First off, a happy birthday to my wonderful mother who is (BLEEP) today. Oh, and also, happy signing day.
Can Kevin Durant be the league’s Most Improved Player?: When we think of the MIP in the NBA in 2008-09, Kevin Durant has to be towards the top of the list. When we look at his per 36 minute stats (courtesy of Basketball-Reference) we see that Durant’s shooting efficiency has improved tremendously. And he is rebounding more as well. Although he is not yet the player we envisioned the night he was drafted, he’s now an above average NBA player. And as Table One reveals, his improvement with respect to Wins Produced ranks toward the top of the league this season.
No comment: “The jilted hoops fans at Saveoursonics.org are organizing a road trip to Portland for the Oklahoma City-Blazers game on Feb. 11. I’m not sure if they’re going to boo or cheer for the Sonics but it’s being billed as, “Come watch Seattle favorites Brandon Roy, Nate McMillan and the Portland Trail Blazers take on the new Oklahoma City Thunder.” You can get a discount on tickets here. (Discount code: SOS). The Blazers ticket reps have even organized a “Blunder Bus” that will transport Seattle residents to Portland for a cool $49. I love their passion, but I’m thinking those Sonics fans are just prolonging their misery, yeah?”
Chad Ford looks at Orlando’s options now that Jameer Nelson is out for the season: “Thunder trade Earl Watson for Cook and Bogans. Watson may not be an ideal starting point guard, but he’s a veteran who plays tough defense and keeps turnovers to a minimum. The real downside is that Watson has another year at $6.6 million left on his contract. For the Thunder, the bright side is that they would move Watson’s salary off the books and get an expiring contract (Bogans) in return.”
Layup Drill says Jeff Green should be in the Most Improved Player race: “Green is one of the quieter, more underated players in the league, and there is of course a good reason for that. Kevin Durant (who could also be on this list, having grown from a simple scorer to a leader and all-around player) is of course the face of the franchise, and a particular all-star snub who people aren’t talking about as much, and rookie star Russell Westbrook also play on this team. When you group those two with Green, the team doesn’t actually look all bad. They were on pace for the leagues worst ever record earlier this year, but they have had some great games, and are now actually equal with the Sacramento Kings. And Green is a huge part of this success. His stats have increased incredibly, and I am personally amazed at the increase in his 3-point percentage. Hardly any player in the league has that type of shooting increase. Let alone a sophomore. I have become a fan of this up and coming team, and i am definitely a fan of Green’s game. Even if he doesn’t share the limelight as much as his teammates do, he gets the job done.”
Hoops World Rookie Rankings: “It continues to amaze he how well little Russ Westbrook rebounds the ball. Ranked in the top ten among rookies in rebounds per game, he’s the only guy in that group who doesn’t play a post position. Only once this month has he failed to score in double figures, and the Thunder are even 7-7 in January. Not great by any stretch of the imagination, but pretty good for a team who only had four wins heading into 2009. A large part of that success has come from Westbrook and his sizzling hot teammate Kevin Durant. Those two are going to be really fun to watch for a really long time.”
SI’s Rookie Rankings: Westbrook averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals in January while adjusting to full-time point guard duties. (The Thunder went 7-7 last month after a 4-29 start). He’s already off to a hot start in February: Westbrook finished with a personal-best 34 points along with eight assists and six rebounds in an overtime loss to Sacramento on Super Bowl Sunday.
Kevin Durant was a nominee for Player of the Month (and Gary Payton would have given it to him): “Other nominees for Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month presented by Kia Motors were Charlotte’s Raja Bell, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Indiana’s Danny Granger, Orlando’s Dwight Howard, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala, New York’s David Lee, Phoenix’s Steve Nash, Denver’s Nenê, Portland’s Brandon Roy, Houston’s Luis Scola, Milwaukee’s Charlie Villanueva and Miami’s Dwyane Wade.”
D-League All-Stars were just announced and Tulsa’s Chris Richard made the team: “Fifteen players with NBA experience highlight the rosters for the third annual NBA D-League All-Star Game which will be played on Feb. 14 at the NBA’s All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas. The game will tip off at 2 p.m. MT on Jam Session’s Center Court and will be shown live on NBA TV.”
UPDATE: David Thorpe’s Rookie Rankings: “As I’ve written before, one of the things I love about Westbrook is his willingness to get things done in the paint, usually crashing for offensive rebounds and running in transition. But now he’s more comfortable getting inside in other ways. He’s been using his explosive crossover or hesitation dribble move to get in the paint, where he lowers his hips and drives right through defenders. And sometimes he uses his length and strength to back guys down in the post. In other words, he’s become a nightmare matchup — he’s too quick for shooting guards to stay in front of when he’s matched up with them, and he’s too powerful for point guards to stop. He’s averaged 18.8 ppg in his last five games, with 5.4 boards and 4.4 rebounds. He’s No. 5 in PER for all rookies, and No. 1 for guards and for rookies playing 30-plus minutes a game. Imagine what he’ll be like when he improves his outside shooting.” Somebody has said that before… who… who said that?