In the Thunder’s last four games, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have scored 285 combined points. That’s a combined average of 71.3 points per game. That’s absurd.
As a team, the Thunder scored 454 points this past week, or an average of 113.5 points per game. Meaning Westbrook and Durant scored 63 percent of OKC’s points in those four games. Remove the Nuggets game where KD and Westbrook only played three quarters, and they’ve scored almost 70 percent of the Thunder’s total points this week. Incredible.
Or from some viewpoints, it might be a bad thing. After Durant and Westbrook combined for 47 of 51 second half points against the Suns last week, the questions about scoring balance started rolling in. The Thunder have the top scoring duo in the league by a pretty wide margin (Westbrook and Durant average 52.5 ppg, the next closest duo is LeBron and Wade at 46.4). It’s nothing new that Durant and Westbrook carry OKC’s load night to night.
But the Thunder are a better, more dynamic offensive team when scoring is distributed more evenly. When the Thunder are more socialist, they’re better. Points are points no matter who scores them or where they come from, but being two-headed marginalizes efficient scoring options like Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka. Include them in the effort, and you give opposing defenses a whole lot more to worry about.
Is it a bad thing though that Westbrook and Durant do so much? Not at all. It’s a luxury. It’s the benefit of having two superstars on the same roster. Basketball is about getting the ball into your best players’ hands and scoring at the most efficient pace possible. The Thunder are better when they share, but that’s not always possible or realistic so when it falls to their two stars to get it done, be thankful that they can.
1. Russell Westbrook (Last week: 2)
Three awesome things Russell Westbrook did this week:
1)For the first time in his career, Westbrook scored 30 or more points in four consecutive games. Here were his averages in the last four: 33.7 points, 6.0 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 50 percent shooting from the floor. A simply massive week from Westbrook. He’s been a bit up and down this season with his shooting percentage, but this is definitely the most consistent stretch he’s put together this year.
2) After completely rolling his left ankle, Westbrook appeared to have done enough damage to his superhuman structure that he might actually miss time. He limped around on it, then immediately checked out of the game and headed for the locker room. As if there was ever a doubt, there was Westbrook on the floor to start the third quarter with a new pair of shoes on and ready to go.
3) He potentially robbed 18,000 Nuggets fans of free queso. Twice. For no reason at all. A pantheon Russell Don’t Care moment, the kind of thing he does that only endears him more to his fanbase, and widens the gap of dislike to his detractors. The fact he did it twice, then dropped a game-tying 3 late in regulation was just… amazing. He definitely made no friends in Denver Sunday night, but that’s the thing: Russell don’t care about that.
2. Kevin Durant (Last week: 1)
I know, what? KD scores a career-high 52, averages 37.5 points per game for the week and yet he’s No. 2? For one, Westbrook was again, awesome. For two, despite the points per game, it didn’t feel like he played that great, did it? Or is that just me? He wasn’t very Durant-ish in the way he scored. He had two games he attempted 30 or more shots, something he’d only done three times in his career previously. He shot 45 percent from the field (still very good), 42 percent from 3 (very good) and hit 54-56 (96 percent) from the free throw line. So to recap that, KD averaged 37.5 points on 45-42-96 shooting. I must be high.
Side rant: We’re about at the halfway point and the MVP race couldn’t be closer. One thing I’m completely sick of though is those that default to LeBron just ’cause. Look, LeBron is the best player in basketball, at least in terms of completeness. But this idea that there’s still a “significant gap” between him and Durant is plain dumb. It’s close. They’re just different. Durant does things LeBron can’t do, LeBron does things Durant can’t do.
But just because LeBron has the current title of best player doesn’t mean he’s entitled this season’s MVP. The award is for 2012-13, not for the best player in the game. Defaulting to LeBron for that reason is completely unfair to Durant and seems to discount the fact that Durant is actually having a better season. In terms of value to the floor, Durant is topping LeBron by quite a lot in that department. Miami’s net rating per 100 with LeBron on the floor versus off is +10.7. Durant’s is +17.7. That’s a huge difference. LeBron always gets credit for the impact he makes on the floor versus off it. It’s time to give KD the same recognition.
3. Kevin Martin (Last week: 3)
Last season there were nights where the Thunder’s best player title would swap between Westbrook, Durant and Harden. It was always clear was the pecking order was, but any given night, Westbrook or Harden could emerge as OKC’s best player for 48 minutes. While Martin has replaced most raw production from Harden, I don’t think there’s been a single game this season where you felt like you could say, “Hey, he was the best player on the floor tonight.”
(You might be able to have said that about Ibaka a few times, but that’s not my point.)
Martin has been exceptionally solid and at times, integral to success. He’s seemed to shake off that little shooting slump and is performing a bit more consistently on the road. But I think Scott Brooks is realizing that he’s not James Harden and he shouldn’t be treated as such. He’s not guaranteed a spot on the floor in crunchtime, and he’s not the commandeer of the second unit. Martin has filled his role extremely well, but the better he’s used in relation to Westbrook and Durant, the better he’ll perform.
4. Serge Ibaka (Last week: 8)
Is Serge Ibaka an All-Star? I think this might be something to explore in larger detail later, but for now, here are my initial thoughts: No, but very close.
Ibaka has a very real chance at it for a few reasons: 1) He’s the third best player on the best team in the conference; 2) he’s got good numbers; 3) he’s got a good reputation; 4) players at his position are either injured or having down seasons. Power forward in the West is one of the deepest positions in the league with Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan (sort of), Dirk, David Lee and Paul Millsap. That’s a big list to beat out.
Griffin is the starter, but behind him it really comes down to Lee, Randolph and Aldridge (Duncan’s probably going, but more as a center). Ibaka scores less than all three and rebounds less than all three. Ibaka’s shooting percentage is terrific and obviously there’s the blocks that helps, but probably only two of those four guys are going, and it’s hard to see Ibaka getting the nod ahead Lee or Aldridge.
5. Kendrick Perkins (Last week: 5)
Outside of last night’s game in Denver where I thought Perk played pretty poor except for the last few minutes (note: Perk was a +4 against the Nuggets, one of only two positive players for OKC), this was another strong week for him. His rebounding numbers are holding, but he’s clearly making an impact on the defensive end for OKC. His work against Dirk in crunchtime against Dallas was terrific and his activity in defending the pick-and-roll looked as good as ever.
Perk is a very good defender because of how he clogs and feels space. He just has a knack for being in right places. He doesn’t block shots or dominate the glass, but he does defend.
6. Thabo Sefolosha (Last week: 7)
Question: Would you rather have Thabo Sefolosha at $3.6 million a year, or Andre Iguodala at $15 million a year? I’m not saying Thabo is a better player, but for what both players do — depending on my existing roster already in place — Thabo is basically a poor man’s Iguodala. He’s not as explosive around the rim and doesn’t really create as much, but a lot of that is because he has a limited offensive role. But for both, their calling cards are defense and there definitely isn’t much of a gap there.
7. Nick Collison (Last week: 6)
The Thunder when Nick Collison plays more than 20 minutes: 13-0. The Thunder when Collison plays 20 or less minutes: 19-9. Just sayin’.
8. DeAndre Liggins (Last week: 4)
After his fun breakout party against the Blazers, Liggins only played 44 total minutes last week. Which isn’t bad, considering he actually got to play 44 minutes, meaning he’s still sort of part of the rotation. He didn’t make near the same kind of impact, but he definitely scrapped and hustled like crazy for those 44 minutes.
9. Reggie Jackson (Last week: 9)
With each passing week, the more convinced I am the Thunder need to do someone about the backup point guard spot. I think Jackson has a future, possibly with the Thunder, but just not as a backup point man. He doesn’t seem to control an offense, outside of doing a lot of pointing and talking while he’s dribbling out the shot clock.
10. Hasheem Thabeet (Last week: 10)
Thabeet started the season 20-25 from the free throw line, but has made just 7 of his last 17. That’s going from 80 percent to 41 percent.
11. Perry Jones III (Last week: 11)
His playing time was sparse and really only happened because of Ibaka’s injury, but Jones definitely opened the door for some intrigue recently. You can see the potential weapon he could be off OKC’s bench. He very clearly has a quality midrange game, his athleticism is plain sick and he’s got a good handle and feel. It’s about fitting him in somewhere, but for me, it seems he works best in a lineup with Durant where they work a little two-man game.
12. Jeremy Lamb (Last week: 13)
Lamb’s week: 11 minutes, 1-5 shooting, two points. But he played!
13. Eric Maynor (Last week: 12)
Why didn’t he play against Denver in the blowout? This is a question I got roughly 2,000 times over the last week.
Do people not get it? Maynor lost his job. He’s the third string point guard now. And while yes, that was a blowout where everyone played except Maynor, I don’t think there was anything to read into there. Maynor and Scott Brooks aren’t at odds, there’s no tension. I thought Brooks said it best: He knows what Maynor can do and wants to see more of what Jackson can do. It’s really that simple.
It’s obvious that there’s not enough room on the roster for both, so something will have to give eventually, but don’t count Maynor out for good. He might get another shot, and soon.
Inactives: Daniel Orton