Oklahoma City’s new super trio of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will draw attention from two of the Thunder’s most rapidly improving players. Starters Steven Adams and Andre Roberson should have more room to operate while opponents try to stop three of the league’s top offensive threats.
“Regardless it’s going to open up a lot of things,” said Adams, a 7-foot center.
Adams has already has established himself as one of the league’s most effective players around the rim. Last season, he posted career highs of 11.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and ranked seventh in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 57.1 percent.
“Steven Adams is a monster,” Anthony said. “He’s a monster like somebody from the `Game of Thrones’ or something. I love him. First day, his energy, what he brings to the game, to the court, to his teammates _ his energy is incredible.”
Roberson was a second-team all-defense selection last season, but he has shown flashes of potential on offense and is an excellent rebounder. Last season, he averaged career highs of 6.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while shooting 46.4 percent from the field.
Fans might get to see the playoff version of Roberson more often this season. In the five-game series against Houston last season, he averaged 11.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the field.
George looks forward to playing alongside Roberson, especially on the defensive side. In the past, Roberson would defend an opponent’s best player. Now, they can share responsibility and take pressure off Anthony.
“I think I can take alongside the role with Roberson to leave Melo to do what Melo does, and that’s to put points on the board and that’s to be a mismatch, matchup problems on the offensive end,” he said. “But, really, it’s to take that pressure off him defensively to where he doesn’t have to exhaust himself chasing the smaller guys, or have to defend the primary guys on most nights.”
Patrick Patterson, a power forward the Thunder picked up in the offseason, said his role will remain the same. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds for Toronto last season and was a potential starter before Anthony arrived.
“Energy guy,” he said. “Make sure to give energy, make the guys comfortable and opening space on the floor. I expected to come here and earn a spot. I knew I was going to have to work hard.”
Thunder coach Billy Donovan understands that the remaining players must be prepared to make the most of their chances for the team to be its best.
“Certainly, Russell and Paul and Carmelo, there’s a lot of excitement around them, and rightfully so,” he said. “But Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, Jerami Grant, Raymond Felton _ we’ve got to be a team, and it’s got to be all of us collectively as a team, and I think that’s where the focus is right now going forward.”