins should be coming Oklahoma City's way.
Dennis Schröder's fit
The Thunder acquired Schröder in the July trade that shed the salary of Carmelo Anthony. The question is: Was it worth the risk? Signs point to yes, as Schröder averaged 19.4 points and 6.2 assists in 67 games with the Hawks last season. He provides Oklahoma City with a dynamic they have been lacking as he can anchor the second unit or play alongside Raymond Felton or Russell Westbrook.
Andre Roberson's return
When healthy, Roberson is one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league, earning All-Defensive Second Team honours in the 2016-17 season. A ruptured patellar in January cut this past season short for Roberson, but he hopes to be 'back to [himself]' December. With him in the fold, Oklahoma City becomes an elite defensive team as it can go with a lineup of him, Westbrook, George, Jerami Grant and Steven Adams/Nerlens Noel. The Thunder could be the team best equipped defensively to deal with the Warriors' offensive firepower.
5 games to watch
Oct. 16 vs. Golden State Warriors
While two full seasons have passed since Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors, the rivalry is still very much alive. Last season saw the two teams split the four-game season series, including a fiery 20-point OKC win at Oracle Arena.
The Thunder look to be the second-consecutive team to spoil the Warriors' ring ceremony on opening night.
Dec. 10 vs. Utah Jazz
Nearly eight months after eliminating the Thunder in the first round of the 2018 playoffs, the Jazz visit Chesapeake Energy Arena in a budding Northwest Division rivalry. With the disappointment of last season still fresh on OKC's mind, expect a very entertaining matchup.
Dec. 25 vs. Houston Rockets
It was an amicable split between Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder, but it's always entertaining when a player faces his former team (James Harden, too). This is the second of four matchups between OKC and Houston, but there's plenty of reason to believe the Christmas Day game is the one you really don't want to miss.
Jan. 2 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers struck gold in signing LeBron James this offseason but missed out on George, who opted to remain in OKC. This is the first of three matchups between Western conference foes that could end up jockeying for playoff positioning with one another late in the season.
Jan. 19 vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Last year's two-game series with the Sixers included a triple-overtime thriller and intense back-and-forths between All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Joel Embiid, so it's safe to assume this year's series will have no shortage of entertainment. OKC's January visit to Philly is the first of two meetings in 2018-19.