Jonathan Tjarks of Real GM on Dwight Howard and the Lakers: “Looming down the road are potential playoffs showdowns with the NBA’s best scorer (Kevin Durant) as well as its best all-around player in LeBron. No one can do everything — passing, shooting, scoring, rebounding and defense — as well as LeBron, but Los Angeles has players who can match him in each category. To return to the analogy, even Optimus Prime struggled to do much to stop the assembled power of Devastator.”
Rob Mahoney of Bleacher Report: “The pressure on the Thunder is now very tangible, and yet with the Heat looming and the Lakers reloaded, this particularly charismatic and damn effective group of up-and-comers faces its stiffest competition for the title yet. There’s no real rush for their championship aspirations (this core has the luxury of biding its time), but it’s worth wondering what might come to pass should the Thunder’s eventual and assumed title be delayed substantially by their formidable competition. The Lakers’ window may be relatively brief, but the Heat aren’t going anywhere, the Bulls will be contenders again in due time, and Oklahoma City has concerns of their own in terms of balancing the finances of keeping both James Harden and Serge Ibaka.”
An incredible evaluation of competitive balance in sports. Hint: The NBA kind of stinks at it.
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com: “The combination of talent, speed and versatility boasted by the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder could provide the perfect antidote to the Lakers’ size. But the high-flying Nuggets could be more electric than all three.”
Zach Lowe of SI.com on OKC’s offseason: “Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton are here to push Cole Aldrich for that tiny role, neither on deals that carry any guaranteed money after this season. In an ideal world, the Thunder would have found a veteran small forward type to play behind Kevin Durant and add some size to both bench units and small-ball units, but filling that need was easier said than done. Players such as Brandon Rush and Gerald Green got more money and more years than Oklahoma City was likely wiling to give, and even Grant Hill, nearly 40, received a two-year biannual deal from the Clippers. The Thunder can still pounce on someone like Mickael Pietrus by clearing a roster spot for a one-year deal, but the need isn’t urgent; rookie Perry Jones may end up adding this sort of roster versatility in his own way.”
Lowe on post play: “Also improving incrementally: Kevin Durant. He shot 38 percent on post-ups in 2010-11 and devoted a small number, 6.2 percent, of the possessions he finished to post-up plays. That spiked to 10.4 percent last season, and Durant shot a solid 44 percent on his post-up chances. He ranked 20th in points per possession from the post, and if he continues to hone a Dirk Nowitzki-style foul line/elbow post game, the league is in serious trouble.”
NBA.com gives OKC an A for its offseason: “That the new role of playing from the front of the pack in the West comes at the same time as major roster decisions loom makes their 2012-13 especially interesting. Do they keep James Harden and Serge Ibaka the entire season with the hope both can be re-signed in a very tight budget squeeze? Or does OKC make a move before the trade deadline rather than deal with the difficulty of a potential sign-and-trade next summer? Just when it seemed the Thunder could not get any more fun to watch.”