A new-look Oklahoma City Thunder team is set to begin its newest era. They dealt away both Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason and received draft picks galore, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari and Chris Paul. A young stud, plus two veteran players who can still get it done at a pretty high level. It is unlikely that they are going to qualify for a playoff spot this year, but this group will be fun to watch, with some good talent still here.
Utah lost to Houston in the first round of the postseason last year and made the changes it felt necessary to improve in the offseason. They allowed Derrick Favors to walk after nine seasons. They traded for a higher-tier point guard in Mike Conley to replace Ricky Rubio. They brought in a savvy vet in Jeff Green and a great scorer in Bojan Bogdanovic. There is some really good talent around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert here, and that the ultimate key for Utah to make a run in the overcrowded West.
Utah is set as a nine-point favorite, with the over/under set at 223.5.
A New Era Begins
The Chris Paul era, no matter how long or short it ends up being, officially kicks off for the Thunder on Wednesday night. Their starting lineup to open the preseason featured all three of their point guards, with Gilgeous-Alexander getting the nod at small forward, so we’ll see if what they throw out there looks anything similar to it.
Terrence Ferguson is going to have a chance to make a big impact this year with Jerami Grant gone, while Gallinari will likely be finishing the year elsewhere, making him a great trade chip to bring in more assets. Also, watch for the Steven Adams three-ball, as it could be real this year.
The Thunder brought in exciting rookie Darius Bazley, though his role is not yet defined as Billy Donovan tends to be indecisive about playing young wings (Abdel Nader and Hamidou Diallo last year). OKC will be an interesting team to watch.
Utah Ready To Jazz It Up
Coming off a disappointing first-round exit, the rebuilt, revamped Utah Jazz are ready to go. Mitchell improved his numbers across the board in year two and is looking to make the leap to All-Star. They have the game’s best defensive big in Gobert to anchor their defense, and he’s ready to go after a strong performance in the FIBA World Cup. Conley will not only be a terrific presence on the floor but also in the locker room. He was part of the most successful Grizzlies teams in their franchise history, and he will help Mitchell with leadership.
Utah should have no issue getting this win, or making the playoffs this year. But you never know what the postseason holds. Their first task? Make CP3 uncomfortable out there and force a lot of turnovers.
Utah Opens With A Tight Win
The Jazz will get the win, but the game will be pretty close. Bet on the underdogs.
Free Play: OKC +9
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