Funny how high our standards can be. The Thunder went 3-1 this week, but it felt like they played kind of bad.
It seems like it really wasn’t good enough, mainly because that home loss to the Nets was so ugly. Russell Westbrook told us not to go bananas. But some people probably went bananas anyway.
The Thunder have won five of their last six, but still, we all tend to focus a lot more on what they’re doing wrong than what they’re doing right. Why? Because their standard of performance is high for themselves. They expect better too.
And like I said after Westbrook’s comment, when your team routinely wins seven out of every 10 games it plays, losses tend to stick out more. Wins like the ones over the 76ers and Raptors were mostly routine, taking-care-of-business affairs. But a double-digit home loss to the Nets? That’s something. We notice that. And there’s a lot more to talk about.
Doesn’t necessarily mean anyone’s panicking or going bananas. Some people say silly things in the heat of the moment because like players, fans are emotional. Every team has ups and down throughout the season. Right now for OKC, there have been a lot more ups than downs. But just like the team, more is required and even in seemingly meaningless games in January, winning is the only thing good enough. That’s the culture the team lives and breaths by, so naturally, the fanbase is going to fall in step right with that.
Let’s rank away:
1. Kevin Durant (Last week: 1)
For the week, KD took 67 shots. And scored 105 points. That’s 1.57 points per shot. That means every time Kevin Durant threw the ball at the basket, on average, the Thunder scored 1.57 points. Seems pretty good. But check this: On the season, KD is averaging 1.58 points per shot. So in that regard, it was kind of a down week for Durant.
Other thing I want to talk about: About KD’s little run of technicals: Is this a thing now? Is he taking the “KD is not nice” stuff a little too literally? What’s going on? He has six technicals fouls already this season, more than any other season. It’s obvious Durant has taken issue with officiating a bit more demonstratively this season than he has in year’s past, but it’s just kind of a natural thing. When you’re a player of Durant’s standing and you feel you’re getting jobbed, you react. Like KD said after the Brooklyn game, he’s allowed to be frustrated. It’s not impacting his play in a negative way, so as long as he stays away from the magic 16 number, who cares.
I can understand the concern over Durant’s image though. He’s an ideal role model for young basketballers, or really any kid. And like it or not, this is Oklahoma and people care a lot about things like that. Before playing some pickup last week, there were two youth teams playing with kids probably eight or nine years old. One of the teams was naturally the Thunder, and one of the kids was wearing No. 35. This was a night after KD got ejected against the Nets and I couldn’t help but wonder if any of those kids — who obviously idolize Durant — thought it was cool. Or were thinking next time an official jobbed them, that they were going to bark back, because KD did it.
My opinion? I give no craps. KD can bark, cuss or scream all he wants. It’s not his job to parent your kids, it’s not his job to make sure they treat referees with respect. He gets paid to score points and win games for the Thunder. I get what role models are and there’s no doubt Durant takes a whole lot of pride in kids looking up to him. But he already does a pretty tremendous job of setting an example off the court, but on it, let KD be KD.
2. Russell Westbrook (Last week: 3)
Over his last five games, Westbrook is shooting 51.6 percent from the field (47-91). He hit a few more pull-up jumpers, knocked down some long 2s and shot the 3 very well (9-16). Seems like maybe he’s finally coming around with his shot a bit.
At the rim in those six games, Westbrook went 25-32. That’s 78.1 percent. On the season, he’s been hitting around 55 percent, which as I’ve said before, I see as the biggest reason his overall percentage has dipped.
Anything over 10 feet, but inside the 3-point line, Westbrook went 10-25 (40 percent). On the season from that range, he’s hitting about 35 percent. So Westbrook definitely shot the ball better overall, but like I said, he’s making the most difference in his overall percentage by finishing at the rim.
3. Serge Ibaka (Last week: 2)
Among regular rotation power forwards, Ibaka is fifth in the league is shooting from 16-23 feet, hitting 46 percent from there. And he’s fourth in makes per game from that distance, hitting 2.0 a game, only behind LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Garnett and Luis Scola. Also, this: KD is hitting 40 percent from that range, making 1.4 a game. Scott Brooks has said before that Ibaka is the team’s best midrange shooter. I think he’s right.
(Qualifier to that though: Ibaka’s looks are always much cleaner on long 2s than KD’s are. If you gave KD five mostly uncontested long 2s a game, I think he’d hit 50 percent of them.)
4. Kevin Martin (Last week: 4)
One thing I worry a little about is that Martin is on his way to becoming a glorified specialist for the Thunder. On the season he’s attempted 321 shots, with 153 being 3-pointers. That’s 47.6 percent of his shots coming from deep. For his career prior to this season, Martin only took 33.1 percent of his shots from 3.
Obviously — obviously — his role with the Thunder is much different than its been anywhere in his career. But at the same time, he’s far too talented of an offensive player to just be a spot-up 3-point shooter. He’s darn good at it and shoots the 3 as well as anyone in the league. It’s an extremely high percentage look for him. And he gets a lot of clean looks because of the focus on Westbrook and Durant. You just don’t want Martin to hover on the 3-point line and ignore the fact he’s a good mid-range and finisher as well.
I can tell you this too: I talked to one league scout recently and he told me that teams are quietly as afraid of Martin as they are of Westbrook or Durant. They gameplan more around Westbrook and Durant, but Martin terrifies other teams. He’s torched basically every one of them in the past as either the Kings or Rockets primary scorer, and now he’s got less attention on him and a lesser defender. The Thunder have to make sure they’re utilizing him.
(Also wanted to mention this: For the week, Martin hit just 37.5 percent from 3 (9-24). The fact that’s a “slump” should tell you how excellent of a shooter Martin is. Do yourself a favor and get to a game early and watch him warm up. He’ll make 25 in a row. With 22 of them barely even touching the net.)
5. Nick Collison (Last week: 5)
You know how I pointed out Ibaka’s long 2-point shooting ability? You know who’s in front of him? Yep, Collison, who’s hitting 47 percent from 16-23 feet.
One of the most underrated parts of the “Should Perk play this much?” discussion is the fact that Collison is by far a more dynamic offensive player. His finishing ability around the rim, the fact he rarely turns it over, he’s an equal screener and the fact he possesses a mid-range, pick-and-pop game. No, he’s not the same caliber post defender, and he’s not as mean. But with Collison, he brings a whole lot more to the table. As the games become more important in May and hopefully June, it seems like it should be a no-brainer to have Collison ready to go 30 a night.
6. Kendrick Perkins (Last week: 8)
For the week, Perk averaged 7.7 rebounds in about 25 minutes a game. That’s really not too bad at all. He played a strong game against the Raptors and despite the gripes about him being on the floor against the Nets late, he was really very solid on the defensive end that night.
I think I’ve said this before, but it really is kind of amazing that Perk has been able to build a very solid basketball career despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to really have any NBA talent, except for the fact he’s tall. And I mean that as a compliment to Perk. He’s figured out how to make himself a very valuable player because of his attitude, his spirit, his toughness, his presence, his leadership, his communication, his physicality, his smarts and the fact he’s not afraid to push back. If it was really as easy as it sounds, then every 6-10 guy would be making $8 million a year starting for an NBA title contender. But it’s not and Perk makes the most of it. It’s really kind of extraordinary, when you think about it.
7. Thabo Sefolosha (Last week: 6)
Thabo hit 5-13 from 3 this week and Joe Johnson sort of torched him. Not an awesome week.
8. Reggie Jackson (Last week: 7)
Remove the Phoenix game where Jackson had six assists, and in the other three, he had two total. And yet it seems like he’s performing better than Eric Maynor, right? Are we just that disenchanted with Maynor, or is this just a test-by-eye thing?
9. Hasheem Thabeet (Last week: 9)
No lie, there are quite a few times where after a game finishes and I’m looking over the box score to see who did what and I see Thabeet’s name I say to myself, “Oh yeah, he played.” Which is a way to say that sometimes, Thabeet doesn’t make much of an impact.
10. Eric Maynor (Last week: 10)
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t help but love how comically high Maynor dribbles the ball. He almost bounces it over his head.
11. DeAndre Liggins (Last week: N/A)
He played seven minutes this week! In the NBA!
Inactives: Perry Jones III, Daniel Orton, Jeremy Lamb