The Thunder are on the preseason board. Everyone can relax.
Oklahoma City beat Charlotte 120-98 behind 20 from Andy Rautins — seriously — while Perry Jones III added 17, Serge Ibaka had 16 and 10, and Kevin Durant finished with 13.
Here are some takeaways and notes:
1. Scott Brooks has to find minutes for Perry Jones. Whether it’s by stretching his rotation to 11 guys or it’s by cutting someone else out, he’s just got too much talent not to play. His 17 points in 30 minutes were impressive alone, but the guy makes plays. He had five assists, a block, a steal and three boards. Plus, he’s got crazy bounce. I don’t think it would be outlandish to say he’s the most athletic player on the team. And on this team, that’s saying something.
I’m curious to see how Jones might play if he’s not getting 25 minutes but more just 5-15, but it’s obvious that he can make an impact this season. He played quite a bit of power forward tonight, kind of swapping the position at times with KD. Pretty interesting.
2. Daniel Orton > Hasheem Thabeet. OK, so it’s one preseason game, but for my money, I’d rather have Orton I think. There’s no question of motor or motivation for him. He’s a bruiser in the paint, clearing bodies out and playing with a ton of physicality. Honestly, he looked like Baby Perk, with a little more athleticism and offensive polish. I can definitely picture Orton being an impactful NBA player, whether for the Thunder or somebody else. He’s got to develop some defensive savvy, probably a little mean streak and build his post defense chops, but Orton can play.
3. Not impressed with: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kind of forgot he was even out there, to be honest.
4. A great stat noticed by my man Nick Gallo: The Thunder had more assists (34) than the Bobcats had rebounds (31).
5. More proof that Thunder fans are either incredibly awesome, or just crazy: A preseason game against the Bobcats was full. And loud. What’s wrong with you people?
6. I asked Scott Brooks postgame if this is the best group of non-guaranteed guys he’s had. “Yes, I think these guys are really good and they’re making it so hard and very competitive in practice which we like,” Brooks said. “It’s a tough decision, it’s going to be a tough decision to make but it’s part of the job. You have to make it. I was cut many times and you do your best as a player and give it everything you have and that’s the only thing you can do.”
7. Russell Westbrook and Daniel Orton need to come to an agreement that they can’t have the same hairstyle.
8. Andy Rautins, Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins all had their own locker in OKC’s locker room while Walker Russell and Hollis Thompson shared one. I feel like that’s got to be a bad sign.
9. Serge Ibaka is coming along in the post. He pulled his own variation of the dream shake and used a few drop-step hooks. I think Ibaka could be set up to have a fairly monster season. He’s an absolute beast on the offensive glass and his confidence is growing offensively by the game.
10. Nick Collison completely posterized Byron Mullens. It was so good I had to have a cigarette after it.
11. Speaking of Mullens, here’s my knee-jerk, over-reactionary preseason prediction for him: He’s going to be in the conversation this season for Most Improved. He didn’t finish up with an impressive line –16 points on 6-16 shooting and four rebounds — but he’s added a solid 3-point shot to his game and has a bunch of offensive skill. Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World made a great point that he could be a bigger Ryan Anderson. It’s really not all that hard to imagine happening either. Mullens’ stroke is pure and at 7-1, he can fire it over anyone.
11. Sign it’s preseason: KD and Lazar Hayward messed up their pregame handshake routine. Gotta stay late after practice tomorrow and work on it.
12. Biggest upset of the night: The Thunder didn’t play Gangnam Style until late in the fourth quarter.
13. Did not play: James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Daequan Cook, Reggie Jackson and Hasheem Thabeet. Oh, and Lazar Hayward.
14. All was right with the world though as Hayward was wearing a headband tonight.
15. On Andy Rautins: He can shoot. Like shooooooooot. He’s one of those guys oozing confidence in his deep ball and he’s just looking for a sliver of space to pull the trigger. He shot 4-of-7 from 3 and 7-of-10 overall. And you know what? I don’t think he’s all bad defensively. Ben Gordon went around him once without much resistance, but he’s not the kind of player that’s not working on the defensive end. He’s clearly putting in the effort, which is all you can ask for.
16. Eric Maynor, terrific. A nice little reminder of what an excellent change of pace he can be. In 19 minutes, 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds and only one turnover. And it appears that a little Maynor-to-PJIII lob connection might be brewing. They hooked up a number of times on alley oops.
17. Nick Collison had six assists. Just wanted to mention that.
18. I’m not sure I’d call Cole Aldrich’s outing disappointing, but it just wasn’t noticeable. He didn’t score in 19 minutes, had five rebounds and one block. He was active, set good screens and played hard.
19. KD was dishing it out tonight. He had seven assists but could’ve had 10 or 11 if Serge Ibaka could catch.
20. On a couple different occasions I heard new Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap say “please” when telling his players to do something. Found that weird. Polite though.
21. It’s a new season and Brendan Haywood is still terrible.
22. I would like to publicly apologize to Scott Brooks for saying in my media day post he drove a Range Rover when it was actually a Jeep Wrangler. You hear me, Scott? I’M SORRY.
Next up: Friday against the Suns in Tulsa