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Posts Tagged ‘Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder must consider trading Russell Westbrook

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russellwestbrook

It’s too soon to panic over the Thunder’s 0-4 start but the time is coming, or should have come already to consider Russell Westbrook’s long term future on the team. Westbrook turns 30 on November 12th and starting this year his next five seasons he is owed: $35,654,150 (age 30), $38,178,000 (age 31), $41,006,000 (age 32) , $43,848,000 (age 33), $46,662,000 (player option, age 34). He has had several knee surgeries or injections in his career after a meniscus tear that cost him the 2013 playoffs and due to related arthroscopic surgery 28 games during the Kevin Durant 2014 MVP season. This was followed by several durable seasons until a PRP injection this summer. Westbrook’s style of play depends on his unstoppable explosiveness and his ability to contort his body finishing at the rim and skying for rebounds, areas of his game most vulnerable to diminish with athletic decline. To his credit all signs are Westbrook’s physical conditioning routine off the court is phenomenal and has even benefitted teammates crossing his path like Victor Oladipo, and immense dedication to their bodies has helped stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant extend their primes to amazing lengths. On the other hand Westbrook has played his whole career like it’s the NBA Finals and no doubt pushes his body to extreme lengths off the court and one has to wonder if this punishment will have some cost down the line.

The risk is clear. By holding onto him deep into his contract, Westbrook may physically decline until his supermax either becomes an albatross or loses most of his current trade value. The upside is hoping for a 2011 Mavericks run, a team who held onto their superstar when some may have already cashed out on his value and had the stars align in his 13th season. However Dirk Nowitzki’s game was built on size and skill, not athleticism making him a tremendous fit for longevity if anyone has been. Furthermore the Mavericks had won 55 games in 2010 leading up to their title year and a few years earlier had shown a formula for contending with a Finals loss in 2006 and 67 wins in 2007 despite no clear second star better than Jason Terry or Josh Howard.

Sam Presti pulled a rabbit out of his hat at the time with the Paul George trade after Westbrook’s MVP season, but with 48 wins and a 6 game playoff loss to the Jazz they only improved by one regular season and playoff win compared to the year before. The loss of Andre Roberson continues to be felt and no doubt they won’t judge this season until he returns, but when Roberson played his last game for the Thunder they were sitting in 5th for the West last season, and their record with him playing was 24-19 for a 50 W pace, a marginal improvement. Roberson’s lack of shooting most likely would have been the target of defenses in the playoffs such as the Jazz which the Thunder had issues solving anyways. With the highest payroll in the league and owing 2020 and 2022 future 1sts to the Magic and Hawks one has to ask where they go from here in terms of assets to improve the team, and whether the George trade was already the equivalent of the Tyson Chandler pick-up for the Mavericks to take them to the next level if it was going to happen.

An MVP caliber player is a virtual necessity to win a title and based on that alone the Thunder could choose to push the Westbrook era as far as it’ll go. It’s unclear when they’ll have another chance at a talent this special. On the other hand with his style of play and starting a 5 years, 205 million contract, the Thunder must seriously consider whether 30 is the right age to move on from Westbrook’s salary while they can and replenish their assets.

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Written by jr.

October 28, 2018 at 11:46 am

The case against Kevin Durant going to Washington

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The persistent rumor of Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City for Washington reared its head again when Grantland’s Zach Lowe mentioned “rumblings” of Durant narrowing his 2016 choice down to the Thunder and Wizards.

Let’s break down the case for and against the Wizards as a Durant destination

Should the Thunder be worried about Durant leaving?

Absolutely. By the time of his free agency in 2016 he’ll have played 9 seasons in the league and the media pressure will be eating at his legacy if he hasn’t won a championship yet. The Thunder will have had 4 seasons after the James Harden trade to prove they made the right choice and Durant will have to consider whether the next 4 years will be any different. That Oklahoma City’s inability to win a title so far has been so heavily affected by its owners refusing to pay the luxury tax or amnesty Kendrick Perkins, may also rub Durant the wrong way. Oklahoma City’s owners are not doing everything in their means to win a title.

Why Washington?

Those making a case for Washington are doing so for two reasons. First, Washington, D.C. is Durant’s hometown. Secondly, Washington has appealing young players like John Wall and Bradley Beal along with other pieces like a centre in Marcin Gortat, to help Durant contend immediately after making the move. Playing in the weaker Eastern Conference also helps the new Wizards become a powerhouse, albeit if Lebron’s Cavaliers and Durant’s Wizards are both in the East and West no longer has a Thunder with Durant, the days of conference imbalance may have shifted.

The case against

I have a hard time buying into the Wizards as this major a threat for Durant, for the same reason the years of Kevin Love to the Lakers rumours never sold me. The problem is most of what Washington can provide is similar to Oklahoma City’s case. Durant playing in his hometown has sentimental appeal, but does it have more sentimental appeal than staying in Oklahoma City with the love he has for the city and long time teammates there? Likewise, Washington has young talent, but playing with the Wizards talent like John Wall, Bradley Beal and an older Marcin Gortat is not a more elite core than playing with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones III, etc. The Eastern Conference would only be easier than the West in the first two rounds which hasn’t been Oklahoma City’s problem. Facing down a conference final-Finals combination like Cleveland and the best West team isn’t an easier task to the title than the Thunder have now. If Durant is dissatisfied with Oklahoma City management and coaching, this doesn’t play in Washington’s favour as their current ownership/management/coaching core of Ted Leonisis Ernie Grunfeld and Randy Wittman has often been derided.

As mentioned before, the key reason for Durant leaving Oklahoma City is losing faith the franchise can win him a title. Does moving to the Wizards really solve this problem for Durant? Or is it just a lateral move?

I haven’t even mentioned yet that Oklahoma City will also be able to offer Durant the highest maximum salary, likely the biggest contract the league has ever seen at that point. Durant is the type of competitor who would take a pay-cut to land in the best situation, especially with his sizeable marketing income, but it’s another reason why Washington has to provide a clearly better situation than Oklahoma City, not just one as good.

Is there better candidates?

So if he leaves, what we likely have is a Durant who’s played 9 seasons without winning a title and despite his love in many ways for playing in Oklahoma City, has to find a better spot to achieve in goals and fulfill the potential of his career.

What I want is a team with two other veteran superstar players, like Miami had. Then when adding Durant, they become a “super-team” everyone should fear. The part that’s playing against Oklahoma City is that the cap is expected to rise heavily due to a new TV deal, which could give more teams the available cap-space to chase after Durant.

There’s 3 teams that stand out to me:

L.A. Clippers – No star wants to go the Lakers anymore, so the Clippers may as well take their place for the L.A. team who’s success attracts the big stars leaving their teams. More-so, in terms of willingness to spend whatever luxury tax it takes, surely Steve Ballmer would be the utter opposite of Oklahoma City’s owners. Durant joins two other superstar talents in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and while Paul would be heading into his 12th season, he has the skill and smarts to age beautifully, especially if he’s the 3rd scoring option of this core.

Getting Durant to L.A. is tricky financially, as Paul, Blake, J.J. Redick and Spencer Hawes combine for 56.2 million already signed in 2016-2017 and this is before considering Deandre Jordan’s likely sizeable next contract. The cap in 2016-2017 is estimated to be at something like $88.8 million based on a 45% increase from 2015-2016, but Durant may also have to be paid something like $25-30 million in his first year to match the increase.

Why I believe it can work is if the cap blows up this heavily in the summer of 2016, there will be more capspace than free agents to sign with it which could lead to a comically insane bidding wars for the free agents available. Because of this, teams may realize the sharper move is to absorb contracts from other teams to make use of their capspace. Therefore if it takes the Clippers moving Jordan, Redick, Hawes or other contracts to make room for Durant after he agrees to sign, considering the cap conditions this may be a fairly easy roadblock to get past. The important number is that Paul and Griffin’s combined 43 million owed in 2016-2017 is so far below a projected cap number like $88 million, that fitting Durant after a few moves looks more than feasible.

Houston Rockets – The appeal is similar to the Clippers. They have two stars in James Harden and Dwight Howard and would promise a super-team to Durant. In addition the owner/GM combination of Les Alexander and Daryl Morey is one of the most reliable and committed in the league. The upside is a more complimentary fit, with a defensive anchor in Dwight beside Harden and Durant instead of two offensive stars like Paul and Blake. But Dwight also represents the downside, as he’d be heading into season 13 and has a style of game expected to age less gracefully than a player like Chris Paul. Dwight will always be both gigantic and a smart players, so I expect he wouldn’t be chopped liver, but the longevity of the trio is less clear-cut.

Financially the Rockets are set to make a run at Durant. Dwight Howard will likely opt out of his 23.3 player option in the summer of 2016 considering the new TV deal’s prices and the bidding war that will come with it and could cost more than Durant to keep. However, Harden only makes 16.7 million in 2016-2017 so this helps make the combination more affordable. Trevor Ariza’s 7.8 million in 2016-2017 is the only other notable contract for the Rockets, unless Terrence Jones is extended a year early. In any case like the Clippers, moving contracts that aren’t Harden and Dwight probably won’t be hard.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Oh, did you forget these guys? Yes, the immediate question is if Lebron James is blocking Durant from SF and Kevin Love is blocking Lebron from going to PF again, how do you start all three? But to me it’s not out of the question that eventually Cleveland decides its favorite lineup is Lebron at power forward and Kevin Love at center, a godly mismatch even before adding Durant at the three.

Financially it’s the most difficult of these options, considering Lebron will also be getting a new contract with the TV deal. Kevin Love has an opt out in the summer of 2015, but financially he may feel the best decision is to opt in, then get a mega contract the summer after. This is before considering Kyrie Irving’s 14.8 million and Anderson Varejao’s new 10 million extension. Getting all of Durant, Lebron and Love would likely require both Love signing next summer at a smaller deal and moving Irving and Varejao’s contracts first. Otherwise perhaps the Cavaliers just let Kevin Love go in free agency and still manage to win over Durant into playing with Lebron and Kyrie. Either way, if Durant’s goal is to win a title the frontrunners are the teams with the most talent and Cleveland fits that bill.

Written by jr.

November 4, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Why OKC is struggling in the playoffs

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Oklahoma City is down 3-2 headed to a Game 6 in Memphis. If the Grizzlies close out at home, it will be a disastrous result for the Thunder who haven’t had a healthy playoff exit since the 2012 Finals and who would be forced to celebrate Kevin Durant’s MVP in a press conference, 2007 Dirk Nowitzki style. If they get through the Grizzlies, this series and losing 2 games at home already, doesn’t bode well for them in the 2nd round and beyond.

What is happening? Scott Brooks is getting the biggest blame, Russell Westbrook as always has his detractors and Kevin Durant’s disappointing numbers, possibly from fatigue, haven’t helped. There’s also the fact that the Grizzlies may just be one of the 4 best teams in the league with the Heat, Spurs and Clippers and sometimes, you just get took by an even bigger dragon.

My explanation for the Thunder’s problems and why I never expected them to get out of the first 2 rounds heading into these playoffs, can be explained in an 7 word sentence:

They don’t move the ball well enough

Ball movement is crucial in the postseason. When I envision most of the great playoff runs, I see teams who are surgical dissecting the opponent’s halfcourt defense. By moving the ball they pressure the defense into exposing an open shot sometime in the 24 second shot clock. From the stars to the shooters to the big guys, if a team is smart and patient enough they can find the shots. The phrase “read and react” is important when understanding how great offenses beat great defenses.

For having one of the best records in the league the Thunder are not good enough at this. Whether it’s because of Russell Westbrook’s erratic of play, Scott Brooks lack of an offensive system, the insistence to play non-offensive threats like Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, or a combination of factors. They are not a team who patiently dissects the opponent or excels at read and reacting. Instead of working the body to weaken their opponent, they just throw haymakers and hope they land.

Consider the example of the 2011 Mavericks, one of my favorite recent champions. Offensively they gave the opponent a no-win situation. If you didn’t cover Dirk with more defenders, he annihilates his matchup. The moment you put extra defensive attention on Dirk, the Mavs supporting cast used their passing skill and basketball IQ, to find one of their many open 3 pt shooters or bigs at the rim. They at once had the most unguardable one on one scorer in the league and a team masterful at taking advantage of it once you left other defenders open to guard him. The combination meant there was practically nothing teams could do except hope they missed good shots.

Ideally the same could be built around Durant, but with an even more talented star. But right now the Thunder are not a skilled or smart enough team, or are not getting the right message from the coach, to play a read and react style or to master their opponent tactically. The Thunder are losing for the same reason John Calipari’s Kentucky only has one national title so far, despite having the most talented team virtually every season. In the tournament Kentucky’s age and less refined style of play, usually catches up to them. The difference is Cal’s team’s warts come with the territory of building rosters around often raw freshman. In OKC’s case, they can build whatever type of team they want and have just chosen this path.

Written by jr.

April 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Sam Presti’s real devastating blunder: Ibaka over Harden

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English: Serge Ibaka, basketball player from O...

English: Serge Ibaka, basketball player from Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oklahoma City’s James Harden trade which is now turning into one of the most important in NBA history, has been much derided. Two main criticisms are that they didn’t get enough back in Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and picks, or that they should have just played out the year with Harden to try and win the title, before moving them. I’m not as critical as the former as many because I see Lamb as a future star. The latter is a very valid criticism, the Thunder degraded their title chance in 2013 unnecessarily.

However what I see as the real head scratcher and devastating move for Presti, is the decision to essentially choose Serge Ibaka over James Harden. The team clearly couldn’t keep both on large contracts with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook with owners who wanted to stay under the luxury tax, but by trading one it would have worked. The Thunder chose to keep Ibaka and trade Harden. In the long run this is the decision that truly matters.

The justification some gave for this, is that Ibaka compliments Durant and Westbrook more. Ibaka is the defensive heart of the team while Harden was an offensive star like Durant and Westbrook. Ibaka is a big while all three of Durant, Westbrook, Harden are perimeter players taking each other’s minutes and shots.

Using this to take Ibaka over Harden was a huge mistake. What really rules the NBA is star talent. And even before his Houston breakout as a franchise player, it was clear Harden was the special, star talent and Ibaka closer to a role player.

The idea that Ibaka was more desirable because he plays defense, is flawed because star talents make it easier to build defensive teams. First of all, with Durant, Westbrook and Harden on the team, the Thunder could fill out the entire rest of the roster with plus defensive players, if not specialists. Last year in the playoffs the offensively significant, defensive sieve Kevin Martin had a featured role and defensively significant, offensive liability Ronnie Brewer wasn’t playing. Having Harden instead of Ibaka allows the Thunder to put Brewers on the teams instead of Martins.

Also relevant is the concept of energy. When playing with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, everyone else would be depended on to expend energy on the defensive end that they didn’t offensively. Arguably one of the reasons that players like Norris Cole, Iman Shumpert, Avery Bradley have struggled shooting the ball so far in their career, is that they’re giving everything they have defensively. For a player like Reggie Jackson, his defensive energy is likely to be different if he’s depended on as the Thunder’s 3rd option next year, than if he had a Cole-like strict defensive specialist role on a team with Harden on it.

The point is that a team with Westbrook, Durant and Harden wouldn’t have had a problem playing defense, whether it’s because they could fill out the roster with defenders, or because those defenders would have energy. Furthermore all three of those stars are physically superior to their position, giving them the opportunity to play better than average defense as they mature, especially with having each other to take off the pressure of carrying an offense from each other. In addition to this, the Thunder also had other defensive role players like Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins. I have little doubt the Thunder would’ve been good enough defensively to contend year in and year out with Durant, Westbrook and Harden.

The other relevant point is that Serge Ibaka isn’t THAT good at defense. He is not Ben Wallace, he is not Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan on the defensive end. He blocks shots at a great level, but has a disappointing feel for positional rotations and defense that doesn’t show up on the statsheet. I strongly object to Ibaka getting put in the defensive player of the year conversation with other more instincts-friendly players like Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert. I certainly didn’t see Ibaka making a real defensive impact on the game when the Thunder needed it against Memphis this year. Serge Ibaka is a good player, but he is not a great player. What really moves the needle in the NBA is great players.

As for Ibaka playing a big man position being more appealing than three perimeter players, what really matters is how much a player helps a team win, not what position he plays. Harden may not have been able to play as many minutes at SG as Ibaka at PF, but in my opinion, not enough to make up for the difference that Harden is the superior player per minute.

While the hindsight-trades game can get dull, to me the real moment for the Thunder was this. If they had put Ibaka on the trade block on draft night 2012, surely they’d have found suitors. The Sacramento Kings reportedly were shopping the 5th overall pick or upgrades and Ibaka is a perfect fit beside Demarcus Cousins. The Detroit Pistons likewise could’ve paired up Ibaka and Greg Monroe for the 9th pick. The Milwaukee Bucks drafted John Henson 14th, a similar enough prospect to Ibaka that surely they’d have preferred the established version. The natural move for the Thunder was to get a lottery pick for Ibaka and draft a cheap big man in one of Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard or John Henson to replace him at PF. Some of those picks would’ve worked out better than others it appears, but Oklahoma City have already proven they’re reliable at drafting, why not lean on it again? Not to mention that even if the worst case scenario of drafting a bust, with Durant, Westbrook and Harden, they’d have gotten over it just fine. Trading their 4th best and most talented player in Ibaka for a cheap big man who could do 80-100% of what he does was the move, not trading one of their star talents.

Ultimately Sam Presti has done a lot right with the Thunder, but the decision to take Ibaka over Harden is crippling. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Team up the best players and figure out the rest later”, seemingly taking Ibaka for positional and fit reasons, is missing the forest from the trees.

Written by jr.

July 6, 2013 at 11:53 am

A few NBA playoffs thoughts

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I had a few things to do the last few days, so I didn’t put up a proper playoff prediction article. My thoughts on the playoffs are hardly interesting. I see Miami over New York in the Eastern Conference Final and Oklahoma City over San Antonio in the Western Conference one, then Miami taking out Oklahoma City in the Finals. In the 1st round the only lower seed I took was Golden State over Denver, but David Lee’s season ending injury puts a hitch in that.

A few brief thoughts:

– I have a hard time seeing OKC beating Miami in the Final if they meet. Miami’s athleticism defensively is perfectly built to defend OKC’s dribble drive offense, whereas their ball movement can pick apart the Thunder’s athletic style of defense. I see the best way to beat Miami, is spacing out their defense with 3 point shooting like the 2011 Mavericks did. Defensively I suspect perfect positioning as essential to defending them. This all points to the Spurs as a great fit to challenge them, but also the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Final.

– Despite all the red flags such as Vinny Del Negro and too offensively orientated a roster, the Clippers are my Finals/title darkhorse. The Clippers played at a 59 win pace with Paul in the lineup and that Paul played 33.4 minutes per game and Griffin 32.5 is encouraging, as both those numbers can be supercharged upwards in the playoffs. Furthermore I believe Chris Paul is one of the 20 most talented players of all time and historically, players and talents on that level, are the guys who’ve written the rules of what works in the playoffs. A player of Paul’s talent on his best team to date, should be feared.

– I’d be selling stock on Denver instead of buying if I could. The Nuggets are a flawed halfcourt team due to a lack of skill polish and shooting. This is one of the all time George Karl teams and that includes why his teams largely have underwhelmed in the plaoyffs.

– Other than Miami/Milwaukee and Oklahoma City/Houston, Brooklyn vs Chicago looked like the biggest mismatch even before the blowout first game. Tom Thibodeau would get my coach of the year vote for winning 45 games with this team, but in the playoffs teams cannot escape their talent and the Bulls just don’t have enough going offensively, especially from the guard position. The Bulls are a team that needs to shut down teams defensively to win and the Nets in particular have the individual talents to make that very difficult.

– I could see every game in Oklahoma City/Houston being a double digit win for the Thunder. Oklahoma City is perfectly engineered to guard the Rockets, since the two things the Rockets like to do is dribble into the paint, which is death against the Thunder’s athleticism and rotations – and to create points in transition and of course a team can’t outrun the Thunder. I see the Rockets offense shriveling up and dieing in this series.

– Knicks/Celtics going into the series, felt like it’d either be a blowout for the Knicks or the Celtics winning. I’d argue the way to guard the Knicks is to let Melo shoot as much as possible, while covering the 3pt shooters. Either Boston traps the Knicks into this heroball box, or the Knicks move the ball and rain 3s on their defense, leaving Boston’s inferior offense too much to catch up.

– The Lakers can’t guard the Spurs ball movement. Their perimeter players are too slow to get to those 3pt shooters. As great as the Spurs are, the Thunder and Heat are simply awful matchups for them because they have the rare speed and length needed to rotate to that ball movement and throw the Spurs off their game. If the Thunder don’t make the Finals, I see the Clippers or Grizzlies taking them out, not the Spurs.

Enjoy the playoffs!

Written by jr.

April 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Why I believe Jeremy Lamb will be a superstar

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Jeremy Lamb Dribble

Jeremy Lamb Dribble (Photo credit: American Odyssey)

The James Harden to Houston trade fascinated me, because as I wrote at the time, I felt both Harden and Jeremy Lamb had outright superstar potential. I realize I’ve never written a longer explanation of why I’m so high on Lamb, ranking him neck and neck with Anthony Davis in last year’s draft.

For one, Lamb’s feel for the game isn’t just good or great, it’s incredible. Like one of the best in the league incredible. He’s among the most supernaturally smooth and natural offensive players in years, drawing Tracy McGrady comparisons for just how easy it looks for him.

I see his skill impact upside as nearly unlimited. He has deep range with a jumpshot that simply looks perfect, excelling in college both spot up and off the dribble from 3. In the D League he’s shot an impressive 36% from 3 considering he’s adjusting to a longer line. Scarily, he’s at a 90% clip from the FT line (63 for 70 attempts). FT shooters in the 85 to 90% range if he stays there, are often the league’s elite shooters. Lamb may not be a guarantee to be among the league’s best perimeter skill players and shooters, but his potential in the area is as good as it gets.

Finally, Lamb has considerable upside as a slasher. He has an explosive first step, which when combined with elite ballhandling makes him more than able to get to the basket. He also has excellent size for a wing and amazing length, helping him finish and giving him huge defensive potential.

Adding it all together, Lamb has a terrifying combination of talents. My talent grades for him is 11 in feel for the game, 9 or 10 in skill impact and 8 or 9 in physical impact. That leads to a total of 28-30, when 24 or 25 is enough for me to call a player a perennial all-star talent. Lamb’s score is in the mix with Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis among recent Hall of Fame caliber talents.

Furthermore, I’m shocked there isn’t more people that can just “see it” with Lamb. The guy overwhelmingly passes the eye test for a future star wing. Take this clip of a D League game:

 

It’s all there. The shooting, the ballhandling, the ability to get where-ever he wants on the court and of course, the “on a different level” feel and smoothness to his offense. To be blunt, obvious star talent is obvious.

In my mind the only thing that can hold Jeremy Lamb back is himself, as a player flagged for motor inconsistency for years. But Lamb is so talented that even if he has “the T-mac gene”, I expect him to produce well in the category of stardom.

The Thunder getting this guy is scary. I wrote an article earlier today about how the Thunder are sitting on a top 10 point differential of all time and what it means for their title chances – if that’s where they are right now, now imagine adding a shooting guard talent in the realm of an Irving or Davis to that core, a player who happens to fit the team perfectly stylistically with his shooting and floor spacing. The closest comparable may be the Lakers getting to add the 1982 #1 overall pick James Worthy to a squad with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar already on it.

Prepare for doom.

Written by jr.

March 12, 2013 at 3:20 am

Do we have the title favorite wrong? Check out Oklahoma City’s historical point differential

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Wizards v/s Thunder 03/14/11

Wizards v/s Thunder 03/14/11 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the Miami Heat on an 18 game winning streak and Lebron playing at a historic level, many people are resigning that they’re the easy favorites to repeat for the title. Myself included.

As for the Thunder, I have my doubts because I personally I tend to think their brand of athleticism over skills/fundamentals, is typical of teams that do better in the regular season than playoffs. I’ve been pushing the Spurs as the true favorite in the West.

Then I saw the Thunder’s SRS (point differential, adjusted for competition): +9.5! How impressive is that number? Check out this list of teams above 9 in SRS here

If they finish above 9 in SRS, they’ll be only the 9th team to do it. Currently, their +9.5 would rank 6th all time. Of the 8 teams to finish above 9 before – the 71 Bucks, 72 Bucks, 72 Lakers, 86 Celtics, 92 Bulls, 96 Bulls, 97 Bulls and 08 Celtics, only the 72 Bucks didn’t win the title – because they lost to the 72 Lakers, who had an even higher SRS – someone had to lose. So historically once a team crossed that point differential barrier, they’ve become unbeatable by mere mortal teams.

This is a big deal. While it’s a small sample size and eventually “someone has to lose”, until that historical streak is broken, it’s arguably enough to at least, call the Thunder the favorite.

Written by jr.

March 11, 2013 at 5:39 pm