Let me just tell you, Kevin Durant may be a better person than basketball player. And that’s obviously saying something. He is so incredibly humble as showcased in his intereviw with Jenni Carlson. And the fact that he’s going to school this summer also says something about his committment.
HoopsWorld tells us what’s right, what’s wrong and where the Thunder go from here: “Fan support is unbelievable right now; OKC is ranked 11th in the league for overall attendance, 10th in the league for percentage of tickets sold and will end its debut season with 18 sellouts. Just need some more wins to keep these numbers steady. Other good news: Oklahoma City residents voted last year for a short-term extension of a 1-cent sales tax to pay for $100M in improvements to the Ford Center and construction of a new $20M practice facility for the team. Pieces are already coming together to build a solid franchise. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a smart general manager, a (thankfully) behind-the-scenes owner, a player’s coach and a hungry city….plus a very young, high-energy team eager to learn what it takes to move to the next level in the NBA. And for Pete’s sake, name Brooks the permanent head coach sooner rather than later.”
David Thorpe looks at the sophomore class and has some high praise for Kevin Durant: “The 2008 rookie of the year has seen an increase in almost every statistical category this season while decreasing his turnover rate. He has established himself as a strong All-Star candidate for years to come and is arguably the best small forward in the world not named LeBron James. And he won’t turn 21 until a few days before training camp starts next season. Next up for him: spearheading a Thunder team that looks ready to compete for a playoff spot next season, and likely some playing time for the next Team USA.”
Could the Tar Heels beat one of the NBA’s worst?: “Life would not be as hard for Roy Williams group against the Thunder as his big men should be able to get some work done inside against the likes of Nenad Kristic, Nick Collison, and D.J. White. They are outmatched inside, but it’s nowhere near to the extent that they would be against the Clippers. Where the Tar Heels would really struggle is in the back court going up against Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Perimeter defense was the weakest aspect of Carolina’s game this season and although they did go up against some pretty talented guards, none of them were Westbrook or K.D. The two would carry the Thunder to a convincing victory and Jeff Green would play a major role as well. In the 2007 Final Four Green had 22 points, nine rebounds, and three assists as the Tar Heels had no answer for him.” I also broke this matchup down months ago and I had it as a no doubt win for Oklahoma City.
Earl Watson says he doesn’t think he be a Thunder next year: “I don’t think I’m going to be here regardless,” said Watson, who has one year remaining on his contract next season for $6.6 million. “You never know, this business is incredible. But going into the last year of my deal business-wise you become an attractive contract. And for the last month I haven’t been playing. So why would I be here?”
Interesting article from Darnell Mayberry on Russell Westbrook starting to “get it“: “There is reason to believe the Thunder’s front office isn’t certain that Russell Westbrook can be the team’s point guard of the future. First, there was the attempted trade for Charlotte’s Raymond Felton back in January. Then there was the reported interest in New York’s Nate Robinson at the mid-February trading deadline. And finally, there was last month’s signing of Shaun Livingston. Not exactly the finest endorsement of the No. 4 overall pick. But no matter which direction the front office is leaning on Westbrook, the rookie has shown over the past three games that he’s starting to get it. Only now, after 70-plus games, does Westbrook fully understand what it takes to run an NBA team.”
SI talking season awards and why Russell Westbrook wasn’t in Ian Thompson’s top three: “Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Timberwolves forward Kevin Love also received consideration. “Westbrook is a stats filler,” a panelist said. “He needs to learn to limit his turnovers and improve his decision-making. His shot is not broken; he has a good-looking shot, and as it develops he’s going to be dangerous because he attacks so hard and puts people on their heels. He also needs to be better at finishing at the rim.”
But from that same article, here was something interesting – Sam Presti was second in their Executive of the Year voting: “The surprise here is Presti, who presides over the fourth-worst team in the league. But he received two first-place votes for amassing draft picks and cap space that can be applied over the next two summers in pursuit of talent to join with Durant, Westbrook and Jeff Green. In these recessionary times, the Thunder are the envy of many small-market teams. “Getting [midseason free-agent Nenad] Krstic was big. They’ve got some talent there, and he has it set up for them to go in the same direction as Portland.”
OKC’s summer league team starting to fill out: Right now the Thunder’s looking at Westbrook, Kyle Weaver, Shaun Livingston, Serge Ibaka, DeVon Hardin.
More expectations start to pile up: “Can you imagine them adding Blake Griffin to their Kevin Durant-Jeff Green-Russell Westbrook core? Scary. Either Hasheem Thabeet or Jordan Hill would help on the inside. Or maybe they go after Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio. For a 22-57 team, things don’t look too bad for the Thunder. Anybody else seeing these guys making a Celtics-like jump next year?”
Caron Butler would be for the Wizards trading their pick if it’s not No. 1: “Butler said he is “not playing for no lottery pick” but he believes that Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, the favorite to go No. 1 in the NBA draft, is the only player from the college ranks who can help the Wizards right away. “We’re going to be left with a lot of decisions for the GM, because you have the options. Do you trade a pick? Do you package a player with a pick, all those types of things, and get a quality player? If you look at our window for opportunity, we have a four-year window right now. Guys are not getting no younger. Antawn is 32, I’m 29, Gilbert is 27. DeShawn [Stevenson] is 28. Brendan is approaching 30. The core guys are in the prime of their careers. Right now, we don’t have time to have another developing year.” “That’s where I stand,” Butler said. “If it’s not Blake Griffin or somebody that can make an immediate impact, then I would prefer having a veteran come in to help us. The time is now.”
Jason Fleming looks at the rookie impact myth: “If you keep going back through history you will see extremes on both sides. On one hand you have the team’s record in the rookie seasons of a Paul or James, and on the other hand you have the team’s record in the rookie seasons of Durant or Stoudemire. The point is there is not historical correlation between a team’s record and whether or not he is Rookie of the Year. In the event of a close race, if someone is torn over who to put tops on their ballot, then sure, it might be a tiebreaker in someone’s mind, but it’s not a given like it has become in recent years with the Most Valuable Player or Coach of the Year awards.”
Basketball Prospectus rankings: “OKC is last in plenty of things, most of which have to do with scoring. The Thunder have got to uncover some inside players that can convert two-point field goals. Kevin Durant looks like he’s going to be a 30-points-per-game scorer while still being fairly efficient. However, his running mate at forward, Jeff Green, is a talented but redundant stylistic facsimile of Durant. Green needs to be less reliant on his three-point shot and become more of a force in the lane. Plus, Russell Westbrook has to become a better mid-range shooter. With another key piece coming in the next lottery, these improvements could put Oklahoma City next year where the Blazers were last year: the next up-and-coming power in the West.”