For the Thunder, it’s all about winning and such and such, but if you’re like me, you have an eye turned to the box score every night. You’re looking at KD’s shooting percentage, Westbrook’s turnovers, Ibaka’s blocks, Perk’s rebounds and Royal Ivey’s HER (Handshake Efficiency Rating).
Russell Westbrook already put it simply when asked about his individual goals for the season. “Make my team win,” he said. But every player has a bar set for himself and if they don’t, the fans sure do. We have our own mini set of expectations outside of the win-loss column. We want our players to perform well, have good seasons and meet the bar set for success. So let’s go through this player-by-player and try and define a successful season.
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I’m already on record saying that I think there’s potential that Aldrich edges out Nazr Mohammed at point this season in the rotation. The guy has potential to be an impact player on the defensive end and on the glass. His improvement is striking.
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For Collison, it doesn’t take much to feel like he had a good year. Take charges, grab loose balls, play tough defense and do the little things. His numbers truly do mean very little. A successful season for him is one in which we’re still talking about how he helps so much while doing so little in the box score.
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The Thunder made an investment in Cook. Paid him well to do one job. Being a 3-point specialist is kind of like being a kicker or a closer in baseball. You’ve got this job to do and everyone expects you to do it well. If you don’t, everyone is mad. It’s a difficult position to know you may play just eight minutes in a game, take three shots and everyone expects two of them to go in.
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KD is going to score his usual amount of points, getting a lot of them at the free throw line. But I’d definitely like to see Durant start to get close on a 50-40-90 season. I think he’s got it in him at some point. The assists are certainly something everyone wants to see go up, but even more efficient scoring is the primary wish for me.
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Those successful numbers for Harden are close to what he averaged post-Jeff Green trade. And they’re every bit attainable for him this season. Maybe that’s even short-selling him a bit. Harden has a look in his eye that he’s going to be ultra aggressive at all times, which is a good thing.
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Something you can’t put in his numbers but that he needs to do: Hound KD like crazy in practice.
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Like Harden, Ibaka’s numbers are close to after the trade. I think he’s a potential double-double threat, but there are nights Ibaka is either in foul trouble or Nick Collison is the better matchup so he only gets 18 minutes or something. He’s the fourth option on the floor if Harden’s starting, making it tough for him to get involved in the offense.
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I fully expect Ivey to have new handshakes for Christmas as well as a good bench celebration on made 3-pointers.
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It’s so hard to judge what Jackson will, or should be. I think he’s got a lot of game. He looks smooth and confident with the ball and really appears to understand offense. But how you could you possibly take away minutes from Eric Maynor to play him?
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Is there a better backup point guard in the league? If Chauncey Billups weren’t starting at 2-guard in L.A., probably him, but I think that title goes to Maynor now. He takes care of the ball, runs the offense quietly and does his job whether it’s for eight minutes or 20 minutes.
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I’ve already said that I think Aldrich could take his spot, but one thing Mohammed has that Aldrich doesn’t is some offensive game. Mohammed can hit two or three jumpshots to really boost the second unit. If that has as much value to Scott Brooks as Aldrich’s defensive energy, things will probably stay the same.
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I wanted to guess 30 ppg, 20 rpg and 10 bpg per game because that’s how I feel about Perk right now. But he averaged better than eight boards a game in the preseason in just around 20 minutes. He’s not an offensive weapon by any means, but he could get one of those trash double-doubles routinely where he’s putting back misses and finishing drop-offs from Westbrook.
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Some are feeling like Thabo might have a little bit more offensive game in him this season. It looked like he was trying to be more assertive offensively in the preseason, but it’s in him too much to just play his role and defend. All I’d love to see is that 3-pointer hit with some consistency to where when he puts it up I’m saying, “Mayyyyybeeee?” and not, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
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I don’t think last season was everything Westbrook’s capable of. I also don’t think it’s something he’ll do every season. My ideal season for Westbrook would be an added assist a game, fewer turnovers and higher efficiency scoring. Something like 19 ppg but on 14 shots. Those nights will happen. But Westbrook is built to attack and he’s going to have nights where he carries OKC and puts up 34 on 26 shots. It’s just how he does it.