Can Paul George Bring Some Lightning To The Thunder?

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The Thunder ended last season with a first round playoff exit to the Rockets, and were carried their on the back of Russell Westbrook, who made history, as he averaged a triple-double for the season. With an All-Star addition of Paul George, the Thunder are looking to keep pace in a stacked Western Conference, which seemingly has new developing super teams every year. The big questions for the Thunder this season are: Can they keep pace in the West? What does the addition of Paul George do to the flow of their team?

Coming into each new season we expect a good amount of changes to each team, but when four time All-Star is traded, we want to take extra time to look at how their roster shapes out. Paul George was traded from the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder on July 6th for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder are losing two players who both played in 66 games or more for them, but in their own right, they are gaining a player who has averaged 21 points or more over his last three full season.

So the question becomes, how much lightning can Paul George bring to the Thunder? Let’s dive in.

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Oklahoma City Thunder Preseason Fantasy Outlook

There is no doubt that Russell Westbrook is the leader of this team both from a metaphorical sense, and a statistical reality. Last season Westbrook had a 44.2% usage rate for the Thunder, which was 15% higher than the next closest player. Westbrook also lead the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season, so it begs the question, where is there room for Paul George and the rest of their offense? There is no doubt that Westbrook is a top option, as he is listed as the number one fantasy basketball player according to ESPN. Coming off an MVP season where he averaged a triple-double, no matter what type of fantasy league you are in, Westbrook is elite.

In order for the Thunder to compete, Westbrook will have to relinquish some amount of offense and touches to get George and other players into the mix. Paul George had a 30.7% usage rate for the Pacers last season, and led the team in scoring and assists. He is listed as the 21st overall fantasy player according to ESPN, and even though he may be the second option on the Thunder, he is still a fantastic pick because he will see plenty of openings due to opposing defenses potentially focusing on Westbrook. His stats may take a slight dip, but he is still a top five small forward, and a must draft if given the opportunity.

As for the rest of the team, what kind of fantasy value do they have in a lineup that is very top heavy with superstars. Hint, they have tons of fantasy value. The main cast of role player for the Thunder are Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Andre Roberson, all solid, situational picks in later rounds of your fantasy league. Steven Adams is coming off a season where he played 80 games, and averaged 11 points, and 7 rebounds per game. Adams is the 16th rated fantasy center, and is the type of player who is the benefactor of playing alongside Russell Westbrook. He doesn’t truly create a ton of offense on his own, but get easy looks due to pick and rolls and double teams focused on Westbrook. Adams has played 70 or more games in all four of his NBA season, and is a really solid pick for you fantasy team, especially if you aren't worried about free throw shooting.

Enes Kanter has been coming off the bench for the Thunder over the past two seasons, and is giving them solid production when he does. He has average 12 or more points per game over the past two season, along with an impressive 54% field goal percent or higher, over that same span. You will find him a bit later in fantasy drafts, and he can still make a positive impact on your fantasy teams. Finally, don't forget about Andre Roberson, who played in 79 games for the Thunder, but only averaged 6.6 points per game. Roberson scored in double digits only 15 times last season. He has taken the backseat on most of the offense for the Thunder, and with the addition of Paul George, his offensive stats may suffer even further. However, defense is where he's shined, so he can a deep league or a situational pick for his strengths in steals, blocks, and rebounds as a SG.

 

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