What have you done for me lately? If you are the Oklahoma City Thunder, you should go confidently into your first round match-up with the Portland Trailblazers. The Thunder just finished a regular season in which they swept the season series against division rival Portland, 4-0. But just as the slogan says about the postseason: it’s a new season.
The Portland team the Thunder will face in the playoffs will not be the same Portland team they faced in the regular season. The season-ending injury to Jusuf Nurkic late in the season wipes away a source of familiarity the Thunder are used to seeing from Portland. The entire dynamic of this series changed the minute Nurkic went down in the 73rd game of the season. Logic would have you think this benefits Oklahoma City. But in a weird way, that dynamic may be slanted more towards Portland.
The Thunder swept the season series against Portland in part because they matched up so well with them. Russell Westbrook can play Damian Lillard to, at worst, a draw. CJ McCollum has a bit of a feast or famine thing going when he faces the Thunder. And Nurkic is one of the few centers in the league that plays similar to Steven Adams. Continue reading First Round Preview: Thunder vs. Trailblazers→
Injuries never come at a good time. Gordon Hayward got injured at the beginning of the season last year and Boston’s entire game plan had to change from that point on. It worked for them, as they made all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but a healthy Hayward, in his prime, may have pushed them even further. Continue reading Thunder @ Timberwolves Preview (Game 64 of 82)→
Zac Dubasik (Complex) on the Thunder’s obsession with saving their players’ shoes: “What that storage would eventually become, at least on the footwear front, was an archive that went on display at the Chesapeake Energy Arena for the team’s 10th anniversary season. “Every player that’s come through our organization has contributed,” says Mahoney. “Every person that’s come through our organization—player, staff, coach—everybody matters and everybody’s played a role. And as we look at the players, one unique way to mark each of them that comes through is to have pieces of what they’ve contributed, and the shoes are really a vital part of that and a concrete way showing what they were able to express.” Continue reading Thunder At A Glance – 25 February 2019→
Jackson Frank (FanSided NBA) on the development of Jerami Grant and if he’s the X-factor to their playoff success: “The most prominent new wrinkle in his game has been a serviceable outside jumper, connecting on 37.3 percent of his 3.1 3-point attempts per game — both career-highs. Slotting in next to Steven Adams, who’s 0 of 6 from deep in his six-plus seasons, Grant now (semi-)comfortably operates as a floor-spacer at the 4-spot. When defenders sag off to muddy up Russell Westbrook’s, Paul George’s or Dennis Schröder’s forays to the tin, Grant nails corner 3s at a 39 percent clip.”
Topic: Thunder podcast brethren Stephen Dolan (Thunderous Intentions) looks at the fit of Markieff Morris on the Thunder: “The reason I’ll be mentioning Patterson a lot is in my opinion, Morris will be taking most, if not all of his minutes. According to Basketball Reference, Morris has played exactly zero minutes at anything other than power forward or center in his entire career, actually playing more at the five this season. Morris will not be playing any 3. Morris is a big. With that said, and Shams reporting a significant role, anything close to 20 minutes a game will come largely out of Patterson’s 14.7.”
Royce Young (ESPN) on the addition of Markieff Morris to the Thunder: “With financial constraints playing a part because of a significant luxury tax bill pending, the Thunder didn’t make a deal at the trade deadline, instead hoping to make an addition in the buyout market. Morris will provide versatility to the Thunder’s bench, backing up starting power forward Jerami Grant and providing another floor-spacing big in addition to Patrick Patterson.”
Chris Herring (FiveThirtyEight) says the Thunder are now Paul George’s team: “For years, Westbrook critics have suggested that he’d give his teams a better chance to win by taking a step back. More often than not, he ignored these voices. And once he had the spotlight to himself, he broke an NBA record for the highest single-season usage rate while also averaging a triple-double over a full season — and that 2016-17 OKC team finished sixth in the West and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Westbrook tried playing more unselfishly last season, though that largely seemed to backfire. But it seems to be working now.” Continue reading Thunder At A Glance – 15 February 2019→
Erik Horne (NewsOK) looks at the Thunder’s roster options moving forward: “The monetary difference between signing Burton or a free agent on a prorated minimum wouldn’t be inconsequential, especially since the Thunder saved more than $7 million in taxes and salary by trading seldom-used Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to Chicago. But if OKC is getting minimal difference in production between Burton and a veteran, is it worth bringing in a free agent when the Thunder could just play Burton and get him valuable experience?”
Isaiah 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.” Continue reading Thunder At A Glance – 12 December 2018→