Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili profiling KD: “When I say that I think Durant is roughly what he’ll be in the end, I’m not saying there’s no chance of the other possibilities. It’s possible Durant’s shooting has been overachieving a bit, and that it’ll temper off. It’s also possible Durant will get better — I outlined a few ways above, like a better sense of how the hell a player should assert to get open in a pressured situation. It’s a confidence interval, with a reasonably large confidence that Durant stays about the same and a small tail at either end for the other two options. The thing is, when you look at essentially every big piece on the Thunder, you start to see a similar picture. The Thunder are young in years, but old in experience — everyone but Harden has played more than enough minutes in their career to consider their developmental period over (or at least highly close to it) and their peak years beginning. There are certain individual things each player could potentially work on, but in terms of wholescale revamping of their games, there aren’t a ton of realistic possibilities.”
Kelly Dwyer of BDL on KD and LeBron: “It’s a non-story that we’re putting to rest now. A “story” we won’t even revisit even if LeBron James individually shuts down Kevin Durant while averaging a triple-double as his team sweeps the season series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and then tops Durant’s squad 4-0 in the 2013 NBA Finals. Eight days of workouts between the two, spread out between summers in 2011 and 2012, won’t have made a lick of difference in a one-sided outcome such as that; because James is that good. If the most talented and fearsome physical presence to come along in decades absolutely dominates Durant from here on out, it’s because LeBron is fully capable of establishing such a length between the NBA’s Number One and Number Two. It’s not because they worked out in Ohio once in early September.”
Chris Mannix of SI.com: “Perry Jones was widely considered a high lottery pick had he come out as a freshman in 2011. And a so-so second season at Baylor dropped him all the way to No. 28? Jones isn’t flawless, but he is a near 7-footer who oozes natural talent. There will be no pressure on Jones in Oklahoma City, where he will get daily lessons in toughness from Kendrick Perkins and in work ethic from superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In a few years Jones could be a starter, and a very good one at that.”
The Thunder have three of the league’s top 10 underpaid players as well as the most accurately paid player in the league (spoiler: Daniel Orton).
Zach Lowe of Grantland on contenders: “The big steps are done, but sometimes the smaller steps are the hardest — the subtleties of defensive positioning, lineup choices, and balance on both ends of the floor. The Thunder made progress on all fronts during the playoffs, when their offense nearly set records, the team remembered James Harden was actually on the floor in crunch time, Scott Brooks leaned more (but not enough) on his most productive small lineups, and the team’s aggressive defense at least limited the unstoppable Spurs. Getting Eric Maynor back should help more than Maynor’s individual numbers might suggest, since he allows Brooks to play small lineups featuring four threatening perimeter players instead of just two or three. The other young guys are only going to get better, and Serge Ibaka has shown glimpses of morphing into a more multidimensional pick-and-roll player.”
Gambler Haralabos Voulgaris: “In last years finals OKC and coach Scott Brooks didn’t alter their lineups or make many adjustments. They stayed big and their bigs had a lot of trouble defending out to the 3 point line, and I personally think that cost them a chance of winning the series. The difference between the Lakers and OKC is that the Lakers bigs will actually produce on the offensive end whereas neither Ibaka or Perkins have to be guarded in the traditional sense.”
Just want to say congrats to my good buddies Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney on their new gigs at SI.com.