Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

Washington Wizards Ian Mahinmi Dennis Schroder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Ian Mahinmi Dennis Schroder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Times have changed in Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook is gone. Paul George is gone. Chris Paul’s contract has arrived. What will the Washington Wizards do about it?

Washington Wizards record versus Oklahoma City Thunder last season: 1-1

Thunder lost: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Jerami Grant, Markieff Morris, Patrick Patterson, Raymond Felton

Thunder added: Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Mike Muscala, Darius Bazley

If you somehow went into a coma from May until the opening night of the NBA season, the Oklahoma City Thunder roster might make you think you were still dreaming. After years and years of dominating the Western Conference with a host of All-Star talents including James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George, the golden era in Oklahoma City seems to have come to an end.

The NBA world was rocked this offseason when Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors after one championship season in Canada. It was rocked again when Paul George left Oklahoma City to join him on the LA Clippers. It was rocked a third time when Oklahoma City traded its cherished son, Russell Westbrook, to the Houston Rockets.

So what are the Washington Wizards to do with this brand new Thunder team? Instead of the rim shattering Westbrook, they now have one of the purest point guards in NBA history, Chris Paul, running the show. Instead of Paul George on the wing, Danilo Gallinari is the new bucket-getting forward on the roster. One of last year’s most surprising and unique rookies, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, gets to see if he can recreate his rookie season magic in a Thunder uniform.

Plus, they still have Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel, and Dennis Schroder to play alongside their new feature pieces. So although it’s a totally unfamiliar OKC team, they still have a good amount of talent on the roster.

Last season, the Thunder were one of the NBA’s best rebounding teams, ranking first overall in offensive rebounds, and second in team rebounds, per Basketball-Reference. The Wizards were far from the top, ranking in the mid to low the twenties in all major rebounding categories. A lot of the Thunder’s success had to do with Westbrook and George, obviously, who averaged 11.1 and 8.2 rebounds, respectively. But they still have Adams, who is a force down low and can absorb boards with ease. Hitting the glass will be key against the Thunder.

Wizards to Watch

Steven Adams has long been the interior anchor of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s a brute of a man below the basket, perpetually unphased and always annoyingly effective. Adams is more than solid around the rim but gets a little less impactful as you pull him away from the lane.

This season, the Wizards are banking on Thomas Bryant taking a big step in his development. Gauging how he does against Adams will tell us a lot about where the 22-year-old Wizard is compared to some of the NBA’s better centers. Bryant is extremely effective around the rim. He posted the NBA’s highest two-point field goal percentage last season. Adams will certainly bother him down there as a more physically imposing big man. However, Bryant’s ability to stretch the floor as an occasional three-point shooter should help open up driving lanes for teammates as Adams is forced to follow Bryant to the perimeter.

It’s up to Bryant to hit those perimeter shots, though. If he can’t pose as a serious three-point threat, Adams won’t bother following him anywhere outside the paint.

2019-20 Game Predictions

Friday, October 25 in Oklahoma City

In the second game of the season, the Wizards will still be without Isaiah Thomas, Troy Brown Jr, CJ Miles, Ian Mahinmi, and (of course) John Wall. While the Thunder have a ton of new faces, at least they mostly know what they have in those guys. The Wizards, this early on, are still trying to figure things out. As a result, they lose in Oklahoma City.

Washington Wizards 2019-20 Season Preview: Dallas Mavericks. dark. Next

Sunday, May 15 in Washington

The Wizards’ two contests with the Thunder come at opposite ends of the season. Because of that, we’re likely to see two entirely different teams in each game. Not just from a chemistry standpoint, but from a personnel standpoint. Both the Wizards and Thunder could be active at the trade deadline, likely as sellers. Whether they’re making moves or not, the Wizards will tie up this season series with a late-season win in front of the home fans.