Thunder At A Glance – 12 December 2018

img_4063Isaiah Freedman (Welcome to Loud City) on whether the Thunder are currently title contenders: “OKC can match up with anyone defensively, and while their offense has not been the most efficient in the league (it hovers around league average), they are only a Russ or PG explosion away from rendering that stat useless. We still have not seen this team at full strength, and if Roberson can get back to playing all-world defense by the time the playoffs come around, the Thunder will be a true force to be reckoned with.”

Patrick Redford (Deadspin) on Paul George’s 2-way ability and how it’s helping the Thunder: “It’s working! Really well! George is averaging 24.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, all of which are career-highs. All of the other advanced metrics point to this campaign as George’s best statistical season, which is impressive coming next to Westbrook, a man who likes to have the ball in his hands at all times, always, unconditionally. To his credit, Westbrook has backed down this year, using the rock on only 31.9 percent of Thunder possessions, a rate comparable to his first All-Star season in 2010-11. Westbrook also leads the league in assist percentage, and has cleaned up his shot selection. As he’s chilled out, George has stepped up, and their games complement each other perfectly; Westbrook explodes into the lane and creates chaos, George hits shots, cleans shit up, and exploits mismatches.”

Rohan Nadkarni (Sports Illustrated) on the Thunder nearing their post-KD peak: “I was skeptical of OKC bringing back Jerami Grant to play the four, but he’s shined in that role. Grant is shooting 37.8% on catch-and-shoot threes this season, a significant improvement on the 29.4% he shot on those in 2018. Grant is also shooting about two more threes per game compared to last year. It’s a relatively small number, but every inch of space he adds gives more room to Westbrook in the paint.”

Berry Tramel (NewsOK) on Russell Westbrook’s poor free throw shooting: “The NBA has 145 players who have taken at least 50 foul shots this season. Westbrook ranks 134th on that list. And for the record, Steven Adams ranks 141st; saddle up for some frustrating nights this winter. If Andre Roberson gets back into the lineup, we could see a new tactic from opponents – Hack-a-Team. Just intentionally foul every trip downcourt.”

Maddie Lee (NewsOK) on Terrance Ferguson not allowing his return from injury from disrupting the team’s defensive chemistry: “Five minutes into the game, Thunder forward Paul George turned the ball over as he tried to draw a foul on a fast break. Mitchell collected the ball and took off past Ferguson, who had set up in the corner. Ferguson sprinted after Mitchell, overtaking him as they approached the 3-point line. Ferguson slid in front of Mitchell, hands back, careful not to foul, and stopped him in his tracks.”

Brett Dawson (The Athletic) on the emergence of Paul George as an MVP candidate: “Maybe it’s too early to ask the question. Maybe Most Valuable Player talk should wait until the midway point of the season. Or at least until Christmas. But if you must make a list, maybe check it twice if it’s missing Paul George.”

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