Friday Bolts – 4.17.09

Bleacher Report finals power rankings with OKC at No. 24: “My personal favorite losing-team to watch currently, the thunderbolt2312OKC Thunder will be much better next year. Kevin Durant will be an All-Star, and rookie Russell Westbrook will have another year of adjusting to NBA play under his belt. Imagine if the Thunder land another scorer in the draft?”

Kevin Durant took home CelticsBlog’s MIP award: “Though his defense still has a ways to go, Durant made progress in every aspect of the game this season with the most significant coming in his jump from 51.9 to 57.6 true shooting that accompanied a scoring increase from 20.3 to 25.3 points per game.  It took just two years for KD to become an elite scorer in this league, and his rebounding, passing and ability to take care of the ball all took a step forward this season as well.” 

Chris Silva has the scoop on all the exit interviews for the team. Lots of great information here: “Green will head back to his hometown of Washington, D.C., where he will take more courses towards his degree in Women’s Studies at Georgetown.” Jeff Green is majoring in Women’s Studies? Weird. “If he had to grade his performance this season, Green said he’d give himself a ‘C.’” I’d give him a B+. “Away from the media, Westbrook did say that he might wear protective sleeves on his arms next season; his arms were covered with bruises, scratches and scars from attacking the rim on a regular basis.” 

Durant said he’d like to add 10 pounds of muscle and come back “wiry strong“: “In the offseason, Kevin Durant would like to put on about 10 pounds of muscle as he tries to find ways to help the Oklahoma City Thunder start moving up the Western Conference standings. If nothing else, the 6-foot-9 forward wants to come back “wiry strong” and add another dimension to his high-scoring game. “I’ll be much better being able to take more of a bruising down low, playing more minutes and not get tired and hopefully playing better in the postseason,” Durant said with a smile Thursday during the team’s final round of interviews before the offseason.”

Empty the Bench completes their season review in list form and named OKC one of the top five most exciting teams, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green the top two second-year players and KD one of the five classiest guys in the league. Read it. It’s cool.

KD was first-team most improved according to Dime, but I liked this part: “Everyone understands the NBA doesn’t have a Comeback Player of the Year award anymore, right? I feel like every year around this time, when people are picking their award-winners, Comeback Player is always included. Just yesterday I read this in Bill Simmons’ column on ‘If the Birdman doesn’t win “Comeback Player of the Year” for (a) bouncing back from a drug violation so seedy that they wouldn’t even tell us what happened, and (b) giving Denver superior bench play this season (6.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg in 20.5 mpg), then let’s dump the award and not have it anymore.’ I’m hoping Simmons was joking, because he and everybody else who gets paid to write about basketball should know that the NBA did dump the Comeback Player award. 23 years ago. They haven’t given it out since 1986, when Stern realized it usually going to guys whose comeback involved a coke addiction. (Which makes the push for Birdman winning this imaginary award even more ironic.)” Burn.’s final rookie rankings: “After stumbling down the stretch, Westbrook is finishing the season on a high note. The 6-3, 187-pound point guard averaged 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists in four games last week.”

Jason Fleming of HoopsWorld chats and answers some question about OKC: “Dallas and Detroit both have serious questions to answer in the offseason. Philly really needs to address the how they integrate Elton Brand question as well – they picked up after he got hurt, and he’s going to be back. I think Charlotte is on the verge, and I think the Bucks and Pacers could both be much improved if they can stay healthy. In the West Phoenix could come back into the mix, though their money problems could end that. I think OKC will make a jump, but not sure if it’s big enough to quite make the playoffs in 2010 – think Portland last year.”

The Lost Ogle reviews the season and has an interesting stat: “In a league full of prima donnas, the technical foul is a common occurrence.  The league hardly penalizes players or their teams for incurring them.  One free throw is all the opposing team receives when a player or coach throws a tantrum and the players are docked $1,000 in pay (even for someone making league minimum that is only 1/5 of a single game’s pay).  It’s as if the league is encouraging the players to berate the officials. Knowing that, it is shocking that the Thunder have only been assessed 31 all season.  That ranks them 29th (behind only the Spurs–who are the darlings of referees everywhere).  To put that in perspective, the league leading Boston Celtics have 117.  Eighteen players in the league have been T’d up double digit times.  Rasheed Wallace, alone, has eighteen.”

20 Second Timeout on the ROY: “Ernie Johnson placed Mayo second and Russell Westbrook third on his ballot. As I have already stated, I would choose Rose as the Rookie of the Year. Mayo and Westbrook are valid runner up choices but the reality is that frontcourt players Kevin Love, Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol have arguably been at least as productive as Mayo and Westbrook, even though the guards score more and have flashier styles.”

SLAM’s Lang Whitaker on how he voted: “Who I didn’t vote for: The only guy I really thought was deserving but didn’t put on my ballot was Russell Westbrook. Considering all OKC went through this season, RW more than lived up to expectations. The other three guys I voted for were just better, I thought.”