No messing around, let’s get right to the questions:
Hypothetically, would you rather keep Harden or Ibaka? — Jeff V
That’s like picking between In-N-Out or Chick-Fil-A. Or at least it is for me. Both so very wonderful, in terrifically, fantastically different ways. I mean, a Neapolitan shake with a double or some nuggets with sweet potato fries… wait, what are we talking about again? Anyway… I’d go with Harden. Serge Ibaka is an immensely talented young big that might have a ceiling he can’t even touch. He could be a potential 15-10-3 guy. He still has a lot of room to fill out and he’s just 22.
But James Harden strikes me as the type of player you have on a championship team. The Manu Ginobili comparison works, but Harden can carry an offense on his own. He just fits. Finding an adequate 4 isn’t easy, but the Thunder could survive making do Nick Collison or someone else. I don’t think you could really replace Harden. To me, Durant-Westbrook-Harden is a better core than Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka.
That question sucked enough as it was, but someone one-upped it with this one…
Would you rather keep Westbrook and Durant plus an average third or Harden and Durant plus a good third? — Colby
So basically, Westbrook and Durant or Durant, Ibaka and Harden? I said on last week’s TGR that this was like the Thunder’s Sophie’s Choice. It’s Presti’s Choice. With the new collective bargaining agreement, this very well could be the reality and one of the reasons Westbrook doesn’t have his extension yet. David Stern pretty much said point blank that’s the way it would be for OKC.
It will be very difficult for the Thunder to hang on to those four players without breaking into the luxury tax. It’s a question nobody wants to think about but players don’t stay on teams forever. A decision might have to be made, and made soon.
There’s a common line of thinking that you can win a championship with two All-Stars. Westbrook and Durant are both that with one being a top three player and the other a fringe top 10 guy. Harden is All-Star material, but I don’t know if he’s potentially a top 10 player. Ibaka, the same.
I could talk myself into either side all day long. I lean towards Harden and Ibaka because I think the Thunder would make a little more sense that way. But then again, Westbrook and Durant can straight overwhelm teams with their talent constant offensive pressure. Harden and Ibaka are the safer play because that’s a good, solid core. But Westbrook and Durant could be something otherworldly.
The answer to this lies in which combination gives the Thunder the best chance to win a championship. And I’m not really sure at this point. I think I should know, but whether it’s emotional attachment to the players or just my own delusions of grandeur, I don’t really see a right — or wrong — answer. I’m sure there is, I’m just refusing to take a side right now.
How does the short season and quick training camp help (or hurt) the Thunder this year? — Scott R.
That’s the hot question to ask. Everyone’s talked about it a billion times already but here’s one point I think was overlooked with the Thunder’s short camp: Because of it, Scott Brooks never had a chance to test what it would be like to start Harden.
I was fully convinced after hearing Brooks talk about it during the Western Finals that Harden would begin the year as a starter. Brooks said his staff would evaluate the situation over the summer and make a decision. Which sounded to me like, “Yeah, Harden’s totally starting.” But no camp meant no chance to really test it out. Plus, just two preseason games. Which meant that Brooks couldn’t give it a shot in an exhibition either to figure out how a rotation would work. That’s why I asked him about it after the Portland game. He totally shot me down, but I was curious.
Westbrook and Ibaka for Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio — who says no? — Jake D.
I think both teams would. The Wolves really like their direction and of course the Thunder do. Something that big and bold would really shake up both rosters and potentially could upset a good thing that’s going.
The Wolves would be getting the best player in the deal though. Westbrook is almost at the superstar level and Ibaka has quite the potential. Love is a machine and Rubio as shown flashes, but the Wolves would “win” the deal because they got the most talent in return.
But the more you think about it, the more it’s kind of an interesting thing to consider for Oklahoma City. Rubio, Harden, Durant, Love and Perkins? Pretty good team, no? It’s hard for me not to fantasize about Rubio no-looking a beautiful bounce pass to a backdoor cutting KD. I’m not advocating for this by any means, but in terms of random trade speculation, this could be a fun one to try on NBA 2K12.
The Westbrook-Durant thing is overblown I think and I think overshadows the real question: Can they actually play basketball together? — Dave J.
That’s my question too. Forget all this stuff about not liking each other or altercations or being mortal enemies. None of that really matters to me. Plenty of teams have won with dysfunctional rosters. Why? Because on the court, they made sense. The supposed battle for alpha dog isn’t an issue, but just the style and mentality the two play with could be.
I’m not in that camp that thinks that Durant needs a pure point guard. That noise is overrated because with Westbrook, the Thunder were damn close to the NBA Finals as is. What I don’t like is how sometimes it seems that Westbrook and Durant are forced to take turns instead of playing together. That’s where Harden can be so valuable to serve as a mediator between the two, taking shots and distributing.
I think Westbrook and Durant could win an NBA title together. Do they make perfect sense like Stockton and Malone? No way. I see Westbrook more as what Dwyane Wade was for the Heat in 2005. Wade played a ton of point during the playoffs, handling the ball and taking pressure off Shaq in situations. Westbrook is that same idea of a player. He’s a point guard in name and sometimes game, but he’s a scorer at heart and a guy that simply has too much talent to try and cage and corner into being a pass-first point guard. You’re marginalizing his ability when you do that. That’s not good.
It’s more about learning together how they fit than it is just thinking they can’t fit. Eventually we might figure out they don’t. At this point, I think it’s 50/50 that they do. But if they figure it out, I mean really figure it out, you’re talking about maybe the best duo in basketball. That’s something not worth giving up on quite yet.
Something I’ve always wondered: Do you think the music playing in the game while the Thunder have the ball is distracting for the players? I mean, what if a song comes on you really hate? And all you’re thinking is, “Man, I hate this song, the chorus is so stupid and what’s the deal with the bridge, it’s sounds terrible. Oh crap Wesley Matthews just stole the ball from me.” — Royce Y.
That’s a great question Royce Y. I’ve always wondered that too.
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