The first half of the season revealed a lot about the Oklahoma City Thunder. They established themselves as the favorites to win the Western Conference even in the absence of Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant emerged as the favorite for his first-ever MVP award.
That was just the juicy narrative stuff, though. There are also some intriguing numbers to keep in mind for each Thunder player going into the second half of the season and the playoffs. Let us take a look at each player and a key statistic for each.
Kevin Durant, Win Shares per 48 minutes: .320
You could really use about nine different stats for Durant, and they'd all be near-historic. But his win shares tell just how instrumental he has been to his team's success this season.
His current mark would rank as the seventh-highest of all-time, and he would be just the fifth player to ever record a number that high. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar eclipsed the .320 mark three times (1970-71, 1971-72, 1973-74), Wilt Chamberlain once (1963-64), Michael Jordan once (1990-91), and Lebron James once (last season). Only Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar (once) didn't win MVP in those seasons. And only two of Abdul-Jabbar's Bucks teams didn't play in the Finals during those years.
Kevin Durant is playing at a historic level, on his way to his first-ever MVP trophy, he may find himself in pole position for his first-ever championship as well.
Russell Westbrook: 21.3 points/7.0 assists/6.0 rebounds
Westbrook was in the midst of playing the best basketball of his career just before he went down the second time. In fact, if Westbrook keeps his points, assists, and rebound numbers above these thresholds, he would become just the 10th player in NBA history to finish a season averaging more than 21/7/6.
This is a testament to Westbrook's ability to do so many things on the floor at once. He can dial up the scoring when the offense is lagging, he can dish out assists to get his guys into a rhythm, and he continues to be one of the best rebounding guards in the game. The 6.0 rebounds per game would be a personal career-high as well.
Serge Ibaka: Opponent field goal percentage at the rim: 44.5 percent
Ibaka has gone from a defensive presence that can only block shots to a guy that can seriously alter an opponent's offensive game plan. Opponents coming into the paint know what a chore it will be to finish at the rim, even if Ibaka isn't the primary defender. His ability to sniff out drives and help on defense has made OKC an elite-level defense, and may be the biggest reason why the Thunder is the favorite to come out of an otherwise-loaded Western Conference.
The 44.5 percent opponent field goal percentage at the rim reflects Ibaka's overall defensive game. It's the third-lowest in the league among players that see more than seven attempts at the rim per game and have played in more than half of their team's games. Add to it that he has more blocks than the only two who can brag of better percentages - Roy Hibbert and Robin Lopez - and Ibaka once again has a serious case for Defensive Player of the Year, and this time he deserves it more than ever.
Thabo Sefolosha: Steals per game: 1.4
The 1.4 steals per game would be a career-best for Sefolosha. On top of that, it would be the second-most of anyone in the league that plays less than 28 minutes per game (technically third, but Rajon Rondo has only played 10 games so far).
There have been rumblings about Sefolosha potentially being on the trading block, given OKC's hunt for a dynamic shooter. Consider though his ability to guard anyone from Lebron James to Tony Parker, and then consider that he is getting steals as frequently as he has, while also not requiring too many minutes. He may be harder to replace than you think. The question the Thunder front office will have to answer is: Do they need the shooting more than they need the defense?
Kendrick Perkins: Net on/off rating: -4.7
It's not great obviously, but it's not all that bad either. For all of the talk about how Perkins should never be on the floor, that rating isn't even the worst on the team. Yeah, maybe that's where we are with Perkins, celebrating the fact that he isn't the worst at something, but it has to mean something.
Steven Adams - the guy who so many in Thunder land think should be starting over him - has a net rating of -7.4. The point is, Scott Brooks - no matter how stubborn he may be in sticking with his starting five - has used Perkins quite situationally this year. He's averaging his fewest minutes per game since 2005-2006, and as the Miami game showed, the team (and maybe even Perkins himself) has reached a point where they are comfortable keeping him on the bench if he doesn't provide any value on the defensive end.
This means his negative impact is limited, and he has actually proven quite valuable in matchups with key big men like Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge. It's been preached all along, but that is the value of Kendrick Perkins, and when managed correctly, he may not be so bad after all.
Reggie Jackson: Net on/off rating: +9.0
Not to get too carried away with this net rating thing, but Jackson's +9.0 is second on the team to (of course) Nick Collison's +11.5. That's sort of surprising just for the fact that Jackson has obviously gone through plenty of growing pains in assuming the starting PG role for the injured Westbrook.
It is also quite understandable. While Jackson was never nearly as effective at doing it as Westbrook, he had his fair share of moments when he took over when no one else would. The Spurs games are the most obvious - but the Portland game was another prime example. Jackson struggled in the first half, but scored all 17 points in the second half, including 13 in the third quarter when Portland was threatening to extend the lead and bury OKC.
Those are the runs Westbrook has made his staple, and to see Jackson respond accordingly, and the team to respond along with him, is a positive sign for the bench unit that he will once again be leading once Westbrook returns.
Jeremy Lamb: Catch and shoot eFG%: 52.9 percent
That's ninth in the league among guys that take more than three catch-and-shoot attempts per game, and play less than 25 minutes per game. You know, the spot-up shooter guys. People look at this in a negative light sometimes - like, just anybody can stand and shoot when set up with the ball.
It's not always that easy, though. Yes, on paper, it sounds easy, but it takes a special kind of player to be able to come off the bench and answer the call when needed. Then, on top of that, they need to find ways to impact the game in other ways as well. Lamb has done all of that, and it's one of the reasons why continues to be an X factor for the team heading into the postseason.
If he can continue to fulfill his role as a spot up shooter and hit shots when he's set up with them, it's just one more weapon opponents have to account for. Especially when you consider Jackson will be coming back to the bench, only bolstering the Thunder's second unit.
Derek Fisher: True Shooting Percentage: 54.4 percent
It would be the fourth-highest percentage in Derek Fisher's career, which seems to be never-ending. That's quite the step forward, considering how many Thunder fans would have been just as happy with him retiring before the season. It's even more impressive considering his 5.7 three-point attempts per game is the second-highest total of his career.
Fisher has been just as key to the team thriving without Westbrook as anybody. He's picking his spots better than he ever has in his stint with the Thunder, and he seems to have a knack for hitting those huge, momentum-shifting threes. Heck, he's even managed to keep his toe off the line more this year!
As long as he keeps converting at this high percentage, he will continue to see time even with Westbrook's return. Perhaps more unbelievably, that's good news for the Thunder.
Nick Collison: Minutes per game: 17.5
His team-best net rating was mentioned above, and shouldn't come as a shock, but his diminishing minutes are a bit more of a surprise. It's the fewest minutes per game Collison has played since his rookie season. Given his obvious impact when on the floor (again, see his net rating) that may have many people calling for more time.
The shrink can most likely be attributed to the addition of Steven Adams, who is taking more backup center minutes that were typically reserved for Collison when the team decided to play small. Still, every lineup Collison has played with this season is a net positive except for one - Fisher, Lamb, Jones, Collison, Adams at -13.
It is all more than likely just Brooks trying to figure out the right formula, and a team-first guy like Collison becomes an easy one to experiment with, and without. But when the playoffs roll around and it is all about matching up and playing the best lineups, it will be interesting to see if Collison continues to play this more limited role.
Steven Adams: Contested rebound percentage: 55.6 percent
When he isn't too busy pissing off the other teams' bigs, Adams has been incredibly effective at pulling down rebounds. In fact, his 55.6 percent on contested rebounds ranks him first in the NBA among players that have played more than 40 games. First in the NBA!
The aggressiveness of Adams has been evident from the get-go, as he constantly seems to get under opponents' skin and cause them to pick up technicals. He's a rookie big man who refuses to be pushed around. When there are rebounds up for grabs, he's the best in the league at getting them. Definitely a positive sign moving forward, and something that may be important in a playoff series against guys like Dwight Howard and the Rockets, or Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph of the Grizzlies. Limiting opponent's rebounds is huge in the playoffs, and Adams may be key in doing that.
Perry Jones: +6.0 net production rating
That production rating puts him at third on the team behind Durant and Ibaka (Durant's is an absurd +23.4). What it shows, though, is that in the times Jones has been on the floor, he's been an effective two-way player.
Brooks sent the message that the team clearly trusts Jones' defensive abilities when he sent him in against Miami to guard Lebron James. His length and sheer athleticism can bother just about anybody he goes up against. On top of that, he has continued to develop offensively, knocking down threes more consistently and just looking generally more comfortable with the ball.
He won't see consistent minutes simply due to the wealth of talent in the OKC rotation, but if this number tells anything, it's that he can be a difference maker when needed, and shut down the opponent for a stretch of time.
Hasheem Thabeet: Lower-case letters tweeted: Zero
THE STREAK CONTINUES!!