Straight to the listing of the players in an order that reflects how they played the last week:
1. Kevin Durant (last week: 1)
It’s getting monotonous just repeating, “he’s so very, very good,” so here’s a random stat I just looked up: Assisted by numbers this season for KD: five from Nick Collison, eight from Serge Ibaka, nine from Kendrick Perkins, 10 from Thabo Sefolosha, 13 from Reggie Jackson… 39 from Russell Westbrook.
2. Russell Westbrook (last week: 4)
Here he comes.
The biggest thing holding Westbrook back in his return was his feel at the rim. He was getting there just fine (6.7 attempts a game inside five feet compared to 7.0 last season); he just wasn’t making it once he got there. Last season, Westbrook shot 56.6 percent inside five feet; this season, he’s at 46.7 percent. And getting to the rim is a major part of his game. It’s not that he’s an elite finisher (for example, Durant’s 67.9 percent inside five feet), but creating those high percentage chances is key for Westbrook.
The last five games though, Westbrook’s coming around, shooting 54.2 percent inside five feet. The last three games, he’s 9-of-11 from that range. So it appears to be coming back.
Somewhat surprisingly, the midrange touch has been good all season so far for Westbrook (47,1 percent from 10-14 feet, 43.8 percent from 15-19 feet), so really, it’s just been the touch at the cup.
3. Reggie Jackson (last week: 2)
Hat tip to commenter OKC035 for looking this up, but the three-man lineup of Durant, Westbrook and Jackson this season is a +24.8 per 100 possessions in 137 minutes together. Compare that to Westbrook-Durant-Harden in 2012 (+9.9) and Westbrook-Durant-Martin in 2013 (+14.3). That’s something.
4. Serge Ibaka (last week: 5)
Already this season through 19 games, Ibaka has 10 double-doubles. Last season, he finished with 17 total.
Also, there’s this: Per 82games.com, at center this season Ibaka’s PER is 29.3, compared to 19.5 at power forward. And opposing centers have a PER of 11.4. And OKC’s been a net +17.9 points per 48 minutes with Ibaka at the 5, versus a +2.5 with him at the 4.
The big thing about that is what it provides Scott Brooks in terms of lineup versatility. With Ibaka’s ability to not only play, but excel at center means Durant can play more power forward — where he’s dominant — and the Thunder can get Reggie Jackson on the floor more. There are certain matchups where Ibaka doesn’t work as well at center, but he’s holding his own on the boards — he’s grabbing 4.6 contested rebounds a game, fifth in the league — which is really what’s provided the Thunder the ability to go small. Ibaka’s overall play this season has been a solid step forward, and the fact he’s learning to play as the lone big for OKC is a significant part of it.
5. Nick Collison (last week: 6)
The numbers are starting to take shape. With Collison on the floor this season, the Thunder are +14.9 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent.
6. Jeremy Lamb (last week: 3)
A little bit of a down week for Lamb, especially after he had two good ones against the Kings (14 points) and the Blazers (10 points). He got into foul trouble against the Pelicans and finished with just two points on 1-5 shooting and followed that up with only five against the Pacers on 2-6.
But you know what? Those two down games still kind of impressed me, because even after getting a taste the past few weeks of scoring, Lamb hasn’t forced a single shot that I can think of. Even in garbage time against the Pelicans, he wasn’t trying to jack up looks for numbers. He was still swinging the ball, still making cuts and still trying to do his job. The guy is a really good “fit” player.
7. Kendrick Perkins (last week: 7)
Two things cloud the discussion around Perk: 1) That he’s a starter and 2) that he’s making almost $9 million this season. For a guy that has a PER of 5.93 and averages 2.9 points and 3.4 rebounds, how can you rationalize all of that together? I’m not completely sure you can, but some of the reasoning was on display Sunday against the Pacers. Roy Hibbert is a dominant player, and he was unable to get comfortable at all against OKC, and that was almost exclusively because of Perk.
Now, with more teams playing small, it diminishes Perk’s value. And what complicates things more is that Brooks has stubbornly decided to stick with his starting lineup no matter the circumstance, rather than adjusting and deploying Perk in specific situations.
8. Thabo Sefolosha (last week: 8)
This goes for Perk as well, but the starting lineup isn’t going to change until one of these guys isn’t on the roster. I absolutely love Thabo and still think he’s a premier wing defender and is a plus player, but at the same time, I am starting to wonder what his future place on the team is.
Having Lamb and Jackson off the bench together is nice, but Lamb certainly has the potential of being a starting 2-guard. The way he fits and isn’t ball dominant, he was essentially work in as a more offensive Thabo (with obviously a step back defensively). Or there’s Andre Roberson, who’s killing it in the D-League.
I’ve had a small hunch the Thunder may shop Thabo at the deadline since he’s an expiring deal, but that’s only if they really, really feel good about what they’re getting back or think Lamb/Roberson is ready for the starting job. I don’t really see that happening. But will Thabo be on this team come next season? Ehhhhh.
9. Steven Adams (last week: 9)
I think it’s just been a product of bad matchups, but Adams has definitely found himself in some limited minutes. Or there’s this: When playing with the other four starters, the Thunder have a net rating of -18.2 per 100. Defensively, they’re horrific, allowing 121.6 per 100. And something to note: This is the Thunder’s second most-used lineup, playing 60 minutes together. Something to note off of that note, though: That’s a little deceptive because Adams has had two starts, against the Clippers and Warriors, and OKC didn’t perform well defensively at all in those two games.
Another number to share just because I looked it up: Per SportVU, 53.4 percent of Adams’ rebounds are contested, which is fifth in the league for guys having played 10 or more games. Which confirms what I feel like my eyes have been telling me. Adams grabs a bunch of boards in traffic. And when he does, he chins the thing and basically dares you to come and grab it. I swear, he’s going to pop a basketball one of these times like it’s a balloon.
10. Derek Fisher (last week: 10)
The box score says Derek Fisher played 14 minutes against the Pacers on Sunday. I truthfully don’t remember any of them. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? I can’t decide.
11. Perry Jones III (last week: 11)
The sample size is miniscule, but did you know Jones is shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from 3 this season? Look, at some point you just can’t play everyone and even though I’d love to see Jones on the floor more, I honestly don’t know how Brooks can fit him in without it being awkward. Still, it’s a shame to have a really quality young player on your bench that did his job and played well, but can’t get on the court anyway.
12. Ryan Gomes (last week: 14)
Gomes played a part in the biggest controversy this season where he inexplicably got garbage time minutes over Perry Jones against the Pelicans, causing a 10-second freakout on Twitter by me, before I realized what was happening, and immediately stopped caring.
13. Hasheem Thabeet (last week: 13)
You know who likes to clap? Hasheem Thabeet likes to clap.
Inactive: Andre Roberson