It was a little over a year ago that Thunder General Manager Sam Presti had just engineered one of the most newsworthy trades of the preseason. Presti’s trade sent James Harden to the Houston Rockets and effectively dissembled the Thunder’s big three. Oklahoma City acquired Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks, and a second-round draft pick, while also sending Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, and Daequan Cook to Houston.
The offseason this year has proven to be significantly less exciting for Oklahoma City, apart from rumors of Kevin Durant’s departure when he becomes a free agent in 2016. The biggest acquisition the Thunder made was Steven Adams with the twelfth overall pick in the NBA Draft. Sam Presti allowed Kevin Martin to depart for Minnesota when he became a free agent, with no one to fill his shoes but sophomore shooting guard Jeremy Lamb.
Another factor to consider as the Thunder prepare to start the 2014-2015 season is the delayed return of point guard Russell Westbrook, who suffered a season-ending meniscus tear in his right knee in Game 2 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs against the Houston Rockets last season. Up to that point, Westbrook had not missed a game in his career. In his absence, Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks called upon Reggie Jackson to step into the starting role.
Jackson displayed an encouraging level of talent and maturity for a young guard thrust into the national spotlight for the first time, but Thunder fans can feel justified if still a little disappointed to be starting the season without their perennial All-Star point guard.
With contenders like the Houston Rockets acquiring Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Clippers signing Doc Rivers as their head coach, the Thunder must prepare for an intense battle in the West outside of their rivalry with the defending Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs.
After starting last season with grand hopes of returning to the Finals that all but died with Westbrook’s untimely injury, the Thunder begin this season with more questions than answers. Presti has prided himself on developing talent that has built Oklahoma City from one of the worst teams in the NBA since making the move from Seattle in 2008 to a perennial contender for a top spot in the West. With that in mind, Thunder fans can be hopeful that Presti’s reputation will again prove reliable as they look to rising young talent in Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb to serve as a dependable supporting cast for Kevin Durant, who remains the single most important piece in the Thunder’s quest for an NBA Championship.
The season begins tonight for the Thunder as they travel to Utah to take on the Jazz at 8:00 p.m. (CST).