Thunder (0-0) vs. Mavericks (0-0)
Time: 8:00 AM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks open up the Summer League season with a 8:00 AM CST tip in Orlando. Each team in the Orlando Summer League will play 4 “regular season” games and one “playoff” game on the last day of the Orlando Summer League. The match-ups on the final day are determined by record and points (Each game won is worth 4 points and each quarter won counts as 1 point. If the two teams tie in a quarter, each team will get 0.5 points for that quarter.).
The Thunder bring a lot of familiar faces to Orlando. Mitch McGary, Cameron Payne, and Josh Huestis all saw time with the Thunder this season. Dakari Johnson, Semaj Christon, Richard Solomon, Reggie Williams, Marcus Lewis, and Tomislav Zubcic have all been on the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue in one or both of the last two seasons. In addition, the Thunder’s 2nd round pick from this past draft, Daniel Hamilton, will be available and will likely be suiting up for the Blue later this season. Noticeably absent from the roster is the Thunder’s first round pick that was acquired from Orlando, Domantas Sabonis. His absence is due to his commitment to the Lithuanian national team that is gearing up for the Olympics in late August. I guess that’s an acceptable excuse for missing summer league.
The Thunder’s summer league schedule is as follows:
- Saturday, 02 July 2016 at 8:00 AM CST – vs. Dallas Mavericks
- Sunday, 03 July 2016 at 4:00 PM CST – vs. Los Angeles Clippers
- Monday, 04 July 2016 at 4:00 PM CST – vs. Charlotte Hornets
- Wednesday, 06 July 2016 at 4:00 PM CST – vs. Indiana Pacers
- Friday, 08 July 2016 at TBD – vs. TBD
3 Things I’ll Be Watching For In This Game
1. Mitch McGary
Last season was supposed to be a big one for McGary. He surprised many with his performances during his rookie year and had Thunder fans wondering if they had drafted a gem with the 21st pick in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, McGary’s second season never really materialized into much of anything. He suffered a concussion late in training camp and had to sit out the first couple of games. Once he returned, he was out of shape, out of rhythm, and definitely out of the rotation. He never made up the ground he lost during that period and played mostly for the Blue all season. When he did get time on the Thunder, he was extremely ineffective.
Then at the end of the season, McGary was mysteriously absent for the stretch run and for the first few games of the playoffs. No explanation was ever given by McGary or the Thunder, but for a player wanting to solidify his foothold on the team, that absence could not have been for a good reason. So this becomes the beginning of McGary’s redemption. We’ve seen what McGary is capable of. We’ve loved the “bull in a china shop” routine that McGary plays with. But the time for gimmicks is over. We need to see McGary, the professional basketball player. Hopefully it starts in Orlando and continues throughout the season.
2. Cam Payne’s defense
When Payne saw time on the floor last season, two things usually happened: 1) the ball starting moving around for the offense while the reserves were on the floor, and 2) opposing guards usually had their way when Payne was on the floor. Offense is not an issue for Payne. Shore up the handles and get some consistency on that jumper and Payne will be primed to be a player in this league on one end of the court. But it’s the other end that gets him in trouble. Payne had issues staying in front of the ball handler. And when he did stay in front, he usually made rookie mistakes, like reaching in for a foul or biting on a pump-fake. Summer league likely won’t tell much about his defense, but it’ll be the little things that’ll show whether he can be disciplined on defense or whether he’ll be destined to be a one-way player.
3. Dakari Johnson
Of all the players currently on the summer league roster that aren’t under contract for the Thunder, I feel like Johnson has the best bet to garner a roster spot this season. With Serge Ibaka gone, the Thunder will likely be needing some form of rim protection moving forward. Currently the Thunder have only Steven Adams as someone that can be termed a rim protector. Sabonis is viewed more as a good positional defender, while Enes Kanter is now viewed as a mediocre positional defender. Johnson would automatically be the 2nd best rim protector on the team if he was signed. With the rumors that the team may also move Kanter this offseason, having someone like Johnson in the pipeline could be big for this team moving forward.
I really don’t see anybody on the Mavericks’ squad that is worthy of mentioning. Marquis Teague has played with the Blue the last two seasons, so he may be familiar with a lot of the Thunder’s personnel and sets. But other than him, nobody on their roster is really worth of mention.