Thoughts on the Thunder heading into season
OCT 20, 2013 9:32p ET
Here's what we've learned so far and here are a few tidbits and things to think about the rest of the preseason:
Reggie Jackson can play
We've seen Jackson the past two years, but we're going to get to know him this year. Jackson will start the season in place of Russell Westbrook. Now, with Kevin Durant, you're always in good shape, but it will be Jackson who will have a large say in how the Thunder do until Westbrook comes back.
Count on him playing extended minutes the rest of the preseason and count on him taking on a leadership role through November. While Jackson can't do what Westbrook can do, he's the best bet to be the No. 2 scorer behind Durant. Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Thabo Sefolosha and others have the potential to put up big games and big numbers, but Jackson is going to have to do it on a nightly basis if the Thunder are going to do anything more than break even the first month or so of the season without Westbrook.
Jackson is the best player on the team – aside from Durant – about getting to the rim, creating contact and creating his own shot. Jackson started Sunday and went 7-of-10 from the field and three-of-three on 3-pointers. He wound up with 18 points and six assists.
Andre Roberson is better than you think
Coach Scott Brooks likes Roberson. You will, too. The 6-foot-7 rookie from Colorado is so active and so intense defensively, you can't help but enjoy the way he plays.After he signed with the Thunder, one of the first things Roberson mentioned was that he couldn't wait to get on the court and show Durant what he's got. Pretty good confidence.
Roberson got the start Sunday night against Utah but didn't impress. He fouled in 24 minutes of action, scored two points and had three rebounds. He'll be better.
"I don't know how we're going to use him this year," Brooks said. "But I know he can rebound."
Ya think? Roberson had nine in 17 minutes against Denver in the Thunder's game Tuesday. In 12 minutes of the Thunder's game in Turkey, Roberson had six rebounds and a pair of steals. What Roberson will do best is give the Thunder a active defender, who can guard small forwards and guards.
"I'm a rookie," Roberson said. "I got to earn respect in this league. Nothing is given to you, but I do feel like this is a great opportunity."
"He does something we like. He defends and rebounds," Brooks said. "When you play hard, that's a skill. It's not easy to play hard. Some guys it's not easy. For him, it is."
Kendrick Perkins will start, but you'll see a lot of Steven Adams
Perkins has been out for the preseason with a finger injury he got in the first game in Turkey and maybe it's turned out to be a benefit for the Thunder. The result has been a lot of looks for Adams.
Adams is averaging seven points, 7.8 rebounds and had 15 rebounds Thursday against New Orleans. And shooting? Adams came into Sunday's game against Utah having gone 13-of-19 in four preseason games. He was two-of-six with 10 rebounds Sunday.
Amazingly, Adams has 41 rebounds in just over 100 minutes of preseason ball.
He put together back-to-back impressive performances against New Orleans and Utah. Remember, Brooks is big on saying the center position doesn't need to supply a lot of offense, but if Adams can kick in 20-plus minutes and do some scoring, too, he'll be even more valuable than what anyone initially thought.
"He's been giving us good minutes," Brooks said. "He had another active game (against Utah). We have to keep working with him. We just have to come back the next day and work with him like we do with all of our players."
Jeremy Lamb still has a lot to prove
The Thunder need Lamb to have a good season, not just from a production standpoint, but from a public relations standpoint. Lamb was acquired along with Kevin Martin for James Harden from Houston last year.
Now it's time to see what he's got. Lamb appeared in 23 games last season, but with Westbrook being out, he's a candidate to be first off the bench. The thing is, he hasn't helped himself this preseason.
He's started once this preseason and has been dreadful and acceptable. Lamb went 5-for-24 in back-to-back games earlier, but also has has a four-for-nine outing. Sunday, Lamb went three-of-nine in 25 minutes.
What does Lamb need to do to get to the point where he can be trusted a bit more? Gotta be consistency. Maybe it's because he has a sleepy demeanor or doesn't have a lot of experience, but if Lamb doesn't provide some consistency, he may get left behind.
Lamb is better defensively and according to some, he's worked at being a player who goes on the floor with no agenda. In other words, he doesn't have to shoot to be successful. However, what Lamb does best is shoot, but if he's not making shots, it could be problematic.
Sure seemed like Lamb was the favorite to be the first off the bench for the Thunder. At this point, it would be hard to say it's his spot to lose.
"It might be a number of scerarios," Brooks said. "It's something I haven't worked out yet. I can say this, it won't be Russell."
Prediction: Kevin Durant will have a better season
Hard to imagine Durant doing more, but he will this season. Some of it will be due to Westbrook being out which will lead to Durant taking more upon himself to score.
But when asked what he expects out of Durant this season, Brooks said he wants Durant to be more of a leader than he already is.
The only thing that will keep Durant's production down will be Brooks. It will be up to Brooks to manage Durant's minutes and that won't be easy to do as Brooks will have to balance trying to win early in the season with wearing Durant out.
My guess is Durant plays with a purpose. He'll want to prove, although he certainly doesn't need to, that he can carry this team. If he needs to score 40 points per game to do it, he will.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK
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