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Fantasy Basketball Outlook: Oklahoma City Thunder

There is no doubt that the team who has gone through the biggest offseason overhaul this year has been the Oklahoma City Thunder. After making the playoffs with veterans such as Chris Paul and Steven Adams, general manager Sam Presti blew the team up. Not only gone are several key players, but also coach Billy Donovan.

To recap who has left the Thunder squad from last year: Chris Paul who played 31.5 minutes per game, Steven Adams who played 26.7, Danilo Gallinari at 29.6 minutes, Dennis Schroder with 30.8 minutes a night and even backup Nerlens Noel’s 18.5 minutes a night will need to be replaced. That group represents four of the top five players in terms of minutes last year, but also a combined 66.1 points, 14.9 assists and 23.1 rebounds a contest.

In place of that group, veterans Al Horford, Trevor Ariza and George Hill have been added, as well as rookie big man Aleksej Pokusevski. This group clearly does not have the skill of the players that departed, which means there should be a ton of new fantasy value to go around on this squad.

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Fantasy Outlook: Oklahoma City Thunder

The headliner of this team is clearly going to be Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who will be given the keys to the offense and could possibly lead the NBA in minutes played. In 65 minutes last year without Paul, Schroder, Adams and Gallinari on the floor, Gilgeous-Alexander had a solid 31.1% usage rate. In that scenario, his per 36 minute numbers were 21.7 points, 7.2 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.1 three’s and 0.6 steals. Consider those numbers all likely game in blowouts, we should expect to see a slight uptick in all those areas. His 47.1% field goal rate is likely to take a hit, and he should see an uptick on his low 1.9 turnovers per game, but those are minor issues. Look to target SGA in the middle second round in standard drafts.

For the remainder of the Thunder, it may be best to look at them in two groups, the veterans as the young players. Al Horford, George Hill and Trevor Ariza all seem likely to find a spot in the starting rotation to start the year, but it seems only a matter of time until they are either moved for younger players, or are given a reduced role. Horford is the next top option early in the season as he has always been a consistent fantasy producer. He will not standout in any one category, however Horford was one of only 13 players last year to average at least 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. He should provide solid value early in the season, but again if he gets off to a hot start it may be best to deal him as he eventually will lose time or get dealt to a team with a reduced role.

Ariza and Hill will both be end of the draft players who should see around 25-30 minutes early in the season while the Thunder stay competitive. Ariza is a nice punt option late in drafts where you are looking to add three’s and steals while Hill should add solid assist numbers and elite percentages.

The second group of Thunder players we will look at are a bit higher risk and unlikely to provide instant value, but by years end could be the type of players who are the steals of your drafts and fly you up standings. This group includes Darius Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, Lugentz Dort and Terrance Ferguson and rookie Pokusevski.

Dort appears to be the most likely to see big minutes as he played over 34 minutes in three of the Thunder playoff games last season. However, Dort is more of a defensive ace as his stats bear out posing just 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists per 36 minutes. His best bet to be a sleeper is on defense where he averaged 1.8 steals and also 1.8 three’s per 36 last year. The trio of Ferguson, Diallo and Bazley are all the same type of player and played between 18 and 22 minutes last season. Again, with three players gone from last year with over 23% usage rates, at least one of these three players should see a dramatic boost. For pure upside I would rank them Diallo, Bazley and then Ferguson.

The final player to look at is the rookie from Serbia, who the Thunder hope is their long term answer at center. Last season in Europe he was a solid all-around player at 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. At 6’11”, he would be a logical fit at the power forward or center spots, but the young Serbian is slight of build and often wants to float outside. As mentioned above, look for Horford to eat up plenty of minutes early in the year, but eventually it seems likely Pokusevski will pick up solid minutes and could be a nice fantasy player late, especially in deep leagues. In dynasty leagues he may be a top 10 rookie option simply because this team is a near lock to be tanking and should have plenty of time to give to the young big man.

Overall, Gilgeous-Alexander is the only true stud, while Horford and Ariza will provide early value. If you are willing to gamble a bit on inconsistency, Bazely and the young wings could be the type of players who win you a league. The Thunder were 16th in offensive efficiency last year and with Mark Daigneault being promoted, expect much of the same offense as last season.

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