So about Thursday night, huh?
The Oklahoma City Thunder were whipped by the Golden State Warriors in Oakland in their first meeting with Kevin Durant and his new team, and the Thunder were on the receiving end of a beating from their former star.
Durant poured in 39 points and 7 rebounds in a stunning display, putting on the kind of hurt he inflicted to so many teams wearing the number 35 of the Thunder.
Nevertheless, a very tough first loss shouldn’t dull the fact it was Oklahoma City’s first and only loss of the season through their first six games.
Philadelphia and Phoenix weren’t perfect wins, but they still in the win column regardless. The victories over both Los Angeles teams and the Minnesota Timberwolves were good ones, where the team executed in the right spots and put in four quarters of focus at both ends.
The Clippers victory was a surprise, and it was built on terrific defense. The Thunder’s defensive rating is 4th in the league so far, holding teams to 95.2 points per 100 possessions.
They are still figuring out things offensively, and are actually ranked 25th in the NBA by rating scoring 97.1 points per 100. They are 3rd in the league in pace, and that will likely stay similar with Russell Westbrook pushing the pace with every rebound and missed shot they generate.
It will be a while before those statistics have big enough sample size to dive into deeper, but there are still issues nevertheless to discuss.
Taking a few Twitter questions this week, let’s take a look at what the people were wondering after the opening ten or so days of NBA and Thunder action.
@AdamJosephSport i didn't watch past the first quarter, but saw kanter barely got time.— Myles Turner Jr. (@DyIanHughes) November 4, 2016
were you surprised by that?
@AdamJosephSport @WTLC Yeah I noticed Kanter only got 3 mins. I don't even remember seeing him at all. Why?— Sarge Butane (@SgtButane) November 4, 2016
Thought I’d combine these two questions together; no I wasn’t at all surprised by Kanter’s lack of minutes. I thought he’d get a run against the second unit, but the way the Warriors can run at least two of their superstars at all times mean defensively Enes Kanter is borderline unplayable against them, especially when Durant was so willing to challenge OKC at the rim.
The trend has become to find big men to pound on second units. Zach Randolph is doing it, Jahlil Okafor is doing it, and Enes Kanter has been doing it for quite a while.
Unfortunately Golden State didn’t allow that. Maybe Billy Donovan will try it against them at Chesapeake Arena, but I wouldn’t expect Kanter to be getting much run against the Warriors in near future.
@AdamJosephSport Best game KD has ever played, right? Never channeled his emotion like that. Closest he got was G4 against the Spurs last yr— Chris Hanneke (@chris_hanneke) November 4, 2016
I know that we are all still feeling the anger and hurt reminiscent of terrible breakups. Raw emotion was on display on the floor Thursday night and fans feel that because of how Durant has handled his end of things.
There is no doubting that he has not been able to manoeuvre this in a way that has maintained any standing whatsoever with most Thunder fans. However, there’s also no doubt that whilst he was in Oklahoma City, he gave everything he had to the city and franchise.
His performances without Russell Westbrook in the 2012 Playoffs and many other times come to mind as better performances. We need to stop channeling this anger against him and just focus on moving forward. This continued anger will reside and not be made any better otherwise.
The person you might think he is now doesn’t change who he was before July 4th 2016. Remember that.
@AdamJosephSport How much more/how successfully do you see Oladipo controlling the ball as the year progresses? Russ can't always do it all.— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) November 4, 2016
The bench is a mess, and Oladipo is spending part of his minutes trying to run that terrible second unit. I’d expect that to continue whilst Semaj Christon finds his way as a rookie.
Billy Donovan is clearly trying to find a balance with running Oladipo with the starting group and getting him time to handle the ball. With Russell Westbrook on the floor alongside him, the Thunder are posting a net rating of +5.8 with the defense only conceding an elite 91.7 points per possessions.
The key for Oladipo is finding his offensive groove moving forward, however that may be. He’s only averaging 1.5apg which will certainly need to rise, but that’ll come with finding his feet within the offense. Oladipo is also posting 15.5ppg and 3.7rpg, but is only shooting 40 percent from the field and 35 percent from the perimeter.
It’s more of a wait and see thing with him, and for now I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions which I think some are inclined to do.
@AdamJosephSport @WTLC Russ has been filling the stat sheet, but thoughts on his defense?— Flagrant1 (@flagrantfoulone) November 4, 2016
I haven’t hated it! It was hard to know what to expect going into this season, based on what was more often than not lazy and terrible defense from Westbrook last season. However, so far he has avoided gambling and has stayed within the team defense.
The result? A terrifying combination defensively in key moments with Victor Oladipo. When Oklahoma City has needed stops late in games against Philadelphia, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Clippers they got them because the whole team on the floor did what they needed to do.
Last season Westbrook was known for sagging off his man in favor of crashing the defensive boards, or in reverse going for offensive boards resulting in lead outs to transition. So far he’s mostly avoided that. It’s not a perfect process but there’s noticeable improvement. That matters.
It’s a thumbs up so far.
@AdamJosephSport Does OKC see Roberson as a long term piece?— David A. Norwood II (@dnorwood90) November 4, 2016
This is a really good question. The short answer might be yes, but the long answer may be no. Of course Oklahoma City would like to keep Roberson, he’s an elite, All-NBA level defender who may be recognized at last this season with an All-Defensive spot.
However there’s certainly a reason why the Thunder weren’t able to agree to terms with Roberson by the restricted free agency deadline. There was a clear separation in what the Thunder were offering and what Roberson felt he was worth.
Perhaps Sam Presti believed he could wait it out until next summer, and what would match whatever offer (barring something extraordinary) that would come his swingman’s way.
An alternative might be that Roberson had a high asking price, and he was simply willing to bet on himself this season. He would have a case if so. His defense in the Playoffs last season caught attention, as he locked up some of the Western Conference’s best scorers.
If his defense continues to offset his slow offensive improvement, there’s going to be suitors willing to deliver significant offer sheets. Wings who perform at both ends (and even just at one) get paid nowadays, anywhere between $10-15 million is the price of a starting wing. Could Roberson get that? Don’t rule it out.
His basic statistics don’t look pretty, but results don’t lie. Andre Roberson’s future with the Thunder will be something to monitor going forward.
Thanks for all the questions and if you have any more that you want answered, send them out to Welcome To Loud City’s Twitter (@WTLC), my personal account (@AdamJosephSport) or leave them in the comments!