John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Take those three guys and a guy who can put defenses on their heels like Russell Westbrook, and you’re going to have a very efficient offense. OKC ranked second in offensive efficiency last season, just a hair behind the Heat, who were the best shooting team (in terms of effective field goal percentage) in NBA history. How much Martin’s departure will hurt? Yes, he was the third scorer on the Thunder, but Martin played 391 minutes without either Durant or Westbrook on the floor last season. Durant played just 44 minutes* without either Martin or Westbrook, and Westbrook played just 26 minutes without either Durant or Martin. The Thunder held their own (both offensively and defensively) in those minutes that Martin was on the floor without the two All-Stars. And don’t assume that it was mostly garbage time; 239 of the 391 minutes came before the fourth quarter.”
Eric Freeman of BDL on KD: “It’s also possible that he learned as much when he actually did have to take on an undue portion of responsibility last postseason. After Russell Westbrook was lost to a knee injury, Durant effectively had to carry the Thunder offense by himself, which proved to be a near-impossible task against the Memphis Grizzlies’ elite defense. In a way, that experience could have proven that Durant needs to think of the challenge of winning a title in more practical terms. It’s as yet unclear if this change in demeanor will have any effect on the Thunder’s finish this season, but it’s good to hear that Durant is trying to channel his intensity in more productive, less destructive ways. The determination to win a title can be an admirable trait without devolving into something personally distasteful.”
Anthony Slater: “Barring injury, it’s a safe bet to assume Lamb, Jackson and Adams will only get better as the season wears on. Because, well, that’s what young players do as the experience piles up. OKC has a half-decade full of examples to back up that theory. It hopes Jackson, Lamb and Adams can follow that same path.”
Zach Lowe of Grantland on the Heat: “But here’s the thing: This team is the biggest story in the NBA — in almost every sense. This season represents Miami’s first chance to vault up a level in NBA history. It might also represent the team’s last chance to do so. All three of its stars can enter free agency this summer, along with just about every relevant role player plucked to do a very specific job within this quirky team structure — a role that wouldn’t exist in quite the same form anywhere else. LeBron James remains the world’s best player; any team that sniffs a realistic chance to sign him should be doing everything possible to do it, even to the point of ripping up its current roster at a moment’s notice. And that includes Miami.”
Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider making the case against the Heat: “That’s taken a heavy toll on Miami’s big three, all of whom rank among the top six in total minutes played over the last three seasons. LeBron James has played a league-high 11,131 minutes over that span, and only Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant has also played more than 10,000 minutes the last three years. No wonder James looked so worn down during the Finals.”
Remember to watch The Starters today at 4 p.m. CT.