By Addam Francisco
Coming off a big win against Dallas in Tulsa, Oklahoma in front of a very energetic crowd, a lot of questions have been been answered for this Thunder team. Yes, there are still a few questions that fans have but a lot of the big questions were addressed Tuesday night.
Here are a few of the answered questions.
1. How good will Cameron Payne be?
Well I know this was just a preseason game, but Cameron Payne seems to be the real deal. A lot of people expect to see instant results from these young players but don't realize that there are multiple aspects of the game that they have to adjust to from college to the pros. The speed of the game, players size, intensity from both the players and the intense atmosphere provided by the fans, the fact that its not "just a game" anymore because there's money involved and having to face the fact that you not the top dog anymore. However, if you remember when Russell was drafted, he was about the same. There were flashes of talent and it was clear he had unbelievable athleticism but there were times where he just seemed a little immature and out of control... Along with the fact that he played behind starting point guard Earl Watson. Cameron Payne showed a lot of promise against the Mavericks and already showing signs of improvement in just three preseason games. In just seven minutes, Payne scored eight points off 3-of-5 shooting, 2-of-2 from the three point line and two assists. This kid is quicker than expected and makes a lot of smart veteran plays before his regular season NBA career even starts.
2. Will Kanter live up to his big paycheck?
Yes, defense is still a weak point but there were times where he seemed at the least aware of what he was doing defensively, which was something not seen last season. There were times where they'd set a pick and he didn't switch quick enough off the roll and would get scored on from about 15 feet out, but that's something that can be coached. What was impressive was his offensive game which is his strength but he never ceases to amaze. In just 20 minutes he scored 19 points, shooting 7-of-11 and collected 11 rebounds (5 offensive). Expect him to see more minutes than this during the season and don't be surprised if he's a 20 and 10 type of big man on average. Banter could be the key to this team winning a championship.
3. How effective will D.J. Augustin be?
It's been a valid question, but with Cameron Payne playing so well, D.J. could possibly be playing with a chip on his shoulder. You could say that Augustin was the catalyst of that 17-2 run to stretch this close game out in the fourth quarter. D.J. isn't expected to be an offensive guard, OKC has Russell, Dion Waiters, and Cameron for that but he is expected to distribute the ball which is exactly what he did with eight assists, all coming in the fourth quarter.
This Thunder team is coming together just fine, and once again a risky lottery draft pick by Sam Presti seems to be a smart one thus far. Payne works for this team seemingly in his play and personality in the locker room, being just as playful as everyone else and seems to be slowly earning the trust and respect of his veteran teammates.