No time to discuss how the Thunder took two steps forward and one step back last week, or that they really, probably, truly need to get to full strength for the postseason because as is currently, they’re clearly missing something.
1. Kevin Durant
I’ve seen some say things like “Quit talking about the MVP, all that matters is a title.” And along those lines, “Durant shouldn’t care about the MVP, it’s all about a championship.”
You know what? I hope KD cares deeply about winning the MVP. Because that would be a huge freaking accomplishment. It’s like winning the Heisman. You’re etched in NBA history. An MVP matters. You list out things like All-Star appearances and scoring titles and All-NBA teams, but nothing is better on a career resume than an MVP (other than ringzzz, obvs).
Durant is on a collision course for all-time NBA greatness. So he needs to check things off his bucket list, and really, he only has two things remaining — an MVP and a title. He should get one of them this season. Hopefully both.
2. Russell Westbrook
Since returning from his second knee scope (10 games): 22.0 points on 46.7/42.3/85.3 with 4.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
I feel like we’re not talking about how ridiculous that is. The guy sat out two months, and basically needed two games before he was back at an All-NBA level.
3. Serge Ibaka
There is still a lot of talk about how the Thunder need a back-to-the-basket presence, and how Ibaka needs to work on that. I don’t disagree with that. I’m all for a player expanding on his game and getting better at areas. An Ibaka that can post, shoot 3s and catch-and-shoot would be fantastic.
But, this idea that the Thunder must have a back-to-the-basket player is quite overrated. Scott Brooks has mentioned it before, but the numbers favor an open midrange jumper over a contested post-up. For example: Per Synergy, Ibaka is shooting 43.6 percent on post-ups. Al Jefferson, who most would agree is one of the best, if not the best post players in the league, shoots 50.6 percent in post-ups.
Ibaka from 10-14 feet: 56.5 percent. Ibaka from 15-19 feet: 46.1 percent. I can’t get the number officially, but I remember Brooks citing 43 percent as the league average in back-to-the-basket situations. So, the numbers pretty clearly say that it’s better for Ibaka to take a midrange jumper than post.
Now, there is a counter to that. A quality post player can cause a lot of issues that a jumpshooter doesn’t, like double-teams and perimeter defenders digging down and such. But the Thunder have never suffered all that much for offense, and I think a large part of that is how much pressure opposing defenses have on them because of Ibaka’s potent pick-and-pop game. Dumping down on the block would eliminate a lot of the flow and movement OKC creates.
4. Reggie Jackson
This is almost a ranking based on default. Because who else do you put here? That’s kind of the current state of the Thunder. Early in the season, it could’ve been Jeremy Lamb at times. Or Steven Adams. Or Nick Collison. But after Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka, OKC’s production has been spotty at best.
Jackson has been a bit better lately, taking mostly smarter shots and getting back into his previous bench form that made him so dynamic. I’ve said it before, but I think it’s true: The Thunder are going to need an effective Reggie Jackson to get through the Western Conference.
5. Caron Butler
The Thunder have only had Butler for six games, but the writing is on the wall, so just go ahead and prepare yourself. He’s going to play a lot, and there’s a strong chance you’re not going to like it. He’s a good player that has the ability to hit shots and do a few things. But at the same time, with the shots he’s getting, and the number he’s taking, it makes you wonder — couldn’t the Thunder have done better than this?
They tried, no doubt. They tried to get Iman Shumpert, who would’ve been a better fit. But here’s Butler, taking 8.5 shots a game, and 5.5 of them 3s, while only making 35.3 percent of from the field and 33.3 from 3. Imagine if the Thunder could’ve tracked down a more productive guy for this role.
Now, I’m not ruling out the possibility that Butler is going to be a great addition. He can hit 3s. But asking him to hit 40 percent of them doesn’t seem likely.
6. Andre Roberson
Some really positive stuff from Roberson at times in the last week, most notably slowing down Jodie Meeks to 6-15 shooting. But man, his offense leaves something to be desired. He’s a pretty good cutter and has a good feel for space, but as a spot-up shooter, you know it’s not good when you’re just hoping his corner 3 misses the side of the backboard.
7. Perry Jones III
What’s Jones’ future? Will he have a position? A more specific role? I think we’ve all been encouraged by the player we’ve been seeing the last few weeks, and it’s cool to have a 6-11 guy that can defend Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki in the same game. But where does he fit exactly? I know Brooks likes to think of him as a “utility” guy, but Jones strikes me as the kind of player that might excel more in a specified role.
8. Derek Fisher
Coming back to the planet, maybe? His last three games, he’s just 2-9 from 3. And it’s funny: When Derek Fisher isn’t making 3s, his minutes don’t seem all that justified, do they?
9. Steven Adams
I’m not entirely sure how to ask this question the right way, but at what point does a player become good enough that they become part of your teams identity and less about the matchups? What I mean by that is, a player like Marc Gasol, he’s not going to be subbed out simply because the opposition is playing small or something. He’s going to play because he’s a great player. I’m not saying Steven Adams is anywhere near that level, but if he does start to reach that point, would the Thunder adjust what they are and play a center 35 minutes? Or would they continue to shuffle big mean and play small regardless?
10. Nick Collison
He got 19 minutes against the Mavs, which is the most he’s seen since Feb. 23 against the Clippers. Progress!
11. Jeremy Lamb
In December, Lamb had a four-game run scoring 11, 18, 11 and 16 while playing more than 20 minutes in all four games. Later in the month, he put up 13, 10, 22 and 10 in another four-game span, playing about 20 minutes a game. In January, he was good again, averaging 10.7 points in 24.6 minutes.
Then things dipped in February, really taking a dive once Russell Westbrook returned. He averaged 6.6 points in 18.8 minutes that month, and so far in March is down to 4.3 points in 12.1 minutes. He’s all but been removed from the regular rotation.
What happened? Has his confidence been killed? Is he just in a slump? Practicing poorly? Remember late January in Miami? Lamb lit them for 18 on 7-10 shooting including 4-6 from 3. This is a guy that can be a difference-maker. He’s just lost any opportunity to do so.
12. Hasheem Thabeet
I can not think of anything to say about Hasheem Thabeet. And thus concludes your Hasheem Thabeet update.
13. Mustafa Shakur
Try and just say his name without saying it five more times. Dare you. You can’t do it.
Inactives: Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins