Spurs/Thunder Series Player Rankings: Duncan has fallen

I’ve decided to make this list even more subjective. Game 1 no longer counts. Here we go.

1. Russell Westbrook (+2 from last rankings)

Westbrook had the best all-around game of anyone in the playoffs in Game 5. Don’t look now, but he’s hustling more on defense, something that will have to hold up if the Thunder advance to face the Warriors.

2. Kevin Durant (-1)

Durant had a sleep-walking-to-20 Game 5, and maintained two important parts of his game that were lacking earlier in the semis: getting to the line and playing good D, particularly on the perimeter.

3. Kawhi Leonard (-1)

Kawhi carried the Spurs for most of Game 5, playing just as tough as he has all series. His three-point shooting has failed him, though, and he’s struggled to impact the game on both ends for the last couple 4th quarters.

4. Steven Adams (+0)

Still averaging a double-double for the series, and anchoring what looks more and more like a *whispers* championship core with each passing road win.

5. LaMarcus Aldridge (+0) & 6. Enes Kanter (+4)

My Aldridge playoff performer hot take (GOAT when on top, goat when it matters) is a little too spicy, so allow me a Gregg Popovich take instead. There’s some buzz about the Spurs & Thunder defying the small ball trend in this postseason. I’ve complained about the Thunder’s resistance to small ball many times myself. But these two rosters are not all that similar. Popovich and R.C. Buford transformed theirs into a throwback post-up machine with Aldridge getting the back-down green light. This is the kind of horse Pop rode in on 20 years ago, but it might not be one he can ride out on. Aldridge came to the Spurs with the express intent not to play center, and sans Duncan in the coming years, it will be tough to create an effective frontline on defense as Aldridge ages.

The Thunder play big, but their frontcourt is younger, more athletic, and much more versatile. Enes Kanter is a competent back-to-the-basket player, but OKC isn’t interested in becoming a “dump it down low” team. The Thunder have always valued a particular type of size, and Kanter didn’t really make sense in that mold. If he can sustain the kind of gains he’s made this postseason, though, everything clicks. The Kanter/Adams duo isn’t the likely starting unit of the future, but Kanter figuring out defense enough to shift between center and power forward as a shooter and deadly rebounder would keep OKC’s preferred blend of smothering size and skill on the table for all 48 minutes of any given game.

7. Dion Waiters (+1)

The Waiters train keeps chugging, thanks to smarter play from Dion and matchups that suit him well. While Danny Green and Leonard are about as perfect a matchup you can throw at the Thunder stars, they are the kind of guards the stout Waiters excels at bodying up on defense. On offense he doesn’t have to face them much (they’re occupied with Westbrook and Durant), and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are too small and/or slow-footed to hang with Waiters when he drives.

8. Danny Green (+3)

Green showed up in Game 5, and he’s basically the only Spur who can make a three-pointer at this point. The refs weren’t letting him play as physical as he wanted in Game 5, though, and that’s unlikely to change heading back to Oklahoma City.

9. Serge Ibaka (-2)

Ibaka’s had some duds in this series, and has now played less than 30 minutes and rode that 4th quarter pine two straight games. He’s still doing his job on Aldridge, though, and spacing the floor on offense.

10. Andre Roberson (-1)

He’s head and shoulders above all other shooting guards in defensive box plus/minus for the playoffs. He’s also still an offensive liability, and can’t buy a corner three.

11. Manu Ginobili (+3)

Spurs fans are clamoring for Ginobili to get some of Parker’s ball-handling duties. That might be worth a shot, but in most lineups Manu is easy prey for a Thunder offensive weapon to pick on, and shuffling Parker and Patty Mills into more minutes with the Spurs bench isn’t an appealing option.

12. Tony Parker (-6)

Again, Parker’s fortune is the Spurs’ misfortune. He made shots in Games 3 & 4, but Game 5 reminded us that this is in fact 2016 Tony Parker playing, not 2007 Parker.

13. Tim Duncan (-1)

When 5 points on 1-6 shooting is a bounce back game, you’re washed. He’s still the best interior defensive option the Spurs have (by a huge margin), but I think Popovich might have maxed him out in a must-win Game 5 effort. 28 minutes for the 40-year-old, heading into his fourth game in six days.

14. Boris Diaw (-1)

Last ranking’s note is still true: San Antonio needs a Diaw renaissance.

15. Randy Foye (+1)

16. Patty Mills (+1)

17. David West (-2)

Much respect to West for coming to a contender on the cheap, but things are not going according to plan. Instead of being a cherry-on-top type of role player, he’s become a total drain on the Spurs’ title hopes while they need him to stabilize their crumbling frontcourt.

 

Honorable mentions: In case Pop throws any of these guys at the Thunder wall and they miraculously work: Boban Marjanovic, Kyle Anderson, Matt Bonner.

Dishonorable mentions: Nick Collison. Currently, the Thunder’s margin for error can withstand 50 seconds of Collison. That won’t be the case for long.