The Thunder are 5-0 for the first time ever. The franchise is off to its best start since the last lockout shortened season, where the team started 6-0. But that team didn’t make the playoffs.
The first five games have had a little of everything. Five wins in a week isn’t something you really ever see in the NBA, well, because lockout’s don’t compact seasons like this that often.
The opener was one of those games that was never really in doubt, but one where you couldn’t exactly check completely out of it. The next three were nail-biters: A terrific close in Minnesota, a tough win with fireworks in Memphis and then a buzzer-beater over Dallas. And then a laugher, with the Thunder blistering the Suns.
So with OKC the only team 5-0 in the league, they’re firmly in the top two or three of everyone’s power rankings. And since everyone loves power rankings, or at least everyone loves to click on them and then gripe about the actual rankings, I figured I’d apply the same thing specifically to the Thunder. But with a twist. Here’s a new Monday feature: Thunder Player Power Rankings.
(Note: I totally got this idea from Seth Rosenthal of NY Magazine.)
1. Kevin Durant (Last week: N/A) — 27.4 ppg | 7.0 rpg | 4.2 apg | 58.4 FG% | 50.0 3P%
Let’s recap Kevin Durant’s opening week: 30, 33, 32, 30 and then 12 points. A game-winner. At least three assists in every game including two with six. An opening week PER of almost 30. If the season ended today, he’d be the MVP, and it wouldn’t be close. His team is winning and he’s playing incredible basketball. Efficient, confident and he’s added new things to his game.
2. Kendrick Perkins (Last week: N/A) — 6.2 ppg | 5.6 rpg | 1.0 bpg | 52.9 FG%
New Perk equals a good Perk. His Twitter account was a casualty of the opening week, but as long as he’s playing like this, it doesn’t matter. His first five games were All-Defense type of performances. He shut down Dirk late, he absolutely owned Dwight Howard and he held Marc Gasol down against Memphis. Perk has been nothing short of terrific.
3. James Harden (Last week: N/A) — 16.0 ppg | 6.0 rpg | 4.o apg | 42.2 FG% | 27.3 3P%
Yeah, he needs to start, but he was wonderful in his role anyway this week. I think Harden could average 18-20 a game this season, but if that’s going to happen, he’s got to score more in the second half. Right now, he’s averaging just 6.2 points in the second half of each game. He’s been fantastic in the first half but as the game winds to crunchtime, Harden becomes more of a decoy/distributor, which I’m not a big fan of. He’s too good to be marginalized at any point in the game.
4. Russell Westbrook (Last week: N/A) — 16.0 ppg | 4.4 rpg | 5.2 apg | 5.4 tpg | 37.5 FG%
What’s wrong with Russell Westbrook? Here’s your answer: He’s still Russell Westbrook. Hasn’t changed. He’s still the sometimes erratic, emotional but supremely talented point guard that can carry a team or kill it. He’s turning the ball over too much, not scoring well, not shooting well and not distributing well. He’s off to a slow start. But he’s going to be fine. He hasn’t gotten to the rim much this year taking only 4.3 shots a game at the rim so far this season. That’s where Westbrook feasts. Once he gets back to attacking and finishing, the jumper and assists will come. It’s far too small a sample size to really worry. Remember: KD started pretty slow last season and didn’t really come around until late December.
5. Daequan Cook (Last week: N/A) — 7.6 ppg | 1.6 rpg | 0.2 apg | 54.2 FG% | 57.1 3P%
Cook is hitting almost two and a half 3s a game. And not just that, but he knocked down a number of very timely shots. He’s playing just 12.2 minutes a night, but he’s been a major impact player thus far.
6. Thabo Sefolosha (Last week: N/A) — 6.4 ppg | 2.2 rpg | 0.6 apg | 52.9 FG% | 62.5 3P%
Harden should still start, but you can’t deny that Thabo has been pretty good so far. He’s hitting his open shots, playing aggressively and his defense on Rudy Gay in Memphis was really solid. If Sefolosha can continue with this type of play, where he’s actual a mild factor in the offense when he’s on the floor, he’s a big part of OKC winning and not a frustrating player you want to blame everything on.
7. Nick Collison (Last week: N/A) — 6.0 ppg | 2.2 rpg | 1.0 bpg | 76.5 FG%
Nick Collison has only taken one charge so far this season? WHAT’S WRONG?
8. Serge Ibaka (Last week: N/A) — 6.8 ppg | 6.0 rpg | 2.2 bpg | 51.7 FG%
The first two games weren’t great for Ibaka, but it was more about his minutes than anything else. Against Memphis he had a big block, then against Dallas showed up in a big way, playing his best game so far.
9. Eric Maynor (Last week: N/A) — 4.0 ppg | 1.8 rpg | 3.4 apg | 32.0 FG% | 36.4 3P%
Kind of a quiet week for Maynor. He turned the ball over a little more than usual, didn’t shoot well and didn’t distribute all that well. But that’s just the bar he’s set for himself. As a backup point guard, we expect big things all the time from him.
10. Nazr Mohammed (Last week: N/A) — 3.4 ppg | 4.4 rpg | 0.6 bpg | 47.1 FG%
How about that little drive Nazr finished off for an and-1 where faked a pass and then finished at the rim against Phoenix? That was slick.
11. Cole Aldrich (Last week: N/A) — 1.0 ppg | 1.5 rpg | 0.5 bpg | 50.0 FG%
I thought Aldrich might’ve been setting himself up to potentially crack the Thunder’s rotation, but that was probably a bit optimistic. I firmly believe he’s not going to go the way of Byron Mullens and become a project big man that never found a way to play. He’s got the potential to be an impact defensive player and there’s still a lot of time with him. It’s just his second season.
12. Reggie Jackson (Last week: N/A) — 2.0 ppg | 0.0 rpg | 1.0 apg | 33.3 FG% | 0.0 3P%
One thing that bothers me about Jackson: He wears his warmup collar folded down. I don’t know why, but I feel like it looks terrible on the bench. He’s always the first guy up giving fives and stuff, but he needs to work on his bench style. Towel placement, warmup style — all of that stuff. Royal Ivey needs to hold a seminar on it.
13. Lazar Hayward (Last week: N/A) — 7.0 ppg | 0.0 rpg | 0.0 apg | 60.0 FG%
He’s only been active for two games but saw time against the Magic. Two things I learned: He’s a better athlete than I thought and his headband is very straightforward. No nonsense with that accessory for Zar.
Inactives: Ryan Reid, Royal Ivey