What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Monday, January 14, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Overall Win/Loss Record : 12-4 ,  first place Northwest Division





3
This Month:

2
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

  • Points Scored: 103.7 (2nd)
  • Points Allowed: 98.2 (16th)
  • Team FG%: .476 (2nd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .437 (10th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.5 (17th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 39.5 (2nd)
  • Turnovers per game: 16.6 (27th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.0 (25th)


Individual Statistical Leader(as of November 30th)

  • Scoring (ppg): Kevin Durant (26.5)
  • Rebounds per game:  Kevin Durant (9.5)
  • Minutes per game: Kevin Durant (40.0)
  • Assists per game: Russell Westbrook (8.0)
  • Steals per game: Kevin Durant (2.0)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Serge Ibaka (3.1)



Worst Player of the Month:  Kendrick  Perkins


It seem as if with every passing season Kendrick Perkins becomes less of a factor for the Oklahoma City Thunder.  He is certainly less of a factor than has was in Boston--at least he had some  touches and a much bigger role on the defensive end as well.  Perkins' numbers have dropped yet again across the board due to his decline in minutes.  Add the emergence of backup center Hasheem Thabeet in the mix, and one might speculate that Perkins' days in Oklahoma City are numbered.   With his modest contract with three years and around  25$ million left, look for Perkins'name to be in numerous trade rumors as the Thunder may look to part ways with their one time defensive centerpiece.
First Player of the Month: Russell Westbrook


What was one of SDH's most reviled players has become now one of SDH's favorites.  Russel Westbrook has moved from being a shoot first, ball hogging guard and has evolved into more of a true point guard that many fans hoped he would be.  Westbrook went from being a ball dominating gunner to a facilitator  of the offense getting his teammates more involved as he averaged a career high 8.6 assists per game.  The biggest improvement had to be his protection of the ball as he has significantly improved his assist to turnover ratio from 6 to 5 ratio to close to nearly a 3 to 1 ratio.  One can certainly see how much of an impact Westbrook's new and improved play has affected his teammates as players who rarely touched the ball now have bigger roles in the offense leading to an increase in the team's scoring output and field goal percentage.   

Analysis:

After getting manhandled in last season's NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder came into the season with a new look, new attitude, and a new style of play.  The change started almost immediately as the Thunder announced that the team will no longer have one of the key players that helped bring it to the Finals in the first place.  Before the first tip off, it was announced that last season's Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, James Harden, would be sent to the Houston Rockets along with swing man Daequan Cook and little used center Cole Aldrich.  In return, the Thunder got the expiring contract of the Rockets'scoring leader from last season, Kevin Martin, along with rookie Jeremy Lamb, whom Houston selected 12th overall in last Summer's NBA Draft.  Along with this sudden change in the roster to start the regular season came a new style of play and philosophy that resulted in a complete shift in the team's dynamic.

Instead of their earlier "Trickle Down Economic" style of play where two players dominated the ball on offensive end while the rest of the team received what little scraps that were left, it has become a more open style of play with more ball movement and more opportunities for others to contribute.  Last season, just three men took the majority of the shot attempts while the rest of the team stood idly by watching as ongoing bystanders. Now it is completely different as the Thunder have been spreading the wealth as now four players share the offensive duties while the rest of the team have become a greater factor in the offensive schemes.  Now opposing defenses not only had to worry of the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, but also had to contend with the post scoring of Serge Ibaka, whose offensive production spike to an all time high from just 9.1 points per game from just seven shot attempts to a career high 14.8 points and 10.4 shot attempts per game.  Even starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha, who was next to invisible when it came to the offensive end, saw his numbers spike up to his best numbers in his career while in Oklahoma City at 7.5 points per game while  shooting a career best .478 from the field.

Although the offense still runs a majority of the time through Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook, it has become more diversified as the ball now passes through more hands giving opposing defenses a harder time to contain the Thunder's roaring offense.   Defenders who focused all their energies on Durant and Westbrook, now have to start playing up on two of the other starters whom in most instances, they never paid attention to.   Along with the increased role of the starters, the Thunder's bench also remains a formidable force as James Harden's sixth man role has been taken over by Kevin Martin, who although has not produced as much as Harden did, has still provided the Thunder with a offensive spark shooting an unconscious .488 from beyond the arc in November.  In addition, to the gritty blue collar play of Nick Collison, the Thunder's front court has become even stronger with the addition of Hasheem Thabeet.  Although still not an offensive juggernaut, Hasheem has become a force in the inside averaging close to four points and four rebounds in under thirteen minutes per game while being almost perfect from the field at .708.

The new attitude towards the offense have made the Thunder an even more efficient team than it ever was before ranking among the best in not only scoring and field goal percentage, but also in three point field goal percentage and free throws as well.  OKC's biggest improvement on the offensive end has to come from its passing and ball control as went from being one of the worst teams in protecting the ball to becoming one of the most improved teams in that regard.  Although they still rank near the bottom in turnovers, the Thunder raised from being last place last season to raising three spots higher to 27th. The team also shot up in the assists category from being dead last last season to now being 17th in the league.  And finally, the Thunder went from having the worst assist/turnover ratio last season, now rank seven spots higher this season at 23rd in the NBA.

Despite the Thunder having taken great strides in opening and liberalizing the team's offense, there still remains room improvement as can be shown by the number.  Even their number have improved offensively as a team, turnovers still remains a major issue with the Thunder as they still rank at the bottom in the league; however, one must remember that this is still a very young team still learning the ropes in the NBA.  On the entire team, only one player is over 30 years old, which happens to be Nick Collison, and Kevin Martin will be the only player turning thirty this season as well while the rest of the roster only range from 20 to 28 years old.  So there is still a lot of room to grow as this young Oklahoma team, in spite of its success, has yet to reach full potential and that is what  opposing teams should fear the most.  This team has yet to slow down, and with their new attitude towards sharing, will becoming even more unstoppable as time wears on.