Sports Illustrated has released their annual list of the top players in the NBA, and unsurprisingly, the Thunder have multiple representatives. Russell Westbrook (7), Paul George (11), Steven Adams (38), and newcomer Dennis Schroder (80) are prominently featured, and thus begins the debate as to whether they are too high or too low. Or in other words, which players ahead of them shouldn’t be.
There’s just no working around the fact that Adams is a proper giant. He can wipe out a guard with a screen and bulldoze a big with a roll. Players of that size aren’t supposed to move around the floor so easily, and yet here is Adams, gliding through contact after teaching himself how. You might not consider Adams a standout athlete, but he’s made himself into one.
George is a great shooter in a league that runs on shooting, a choice defender for some of the most difficult matchups, and a flexible star at a time when amassing talent is the only real way to compete. Indiana gave George the opportunity to lead a team of his own, which only led him to relish a day he didn’t have to. He is a star built for these times—both fully capable of taking a team over the top and fully aware of how much help it takes to win.
Simply employing Westbrook gives a team an unquestionable identity. No superstar in the league brings such consistent effort; although there are plenty of faults to find in Westbrook’s approach, you could never accuse him of coasting. Teammates tend to follow suit, giving the entire outfit a relentless, combative style. If you’re not ready to play, Westbrook will run you off the court. It’s perfectly understandable why some stars would pace themselves for the playoffs, though there’s value in a player like Westbrook bringing force to every game of the regular season.
Update: I forgot the new guy.
We know Schröder can beat his man off the dribble and score, but can he bring an offense to balance? Does his passing make his teammates better? Can his length and quickness translate to real defensive benefit? The jury is still out, even within the league. It means something that Schröder is capable of producing at this level, though that “something” varies wildly depending on case and circumstance.
Do you think these rankings are fair for the Thunder players?
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