In midst of a chaotic offseason, the Oklahoma City Thunder have traded away both Paul George and Russell Westbrook. For the first time ever, the Thunder might not have a star player on their roster. This puts the 11-year-old franchise in a situation they have never seen before.
Rebuild and develop will be two of the main keys in the future for Sam Presti and the Thunder. Developing the young players on the roster will be detrimental to Oklahoma City’s success. Many players are going to have to step up in order for the Thunder to compete in the star-studded Western Conference.
In the 2018-19 season, Andre Roberson did not play a single game due to a ruptured left patellar tendon. This left a starting position that head coach Billy Donovan needed to fill. Many thought that sharp-shooter Alex Abrines would be the guy to fill the void. However, 21 year old Terrance Ferguson was the one to ultimately win the starting spot.
In his second season, many weren’t sure how beneficial he would be to the team. As the season progressed, the raw guard showed great potential as a “3-and-D” player for the Thunder. There were also a lot of times he did not play up to that potential which caused frustration for Oklahoma City. At the end of the season, the Thunder wished they would of had a better player to start at the two position. They looked to upgrade with Wesley Matthews after the all-star break hoping for a deeper run in the playoffs. Eventually, Matthews signed with the Indiana Pacers. After all of the ups and downs, Ferguson starting wasn’t the best thing for the Thunder this past season. However, now with both Westbrook and George gone, it was a blessing in disguise.
After averaging 6.9 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game, and 1 assist per game this past season, the Oklahoma native is ready for a huge jump in his career. The Thunder are going to need to find a new leading scorer and facilitator. Ferguson is going to have a very good chance of taking those honors as he will have the ball in his hands a lot more this upcoming season. Here are some things Ferguson will need to improve on to take his game to another level:
The 6-foot-7 guard will have to become a lot more consistent on the offensive end for this team to win games. The young starter finished the season shooting 36.6% from three on 3.9 attempts per game. He was a very streaky shooter from deep as he shot an outstanding 47.9% from three in January, and only 29.9% in March. That is a significant drop in a matter of a couple months. If that inconsistency continues into this season, Oklahoma City won’t be able to win games on a regular basis. For the team to be at its full potential, Ferguson will need to knock down 37 to 40 percent of his treys.
On the defensive side, Ferguson was a lot more consistent. While saying that, one thing he wasn’t great at was staying out of foul trouble. In many games, he would have to go to the bench early with dumb fouls. Ferguson tallied ten games this last year where he finished with 5 fouls. During the playoffs, four out of the five games he finished with four fouls. Going into next season, he is going to have more responsibility on the defensive end without Defensive Player of the Year finalist Paul George. Especially with a young team like the Thunder, they will need a defensive spark. Ferguson can be that guy if he stays out of foul trouble. T-Ferg proved last season he is ready for the extra load on the defensive side of the ball.
2. Creating his own shot
Last season, the majority of Terrance Ferguson’s shots were three-pointers. In addition to that, a huge portion of those were catch-and-shoot. Without Westbrook this upcoming season, those open threes will diminish for him. Therefore, Ferguson will have to find ways to create his own shot and convert on them.
All of the great two guards in the league have a move that they can rely on to get an open shot. That is something that Ferguson will need to develop if he wants to become a solid scorer. Last year, 94.6% of the made shots by the 21 year old were off of assists. So then only 5.4% of made baskets were created by himself.
Veteran Ray Felton said in his exit interview that he is planning on working with Ferguson to become a more versatile scorer. Without any all-stars this season, Ferguson will need to create good looks on his own and knock them down at a high percentage.
3. Ball Handling
In order for Ferguson to be great at creating his own shot, he will need to develop good handles. Last season, very rarely Ferguson would put the ball on the ground and attack downhill. With the athletic ability of the former first-round draft pick, he should be able to get around almost anyone who guards him. The only thing holding him back from doing so are his shaky handles.
For the Thunder to have a good backcourt duo, (regardless if Chris Paul stays or not) T-Ferg will need to be able to relieve the pressure from the point guard to take care of the ball. That will allow him to be able to find open shooters as well. Assuming he is spending plenty of time on his handles, we should see an improvement in this category of his game next season.
In summary, Terrance Ferguson is more than ready to take his game to the next level. As a result of playing 26.1 minutes per game last season, he now knows what it takes to do so. The Oklahoma City Thunder will look to rely on the development of Terrance Ferguson for years to come. The ball is in the young man’s court, he just has to take it.