Roundtable: Bubblin’via Thunder

Roundtable: Bubblin’

Predict the Thunder’s record for the final eight games of the regular season.

Brandon Rahbar: I’ve been saying 5-3 the whole time so I’ll stick with that. But I wouldn’t be upset if OKC took these 8 games to toy with rotations and new sets, go 4-4 or 3-5 and get their 1st round pick back.

Olivia Panchal: 5-3 with losses to the Nuggets, Lakers, and Heat.

Logan Meyer: 5-3 with losses to Lakers, Clippers, and Heat. 

Shea Vassar: 6-2 with losses to the Nuggets and Clippers. 

Rylan Stiles: 5-3 with losses to the Nuggets, Lakers, and Grizzlies. 

Cray Allred: 2-6 with wins against the draft gods.

Are you feeling better or worse about the restart plan than you were before teams entered the bubble?

Rahbar: From coaches to players to the elite NBA media (ie: not me) who made it into the bubble, everyone says the league has gone above and beyond to make sure the bubble is as safe as possible. Despite what’s happening with COVID in Florida, with all the precautions taken, the bubble sounds pretty great.

Panchal: Worse, but not because of anything the NBA has done. I’m worried the significant increase in cases in Florida will force the bubble to close. Stay home and wear your mask, please. A Thunder championship depends on it. XOXO, your friendly neighborhood medical student.

Meyer: I feel as confident as I was before they entered the bubble. The outside COVID numbers are obviously staggering and concerning, but I feel like this bubble will be incredibly secure and the single best chance of having the NBA Playoffs.

Vassar: Somewhere in between, bittersweet maybe? 

Stiles:  I am really about the same on this plan. I feel confident that this restart will continue and conclude with crowning a champion. Cash rules everything around us and completing the bubble restart is a massive cash cow. I think the main reason the NBA bubble bursts is not going to be the NBA’s fault, but rather cases getting so high that it would become unethical–or at the very least bad PR–for the NBA to conduct all of these tests on a daily bases.

Allred: I think the rules will pop, but the bubble won’t. The players were getting COVID when they weren’t in the bubble, and without a single known severe case among players, I don’t think even an outbreak will lead them to collectively cancel the season. And you know that if the players are game, the owners are, too. In the face of those ominous virus charts and hotspot maps, there are twentysomethings feeling invincible in Florida bars every weekend. In the face of whatever doesn’t go according to plan in the bubble, there will be elite athletes feeling invincible in Disney arenas.

Is Andre Roberson going to play?

Rahbar: Yes. A month ago, I was a hard no. A week ago, I was a soft no. Today, I am a jiggly yes.

Panchal: Yes, Lu Dort says Dre’s ready to go and I always defer to Lu Dort.

Meyer: Yes, he will play. Dre will come off the bench and be a key vet for a playoff run. His presence gives the Thunder another coach on the floor, and he can help Dort and others develop defensively. 

Vassar: No, and at this point, I doubt he ever will suit up with the Thunder again. 

Stiles: I am still skeptical given that we have heard this song before, as recently as the September media day. However, this is the most positive I have been about Andre returning. I will say, let’s pump the breaks on acting as though he will immediately return to that elite defensive prowess he once had. We may never see him at that elite level again, and for sure will not see it in the bubble. However, regression on defense for Andre Roberson can still result in him being a very good defender.

Allred: Yes. I can’t bring myself to say “no”, which would amount to me declaring his career over.

What improvement are you looking for from a Thunder player?

Rahbar: Roberson coming back to play will be the perfect happy ending to a surprising storybook season. Roberson coming back with a legit jumpshot would be the jaw dropping M. Night Shyamalan twist, much like The Village being its own self sustaining community hidden away from the rest of society intended to keep its residents safe from the harms of the outside world. Oh wait…

Panchal: I’d like to see more consistent 3-point shooting from Mike Muscala. Before the season was postponed, he had a couple of games where he had 3 or 4 made threes. I hope he can pick up where he left off!

Meyer: I’d like to see Darius Bazley with an improved finishing ability at the rim. He was excellent at getting to the basket, but finishing his attempts proved challenging at times. If he can become consistent at finishing these attempts, it unlocks another level for Thunder offense.

Vassar: Maybe, just maybe, Steven Adams will surprise us with that 3-point shot. It might seem like a dream but one day it will happen so why not now? 

Stiles: Dort turning into a consistent and even more improved 3-point shooter would take this team to another level. Lu Dort shot the trey ball at a 30 percent clip from deep and was able to produce a free throw percentage of 77 percent, which many people use to project 3-point growth.

Allred: If he’s healthy, Hamidou Diallo has a chance to kickstart his year-2 development in what was turning into a lost sophomore season before it went into hiatus. He’s one of the only young Thunder wings who is aggressive despite his limitations, but thus far a lot of his force of play has resulted in bricks or turnovers, if not dunks. Unbreaking his jumpshot might be a pipe dream, but seeing some more savvy from him on offense would be encouraging. A young rotation player who can do more than stand and shoot below league average would be very good for the future of the team.

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