SB Nation did a thing where they picked the top 100 players in 2017. Jeremy Lamb was 50th, Serge Ibaka 19th, Russell Westbrook fourth and Kevin Durant… first. Here’s what Connor Kaczmarek said about KD: “Kevin Durant isn’t even 25 years old yet, so he’s going to be in the prime of his career in 2017. He’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league and somehow he just keeps getting more and more efficient at putting the ball in the basket. If we go by his current rate of improvement, he’ll be scoring five points per shot somehow, probably. He’s improved defensively and on the boards, and has become a significantly better playmaker. LeBron won’t decline that much, but the smart money is on Durant to surpass him at some point.”
Uni Watch ranks the Thunder’s uniforms eighth in the league: “The NBA has been in a minimalist phase over the past four years or so, with teams such as the Thunder, Sixers, Nets, Cavs and Pelicans all unveiling very conservative designs. The Thunder’s set is the best of this lot, thanks in large part to the orange trim, which really pops. The road design would probably be stronger if they put “City” below the uni number instead of stacking the two words, but it still works. Too bad about the alternate uni, though, which is one for the “What were they thinking?” file.”
A GIF of James Harden’s beard evolution. Sigh. We saw most of that evolution here.
This is cool: Resident DT-er Tricia made a presentation about how digital and social media helped her become the passionate Thunder fan she is (watch the presentation!) and as a result, it has a chance to make SXSW. Vote for it. It takes two seconds to register and then click the thumbs up. Go on. Do it.
Jeff Caplan of NBA.com says eight teams will experiment with motion-tracking devices next season: “The device, called OptimEye, is roughly the size of an oldfangled beeper and athletes wear it inside their jerseys on the upper back between the shoulder blades. The device records literally every movement the player makes, accurately measuring exertions such as distance, velocity, changes of direction, acceleration, deceleration, jumps, heart rate and more. These physiological and physical performance parameters are then uploaded to a computer to be analyzed, allowing coaches, trainers and the players to understand their individual workload levels. These are conclusions that once could only be subjective, say, by reading a player’s body language, to now being totally objective. By wearing the devices during practices, teams can monitor their players’ physical output and closely watch their load levels to ensure each player is not being overworked and ensuring ultimate preparedness to play in each game when performance counts. Worn during workouts, the device can provide real-time data alerting coaches and trainers if a player’s exertion rate is too high, the moment when a player is most vulnerable to injury, allowing coaches and trainers to pull back.”
Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop ponders basketball without free throws: “And if we did eliminate the free throw altogether, what could we provide in its place that would give trailing teams the opportunity to close the gap during the final few minutes of a game? We could eliminate consecutive timeouts, consequently forcing the leading team to get the ball in bounds on the first attempt. If they can’t — and we see this all the time — that would create a change of possession in five riveting seconds as the crowd explodes over a gritty defensive stand (or goes into shock as their team turns the ball over with no time expiring on the clock, all because they couldn’t get it in!). Free throws are an entrenched feature of the game, so it’s difficult to imagine the game without them — but we do have reference points like those 20 minutes in March when the ball was live 60 percent of the time, and like any great piece of visual storytelling, you couldn’t take your eyes off the action because you might miss something.”
Zach Lowe of Grantland ranks team nicknames and has “Thunder” 22nd: “The top-rated weather-related nickname, only because thunder can be legitimately scary and brings at least some vague sensory connection to the on-court product. A Russell Westbrook–Kevin Durant fast break creates a rumbling tremor of inevitable ferocity and lasts only a couple of seconds. But, man, look at the alternatives — some from fans, some among the half-dozen names the franchise trademarked before choosing “Thunder”: Thunderbirds (both military and animal connotations), Roughriders, Renegades, Outlaws, Barons, Bison, Marshalls, and Twisters — the last probably too close to home at this point for residents of Tornado Alley. They’re all better than “Thunder.”