Rob Mahoney of SI.com on Serge Ibaka: “A rim-protecting big man is a valuable commodity in the NBA, but a rim-protecting big man capable of handling himself on the perimeter in a crunch is the pro basketball equivalent of the holy grail. Ibaka still has a long way to go before his rotational speed and instincts are really up to snuff, but it’s good to see him handling switches on the perimeter with a bit more balance. Over the last few seasons, Ibaka’s block-chasing made him one of the easiest bigs in the league to lose with a pump fake. Yet in a few select situations so far this season, Ibaka is staying grounded when guarding perimeter types, and using his length and height as an effective deterrent.”
Beckley Mason of ESPN.com says OKC’s taken a step back: “That’s what happens when you lose your second best player. Yeah, I said it! The question is “for how long?” OKC still has five months to regain its bearing and Martin looks like he’ll efficiently buoy the bench. But without Harden aboard, Durant and Westbrook must do a better job of steering the offense to positive possessions.”
Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com’s mock has Shabazz Muhammed going sixth. That’s potentially in the territory OKC would be picking. If you haven’t seen anything from Muhammed, take a look. He’s left handed and kind of looks like someone we’ve seen before.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com on “narratives of the week” in his Baseline Awards: “Russell Westbrook is the worst thing ever and should have been traded instead of James Harden.” I almost wish this would have happened so that Westbrook could completely destroy teams as the man on his team and there wouldn’t be questions about why he’s not passing to his teammate who likes to manage his shot volume and doesn’t establish position.”
Ben Golliver of SI.com on Harden: “He was a top-five player at his position in terms of overall offensive efficiency last season and he’s a career 37 percent three-point shooter, so there’s plenty of reason to believe that he can keep his scoring average closer to 30 than 20 now that he’s fully unshackled. That would put him square in the middle of the scoring champ race; Durant and the Heat’s LeBron James, perennial contenders for the award, should emerge as the other favorites, but both have high-usage teammates who have helped cap them out around 28 points per game over the last two seasons.”
Berry Tramel: “It’s been fairly push-button the last couple of years. You knew who was coming in and when. Barring foul trouble, you could set your watch by it. And if this team had simply traded James Harden for Kevin Martin, it might have the same neatness. But with three members of OKC’s second unit — Harden, Nazr Mohammed and Daequan Cook — gone, and with Eric Maynor back as the backup point guard, Brooks is still experimenting.”
Marc Stein of ESPN.com’s power rankings: “Three games post-Harden, two deflating L’s and two sightings already of the PG known across the Twitterverse as Bad Russell. Good thing I didn’t write “things can only get better from here” in this space as I originally planned on the Monday after the trade/OU’s loss to Notre Dame.”
Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com if Harden’s an alpha: “So, what was Harden’s scoring rate per 36 minutes with just Durant? 22.8 points on 49 percent shooting over 250 minutes. And with just Westbrook? 22.3 points on 55 percent shooting in just 63 minutes, an admittedly very small sample size. The subtraction of one ball-dominant star from the equation added nearly 10 points to Harden’s scoring rate. This makes sense, but it’s helpful to actually put numbers behind the “sharing the ball” concept. And now, here comes the juicy part: Examining Harden as the alpha dog, when he was released from the shackles of Durant and Westbrook’s ball-dominancy. What was Harden’s scoring rate when he was the clear No. 1 option last season?”
If you missed yesterday’s Thunder show on The Spy, you can listen to it here.