After suffering yet another grueling late loss in their home opener against the Washington Wizards, the Orlando Magic return to action on Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. To get some back ground on the Thunder, we're joined by Joey Conger of SB Nation's Welcome to the Loud City.
OPP: Obviously the Thunder went through some big changes in the offseason with the coaching change. How much different so you expect the team to be with Billy Donovan as head coach?
Conger: That's the thing, we really don't know much about the team. Based on what the players have been saying during preseason, I expect there to be much more space and ball movement offensively. Westbrook said at one point that Donovan didn't change much on the defensive end. The first game of the season against San Antonio didn't give me anything to change those opinions. There were next to no bad shots taken. Nineteen turnovers is a problem though.
OPP: Kevin Durant is back. Russell Westbrook is continuing to try to be Bestbrook. Serge is still blocking shots. How far can this Thunder squad go in the gauntlet that is the Western conference?
Conger: I don't think there's any doubt that this Thunder team can win it all. The last time we saw Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka together for a full season/postseason they went to the Finals. Sure, they had James Harden, but people forget the next year OKC won 60 games, had one of the best point differentials in NBA history and was a favorite to win it all before Westbrook went down. This team looks much different than they have in the past, but the general consensus is that they're much deeper than in the past. That, paired with a healthy Durant/Westbrook/Ibaka should carry Oklahoma City deep in the playoffs.
OPP: Much like the Thunder were back in the late 2000's, the Magic are looking to turn the corner with a group of young guys. Do you see any similarities between the Thunder's rebuild and the Magic? Any glaring differences?
Conger: I don't really see many similarities between Orlando and circa 2009 Oklahoma City. The most glaring difference is that Orlando doesn't look to have a generational-type talent yet, and those Thunder teams turned out to have three of the top five players in the league, plus a top three shot blocker. I think that Orlando needs to look to win some games this year, develop their talent, establish good habits, and look to flip their assets for a superstar. I would like to see them make a run at DeMarcus Cousins if he becomes available.
OPP: Make a prediction on the game.
Conger: I'm really excited for this game. Against San Antonio's front line of Duncan/Aldridge/Diaw/West we didn't get a chance to see Billy Donovan adapt and go small. With Orlando having the potential to be a dangerous small ball team with Aaron Gordon and Tobias Harris as forwards, it's a great opportunity to see some minutes with Kevin Durant at the 4. I think that the Thunder start a little slow but hit a groove and win this game by double digits.
ED Note: Thanks again to Joey for taking time to answer these questions, and you can find him on twitter @joey_conger.