This is the easiest preview for any team in the entire league right now.
Oklahoma City is the Russell Westbrook Show. That's all there is to it. He's on a solo mission to destroy the entire league, and he's kinda succeeding. Westbrook is nearly averagin a triple-double, something that hasn't been done since Oscar Robertson's prime (in which the league played at a much higher pace, by the way). He's a one-man wrecking crew. The term "freak athlete" is actually a disservice, because he's a tier above that. Westbrook is like a human tornado crashing down the lane, and literally nobody can stop him. So there's really no point in trying. No other Ninja Turtle has ever been gifted with such burst, speed, and strength.
The key is making his life difficult. Force him to take 35 shots. Force him into awkward finishes at the rim -- even though he gets to the rim with ease that defies belief, he can be shaky, especially if he's forced to shoot as he's coming down from the top of his pogo stick. Throw bodies at him -- nobody on this roster can hope to guard him, but help defenders need to be ready to pack the paint and draw some potential charges. Justin Holiday, Courtney Lee, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Jennings will likely all see time guarding Russ. None of those guys can even hope to stop him.
Make his life difficult, and he'll get his 30 point triple-double, but it'll come on 40 shooting possessions with 8 turnovers. Easier said than done, but it's not like this roster is built like the Rockets, where helping into the lane will leave a host of knockdown shooters wide open. This roster is actually the antithesis of that. They've got a bunch of athletes who crash the glass and defend at a high level, but the shooting...it's dire. We might legitimately be able to find four better shooters in the comments section. Sam Presti, OKC's GM, legitimately doubled down on the no-shooting skillsets by trading Ersan Ilyasova to Philly for Jerami Grant. So...hopefully the Knicks are aware of the fact that they can, and should, overhelp in the lane.
Basically, Oklahoma City's formula is this -- Russell Westbrook + really good defense + rebounding = maybe we'll reach .500.
It's still not clear how effective this strategy will be this year, and it's still not clear whether or not Westbrook can maintain this (because it's almost literally superhuman, and Superman is not real), but it's made the Thunder a pain to match up with.
The good news; this one is at home, where the Knicks have the second best record in the league (???) behind the Cavaliers. You read that correctly. That means a much lower chance of giving up 38 points in the first quarter, or letting a terrible 3-point shooting team hit more than 50% from behind the arc! Fantastic!
On defense, Andre Roberson will (probably) give Melo a really hard time. He might be the best defender Melo has faced so far this season. They've got a bunch of guys who can switch on defense as well, so a lot of the normal actions from the Knicks playbook may be rendered useless. This is a game Porzingis will have to take over. Theoretically, midseason acquisition Jerami Grant can guard him, but really, we all know he can't. It'll be up to Porzingis to draw the attention of the OKC defense, and if he can draw double teams, that's a viable avenue to exploit what is normally a very good defensive unit.
There's peripheral things to worry about, like real-life Dothraki warrior Steven Adams, but despite a massive increase in skill level, the lack of shooting on Oklahoma City's roster has left Adams with very little space to operate in the pick and roll. Victor Oladipo is also on this team now, which strikes irrational fear deep into my heart. Dipo has seemingly improved his shooting, but we don't know if that's just early season noise or a trend to expect moving forward.
Of course, the Knicks pick and roll defense has performed like a middle school team from an affluent New Jersey neighborhood, so...a 50 point triple-double is legitimately on the table. That is terrifying.
The good news is that the Knicks should be able to get away with playing as many bigs as they want, and Jerami Grant doesn't really do anything to make Porzingis uncomfortable on defense. Noah/Willy/O'Quinn and KP should be camping the paint all game, and when those guys are in the paint, it's really tough to score on interior of the Knicks. With such a dearth of shooting, OKC won't be able to attack one of the two biggest weaknesses of this team.
If the Knicks can keep it close til the end, Russell Westbrook might ignore all logic and reason, preferring to chuck up stupid 3's off the dribble like he's Steph Curry. That is GOOD. Every pull-up 3 from Westbrook is a win for the Knicks, even if some of them go in.
Porzingis at center is my personal nirvana, as you may have noticed, but I'm not sure how much they can get away with it in this matchup. Playing that lineup will force Thunder coach Billy Donovan to play with only one big man, but Steven Adams is pretty mobile, and he can really punish Porzingis on the glass. I suspect we'll see it anyway -- Hornacek has closed a lot of games with KP playing the 5, which shows me that he realizes the potential of those lineups very clearly.
Finally, it will be extremely important to manage the offensive glass. The Knicks are a good offensive rebounding team, but they get out of position far too often in their attempts to get those rebounds. Something like 17% of OKC's offense comes in transition, so getting back a la Charlotte will make everyone's life easier. I just don't know how well they can execute that plan -- instincts are difficult to overcome during a random regular season game.
Force Russ to work hard, defend the interior, get back in transition, and this will be a win. Westbrook defends like he has a major contract incentive to get out of position 20 times per game, so in spite of a great defensive lineup around him, offense probably won't be the problem. When he's on the bench, the Knicks need to go on a run instantly. That's all there is to it. Easier said than done, of course.
Prediction: Westbrook gets a 40-point triple-double and puts someone, probably Jo, on a poster. I realize this is not bold. Noah finally gets it going and plays 25+ minutes himself, logging at least 5 assists. Rose and Jennings take advantage of Westbrook's best Harden impression, dishing a combined 15+ assists with less than 3 turnovers.
Knicks win, 109-104.