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Sports Illustrated ranks Thunder players: Durant holds, Westbrook and Ibaka lowered from year ago

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Sports Illustrated has ranked their top 100 players. Are the Thunder guys rated fairly?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated magazine announced their top 100 NBA players of 2016. SI has always shown favor towards OKC, but the question is, where do they have the Oklahoma City Thunder trio ranked after a turbulent 2014-15 season? They revealed that Kevin Durant is placed in the 2nd spot, Russell Westbrook at 7th, and Serge Ibaka at 25th.

Kevin Durant #2

There is nothing new about Durant's ranking. He was previously ranked 2nd as well in 2015 edition list.

2015 was such a miserable year for Durant. He sustained a foot injury that required 3 surgeries in his right foot in less than seven months and caused him to miss the majority of the season. Despite that, his final stats line in the 2014-2015 regular season was still 25.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, while shooting 51% from the field and 40.3% from the 3-point line.

Furthermore, Durant was present at USA Basketball's Las Vegas minicamp where he looked comfortable playing, motivated, and well prepared for the upcoming season. I personally have seen him recently through his Snapchat account participating in basketball drills and he looks ready to unleash the beast within him for the upcoming season.

As for Durant's ranking, I believe he deserves to be given the edge over LeBron James. Yes, we cannot deny the fact that James is the greatest player of the new NBA era. However, we also cannot deny the fact that a healthy Durant is ready to supplant James as the most dominant force.

Russell Westbrook #7

Westbrook missed several games in the regular season due to multiple broken bones in his hand and his face and carried the team off his shoulders without the help of his teammate Kevin Durant. What was the outcome? His achievements speak for themselves.

  • First NBA scoring title
  • Fourth NBA All-Star selection
  • First All-Star NBA game MVP Award
  • Fourth All-NBA selection
  • Finished 4th in MVP voting
  • League-leading 11 triple doubles, and top-eight rankings in PER, Win Shares, Real Plus-Minus, and WARP.
  • Ranked top 10 in league-wide in points, Field goals, Free throws, Assists, Steals, Turnovers, and Technical fouls.
  • His final stats line 28.1/7.3/8.6/2.1 was matched by Michael Jordan only in 1989.
  • He became the first player after Lebron James to average 26/6/6 since Jordan in 1992.

There is no accurate word that could describe Westbrook's performance in 2015. He was previously ranked in the 4th spot in the 2015 edition list, but has been lowered to 7th this year. I think the reason being is that it is really uncertain and unlikely for Westbrook to remain on this standard of performance in 2016 with the presence of a healthy Kevin Durant aside him on the floor.  Therefore, moving backwards in terms of ranking is sensible. However, I think Westbrook is being under-estimated by ranking Chris Paul ahead of him at #6.

Serge Ibaka #25

Ibaka was ranked 19th last year. It looks unfair but that's probably due to the fact that he hadn't lived to people's expectations nor my expectations and experienced an up-and-down last season before missing the final few weeks due to injury. He needs to be more effective on the floor and he needs to focus on his inside game and other skills that are entitled to a player at his position. Relying on his outside game isn't a reliable option to serve his team offensively.

Statistically in the 2014-2015 regular season, he averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, while shooting 47.6 from the field and 37.6 from behind the arc.

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