Bill Simmons in ranking the Thunder’s League Pass watchability: “You’re overlooking a variety of juicy League Pass subplots here, including Kendrick Perkins’s quest to finish with a negative PER; Jeremy Lamb’s hilarious attempt to replicate Kevin Martin’s numbers last season (good luck); Steven Adams vindicating his lottery selection by becoming the greatest bench celebrator in recent league history; Serge Ibaka aiming for all red and orange colors in Kirk Goldsberry’s next Serge Ibaka shot chart; Derek Fisher decomposing; an undeniably compelling “Is Westbrook the same post-injury, and if not, does that make Patrick Beverley the Bernard Karmell Pollard of NBA players?” story line; Scottie Brooks’s job security; and, of course, Durant becoming angrier and angrier as the season goes along. Sign me up for all of this. We should have ranked them higher.”
Tom Ziller of SB Nation: “Yes, OKC could have used Harden once Westbrook was injured last season. But without Ibaka, chances are the Thunder would have entered the postseason with a less than great defense and would likely have lost a different way. You can argue that the Harden trade itself wasn’t good — the remaining pieces in OKC are basically Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams. You can also argue that Presti and Clay Bennett should have figured out a way to afford Ibaka, Westbrook and Harden, possibly by using the amnesty clause to expunge Kendrick Perkins. But Presti’s building a Spursian model in OKC, and you can’t really afford to goes absolutely nuts in any given season. It’s not sustainable, and when you’re not building a sustainable model in a small market, you get into a painful boom-bust cycle that causes major revenue problems. Given the exact circumstances — you can afford Harden or Ibaka — I still think OKC made the right choice. Whether the actual trade as it happened was good will depend on Lamb and Adams from here on out.”
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Darnell Mayberry on Steven Adams: “There have been brief bouts with a few other notables, like Denver center JaVale McGee and New Orleans post man Anthony Davis. But by and large, Adams had yet to face top flight competition, something that quietly clouded encouraging performances he assembled in three of the Thunder’s first four exhibition games. That all changed Sunday night, however, and turned an otherwise painful preseason slugfest against Utah into a must-see matchup. It was Adams versus Enes Kanter, the third overall pick in 2011 who is widely projected to establish himself as a premier player now that he’s free from Al Jefferson’s smothering shadow. And by the time the final buzzer had sounded, signaling the end to Oklahoma City’s 88-82 victory over the rebuilding Jazz, you could score another one for Adams.”
Ben Golliver of SI.com previewing the Northwest: “Over the last 12 months, the Thunder have traded James Harden, lost Kevin Martin in free agency, and witnessed Russell Westbrook undergo two knee surgeries. Somehow, they might actually strengthen their grasp on the Northwest Division in 2013-14, as none of their fellow members made up significant ground this summer. This year’s Thunder will ride and die with Kevin Durant like never before, at least until his All-Star teammate returns to the lineup. In the meantime, coach Scott Brooks will hope Reggie Jackson, who enjoyed a breakout 2013 playoffs, and 2012 lottery pick Jeremy Lamb can help fill in some of the scoring gaps, and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate Serge Ibaka should also enjoy an enhanced offensive role. After getting a taste of the Finals in 2012 and then taking a step back in 2013, this season might be the first time Oklahoma City deals with a real sense of urgency after living such a charmed existence.”