The Oklahoma City Thunder have had a lot of speculation around them lately. To be even more specific the speculation is revolved around Kevin Durant. Every road game Durant is asked about what he thinks of the city, the franchise, player and you get the gist of it. There have been rumours that if the team is unable to make the Western Conference Finals Durant will bounce. Of course these rumours are just that, but regardless there is a lot of pressure upon this squad to come up big this season. This could be the end of Durant’s days in an Oklahoma City jersey if things awry.
This year the Thunder were expected to go under a system overhaul under Billy Donovan after firing Scott Brooks, but to my own surprise they have actually gotten worse in a lot of aspects. Their offense is reaching the peak of what they had done under Brooks but have faltered significantly on the defensive end. Under Brooks the Thunder were consistently an elite defense, but under Donovan we seem to see the deficiencies exasberated of Waiters and Westbrook more than we ever have before. There are too many possessions like these where Westbrook just accepts defeat.
When you have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Chris Paul, and J.J. Redick on the back courts of all of these teams that would scare the hell out of me if I was a Thunder fan. They rely on their star power so much that it could hurt them in a series against the well oiled machines that are the Warriors and Spurs. When you have guys like Kevin Durant who can drop 30 any game with complete ease, and Russell Westbrook who is able to get triple doubles on a nightly basis it is a little crazy that they are not the favorites or even runner up favorites.
I hope we get to see a lot of horns action from the team because that produces much better results than, KD you try to do something, okay now Westbrook your turn. Whenever they get some real sets going good things happen. One of the underrated killers for this team is the Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams pick & roll. They seem to have found great chemistry on that and every little good thing will need to be used in full during the playoffs. This team has so many good things going for it, but I feel like they have almost as much bad as well. The Thunder in the 4th quarter scares the hell out of me. I am unable to find the number now, but I know they lead the league in games they led in the 4th quarter and lost. A lot of that has to do with Westbrook’s erratic behavior on the court that makes him a ticking time bomb that is ready to explode with a horrific shot or errant pass, and the fact that any little bit of fluidity they have on offense seems to disappear in the closing minutes. There is this play that I remember Coach Nick of BBallBreakdown pointing out multiple times.
Then there is this play and if you watch everything unfold it was a lot of stagnant offense with nobody moving around and Durant deciding, “Hey none of you are going to do anything with it so I’ll just hit this 3.” In all seriousness though plays like this cannot work every time. If you rely upon bailout possessions like this you have no chance of getting past the 2nd round.
Then this play. I went on a tirade about this play all over twitter just because it was so poorly drawn up. With 0.7 seconds left on the clock after a timeout you have got to draw up something better than this. I would have loved to see some elevator screens or anything that is not this. A post up almost at the 3 point line with 0.7 seconds left in which you are starting the play with your back to the basket if you are Durant. It is all just a mess. Every possession matters and especially in the final minutes of a game. Throwing away a potentially game winning shot is beyond irritating.
All in all I believe the Thunder will give major issues to anyone they face in a series. Many are completely writing them off but the stakes are extremely if the rumours of Kevin Durant needing a western conference finals appearance to stick around. This team will not be pulling any punches, and if there is anything to be sure of is that Westbrook will be ferocious and Kevin Durant will be the lethal assassin that he is.
The Thunder will be playing the Mavericks in the 1st round and over the years since 2011 ,where the Mavs beat OKC in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder have pretty much easily gone through the Mavericks since then. The Mavericks have defied the critics (myself included) by even making the playoffs and it is a testament to the greatness of Dirk and Rick Carlisle. With all of that being said I see almost 0% chance that the Mavericks can pull this one out and the duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are too much for the Mavs to handle. The issue for OKC will be advancing past the 2nd round where they will meet the Spurs and that will be the ultimate test for them.