Rob Mahoney of SI.com: “Interestingly enough, the Thunder have opened themselves up for just such a strategic turn in accepting Martin’s contributions in exchange for Harden’s — not to mention the addition of the utterly stagnant Derek Fisher to replace more useful offensive players. Westbrook and Durant make for one of the most potent shot creating duos in the league, but should an opponent manage to lock down Durant with any measure of success, it could throw Oklahoma City’s offense off-balance enough to make every game of a potential series winnable. As prolific as the Thunder are, the absence of a third playmaker — and their dependence on individual dribble-driving rather than team-wide ball movement — makes them susceptible to pressure-heavy schemes. If an opponent keys in on Durant and/or Westbrook in the same way that the Thunder once focused on Parker, OKC becomes an imminently beatable opponent.”
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop on minutes: “Sitting them can cost you a lead, or a game. But evidently it also comes with the serious upside of increasing your likelihood of winning a title, which is why it’s no surprise to see top players resting this time of year. (The bigger surprise is that NBA rules force teams to gin up tales of injuries to justify good medium-term planning.) In Vegas, the top three contending teams at the moment, in order, are the Heat, Thunder and Spurs. The Heat have played their top players a lot, but not a crazy amount. The Thunder, thanks largely to Durant’s crazy minutes, might be the league’s most flagrant violators. The Spurs, meanwhile … forget three thousand minutes. They barely have any players over two thousand. That doesn’t mean they’ll make it past the Thunder or Heat, but if minutes matter, it does mean the coaches have done what they can to maximize success.”
Mitch McGary nicknamed himself “White Thunder” in high school. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider on depth: “Scott Brooks tightened his rotation to eight players for the most part in leading the Thunder to last season’s Finals. There is nothing about this year’s roster that would make you expect Brooks to behave any differently, even though James Harden won’t be around.”
Stein’s power rankings have OKC up to second: “The Spurs and Nuggets are in injury hell. The Griz have their own health concerns with Marc Gasol playing hurt … and the Clips are still trying to dig out of a plain old funk. So why isn’t OKC giddy as nicely as things are lining up? Are they sufficiently clicking to capitalize on the chaos all around them?”
Andrew McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell takes OKC to win the top seed in a 5-on-5: “With injuries to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili already on his plate, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will do anything he can to keep the rest of his team healthy heading into the playoffs. That’ll mean plenty of rest for his key guys and the Spurs will drop some games because of it.”
Per John Rohde, KD is just 1-11 against Melo: “Durant’s lone head-to-head victory against Anthony came in a 151-147 double-overtime contest at KeyArena on April 6, 2008, which means Durant has yet to defeat Anthony while with the Thunder. Anthony did not play in OKC’s 95-94 victory at New York on March 7 this season. Against Durant, Anthony has averaged 30.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 50.4 percent from the field, 40.0 percent from 3-point range and 84.8 percent from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Durant has averaged 26.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 42.2 percent from the floor, 38.3 percent from 3-point range and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line.”