OKC Thunder (0-0, 0-0 road) vs. Utah Jazz (0-0, 0-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 00.0 (30th), Jazz– 00.0 (30th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 00.0 (30th), Jazz – 00.0 (30th)
Pace: Thunder – 00.0 (30th), Jazz – 00.0 (30th)
View from the enemy: Salt City Hoops
For the first time in the Oklahoma City regular season era, the Thunder will take the floor without Russell Westbrook. There are questions as to how they’ll handle it, though most of those have been answered by simply saying “Kevin Durant.” He was mostly the solution in the nine postseason games without Westbrook, and appeared to have an even better handle on it in the preseason.
The Thunder’s first opponent of 82 is a recovering Jazz team that’s got a bunch of youth and little depth. The Thunder saw them in preseason once and while you can’t draw too much from that, it was obvious the Jazz aren’t flush with talent, especially on their bench. Without rookie Trey Burke, starting duties are set to fall to John Lucas III, which should tell you everything you need to know about the current state of the Jazz.
That said, this is no guaranteed win. The Clippers and Lakers illustrated the uncertainty of a basketball game well last night, especially in an opener on the road. Salt Lake City is always a difficult place to win and the Jazz have a few nice players. The Thunder have questions themselves even outside of Westbrook’s absence, so there’s a lot to worry about, despite OKC being a heavy favorite.
Three Big Things
1. Rotational issues. The starters are set — Jackson, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins — but who plays where and who plays when? Steven Adams is pretty much a lock to be the backup center tonight because of Hasheem Thabeet’s suspension, but how much does he play? When does Jeremy Lamb enter and who does he play with? How much will the Thunder play small? Scott Brooks has played coy all preseason about his rotations and while they’re subject to change often, we’ll at least get a glimpse into his thinking.
2. Lamb. He built some positive momentum to finish up the preseason and has Thunder fans feeling a little better about him as a bench solution. Still, he didn’t make much from outside and that’s going to be a large part of his job. And these stats count. To me, Lamb’s big issue is playing with confidence and in rhythm. He needs a good start, and needs a few easy buckets. How much does Scott Brooks trust him though? Will he play 30 minutes?
3. Interior battle. The Jazz are different, but they’re really the same. They’re still interior-focused and are hoping for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to carry the bulk of the production. The wild card tonight is Gordon Hayward, who can be a difficult matchup and has the ability to score in isolation some. Defensive rebounding has been a big focus for the Thunder in training camp, and they’re going to get a chance to prove how much they’re really paid attention to it tonight.
Tip at 8:00 CT. Go Season.