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Loud Links 3|22|11

The Thunder get a second off-day today, which is probably good because it will give them some time to think about whether there are any better ways to close out games. In addition to still struggling with final possession shots, it also seems like the Thunder are not getting to the free throw line as frequently as earlier in the year. I'm sure this is due to a combination of tighter referee officiating and lack of aggressiveness, but the fact remains that the Thunder are losing points at the stripe by not being as aggressive. 

James Harden Has Stepped Up | NewsOK

Mayberry contends that it began with the Jeff Green trade, but I believe that James Harden's recent play really began after the all-star weekend. If you recall, in the rookie-sophomore game Harden scored 30 points in a variety of entertaining ways. I think the key to Harden is that he has a certain panache in the way he performs, and that game, as meaningless as it was, was still a way for him to get comfortable in his own skin against the competition. 

Potential For Greatness Limited in Point Guard Crop |

David Aldridge posts his big board for the upcoming NBA draft, looking first at the point guard position. He sees a lot of good but not great candidates, more of the Eric Maynor mold than of the Derrick Rose mold.

Shane Battier: Good Management Always Wins | Hoopshype

Here is a good interview with new Grizzlies small forward Shane Battier. He observes that the teams that win are the ones who are smart about who you hire and who you bring in. 

For Many NBA Players, March Madness Came Through |

The NCAA tournament is a lot of things to a lot of individuals, but to the NBA teams it is a final look at what makes the core of a player. As Bill Simmons has often argued, if your pre-draft player in the observation tank cannot motivate himself in the tournament when the thing on the line is the glory of becoming immortalized in a deep tournament run, then he also isn't going to do it when he's playing in May with nothing to play for but the lottery and already has $50 million in the bank.

More links after the jump.

Why Do Brothers Dominate Basketball? | WSJ

Not Thunder-specific, but here is an interesting analysis on future rookie of the year Blake Griffin and how his relationship with his older brother has arguably made him a better player. This also might explain the Paxson brothers, and I wonder how Jim now feels about working for his kid-brother. By the way, did you know that John Paxson's middle name is "MacBeth?" All hail Wikipedia. 

OKC Still One Piece Away | Bleacher Report

I think the analysis is correct that the Thunder will need to find some low-post scoring in the off-season if they want to become a completely well-rounded offensive team. However, the assertion that either Greg Oden or Zach Randolph could fill these roles is kind of silly. Oden has never been considered a good offensive low post player, and Randolph will be way too expensive (ignoring the fact that I don't think OKC would ever go for a player with Randolph's temperament). I think the team's best bet is to look within - continue to develop Serge Ibaka's post-game, and encourage Kevin Durant to develop his as well.

Compiling the Absurd Box Score of "Space Jam" | Deadspin

If you're like me and thought that feature films was a natural place for Michael Jordan to matriculate to in the midst of his first championship run, then this story is for you.  The cool kids at the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collectivehave broken down the box score to the climactic game in the Jordan/Bugs vehicle, "Space Jam." According to their analysis, the 2nd most realistic statistic is that Jordan's usage rate was 44%. You'll never guess what they consider to be the MOST realistic stat.

Most Dangerous Low Seed Teams to Avoid | Bleacher Report

I think that teams get into trouble whenever they start to try to choose their first round opponent. It is better to just play competitive basketball and let the chips fall where they may. I will say that of the four low seed teams, the Grizzlies still scare me the most simply because they seem to own the Thunder psychologically this year.

Nuggets Beat Raptors | ESPN

Pay no attention at all to the fact that the Nuggets just beat the Raptors by 33 points. It is completely irrelevant. Meaningless.