Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

What in the world is wrong with the Thunder?

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Hello once again fellow Thunder fans! The Thunder have gone 2-2 in the past week, and it’s definitely one we’d all like to forget. Not only did the Thunder drop a game to former head coach P.J. Carlesimo, they also dropped a game to the worst team in the league. Then again, if the Thunder’s worst week this season involved two easy wins over crappy teams, then it tells you that the Thunder don’t have a lot to complain about.

Still, we’re Oklahomans, and we like winning. So let’s put our stethoscopes on and diagnose what’s wrong with the Thunder as they are now.  To keep things fun, I’m going to add a hilarious picture of each person I’m complaining about. You know, for good measure.

Scott Brooks Isn’t Very Creative With Rotations

It’s hard to hate on a guy who brought the Thunder from a lottery team to a title contender, but man, Scott Brooks really loves putting in certain guys. Barring injuries, the Thunder have had the same starting lineup since February of 2010. The manner of rotations has stayed the same as well, with Kevin Martin taking Harden’s minutes, Thabeet getting Mohammed’s minutes, and Jackson getting Fisher’s/Maynor’s minutes. But not every player is the same, and as such, replacements with different skillsets shouldn’t be given the same roles as those guys.

What should Scott Brooks do? Well, there’s tons. He could stop abandoning Martin, who can’t score on his own, with the bench. He could let Ibaka play with the bench, to add more scoring power. He could use Reggie Jackson alongside Russell Westbrook, and have them develop a repertoire. He could put in Collison when Perkins isn’t suited to a particular opposing center. The list goes on, but I’d really like to see some more on the fly decision-making. It’s what helped Carlisle win the championship with the Mavericks in 2011.

Kevin Martin is Forcing Bad Shots

Martin has a history of injuries, so whenever his performance goes downhill, people automatically assume it’s directly related. I really doubt that’s the case, given that he’s athletically the same as he was on Day 1 of this season. But Martin’s problems are more mental than anything else. The worst case scenario for him is when his pump fake in the corner doesn’t work, and he ends up totally covered. Usually he passes the ball out, but with more defenders becoming weary of his pump fake, he’s started to jack up well-guarded shots. He’s also made more bad drives into the lane, where he ends up getting the ball stolen or avoiding contact and forcing a bad layup. I’d like to see this guy get more transition opportunities as a whole.

Hasheem Thabeet is Terrible

I really don’t like hating on a guy who seems really nice and has one of the GREATEST TWITTER ACCOUNTS EVER. But when you grade him from a strictly basketball perspective, he sucks. His stats are virtually the same as they were in his rookie season, his +/- is the worst among the rotation players (save Reggie Jackson), he can only score less than a foot away from the rim, he’s too slow to help defend, he’s too thin to hold his ground, he’s too uncoordinated to have the ball at any time, and any block or steal he gets comes because he’s standing in the middle of the lane. During the Wizards loss, I counted 5 straight scoring plays where Thabeet played a major role in giving up a basket. Honestly, I just wish the Thunder would remove him from the rotation and go small with Jones, Lamb, or Liggins. Please, no Orton.

Poor Perimeter Defense

The problem is ongoing and will probably never be solved, but the Thunder are a bad perimeter defense team. There’s always some guy that really seems to hurt the team. Kevin Durant’s absentmindedness let the mediocre Martell Webster score a season high on Wednesday. Kevin Martin will often get exploited for his poor ability to close out on shooters. Russell Westbrook pressures way too much and often gets lost on the floor. Even Sefolosha has his share of problems, because he’s always looking to provide help defense or looking for a steal. At the end of the day, it’s a problem that will continue to pop up periodically for the Thunder. There’s not much they can do about it other than tightening up their communication and rotations. But it is something that’s easy to point to in a loss.

Random Thunder Highlight of the Week:

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Alright, so there’s nothing TOO amazing to show you this week. But Kevin Durant’s crossover move is becoming a staple of his routine, and it’s pretty awesome to see it in action, especially when it’s done three consecutive times. That’ll teach DeRozan to poke the ball out.

Zorgon, or Zebulun Benbrook, is a baller extreme and OKC native. You can discover him @WTLC on Twitter or writing some hardcore Thunder analysis at Welcome to Loud City.

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Comments

  1. They traded Harden and Maynor hasn’t returned to form from injury. K-Mart doing fine making up for Harden’s scoring but no playmaker on 2nd team. That and Scotty Brooks is just an average coach, who just happens to be blessed with two of the best players in the league.

    • Brooks is probably a bit overrated. He was clearly out of his league during the Thunder’s first few years, but he’s definitely learned the ropes and improved. He’s really good at game-to-game adjustments, balancing out personalities, and carving out specific roles for players. But in terms of in-game adjustments and recognizing the skillsets of certain personnel, he’s got some work to do.

      And yeah, the second team definitely needs a playmaker. Or, if Lamb and Jones got any minutes, the increased scoring might balance out the need for a playmaker. But alas….

  2. Excellent assessment. Much better than the novels we used to get from someone who is no longer a regular contributor.

  3. hopefully the article is mostly tongue in cheek, which I assume it is.

    But in professional sports….especially sports with long seasons and a lot of games….you are going to go through down times.

    This isn’t college and you won’t win them all. Just like any human being alive, you’ll go through downturns in your peak physical abilities.

    It happens…

    This team is good, chill out..and will probably be one of the top 3 seeds in the west.

    • While that is all true, there is no excuse to losing to Washington especially when you factor in the players they were missing. The Thunder will be fine, but they are clearly struggling right now.

      • look back at ever NBA season in history. Really good teams always drop some clunkers out there.

        It’s almost impossible to stay 100% focused for 72 games.

        No doubt there are some concerns, but in the end, we are only nitpicking. It’s not like this team isn’t talented and based upon history, we know they can win playoff games.

        If we start losing to playoff teams left and right, then I’ll be concerned, as of right now, it’s normal NBA basketball. We go 2-8 for a few weeks in a row, sure…but in the end, that’s the beauty of a 72 game season, the good team always rise up.

        Most people were freaking out last year before the end of last season when we lost the #1 seed….turned out ok

    • Well, the problems are real. But no, I’m not seriously concerned about the Thunder. Every team drops games. Even the 95-96 Bulls, who set the record for the NBA’s best record at 72-10, dropped a game to the 21-61 Raptors. Still, it’s nice to talk about what flaws a team does have, so we can understand what type of team it takes to beat us.

  4. You touched on it, but I’d really like to see Lamb get more time. Every time he has gotten on the floor he’s looked impressive. Would also like to see more pick and roll from this team, it’s apparent at the end of close games Westbrook is going to dribble at the top of the key, KD is going to run to the top of the key draped by a defender and everyone else just stands around. Not sure why Brooks isn’t coming up with better plays, like have someone (Ibaka, Collision, etc.) run toward the bucket for a backdoor alley oop.

    • Yeah, I touched on getting minutes for Lamb (and Jones) in my New Year’s resolutions post. He’s got the long arms to help him make some crucial steals, great athleticism, and good three ball range. I really don’t understand why he’s only seen one stint of serious action this season.

      Also, the end of game offense is super predictable, but it’s where KD shines the best. During most matchups against mediocre teams, KD kind of cruises during the game and hardly ever handles the ball, but in the fourth, he really carries the team and gets into these iso situations. It’s really weird. Wouldn’t mind seeing Brooks diversify the end of game offense though. Having a simplistic Durant-Westbrook offense is what killed us in 2010, and I think we might be heading back towards that problem.

  5. I can’t believe you left out the biggest clunker on the team–Kendrick Perkins. He’s a non-factor on offense, and averages less than 6 rebounds per game. His $9M salary would be put to much better use on someone with some real BB skills. You can only get so far with a menacing scowl; how about making a real contribution for a change?

    • Perkins isn’t on the team for his scoring. Anyone who gets upset over his offensive (or lack there of) game don’t really understand the make up of the team. Perk is there for toughness, post defense and perhaps a little rebounding. All reports say that he is a good locker room guy. He is essentially there to guard Howard/Gasol and Duncan. The real problem is Brooks knowing when to take him (and leave him) out of the game when the match-up doesn’t work (ie vs the Heat)

  6. if the team had as much energy as the fans, they would be undefeated.
    I can’t imagine what your body and mind go through the entire season to continually compete at a high level.
    As long as they make the playoffs, drop a few to get your bench some floor time and prep them for the post-season

  7. Nothing is wrong. From Moneyball: “In a five game series, the worst team in baseball will beat the best about 15% of the time.” There is randomness and luck involved. Steinbrenner made the same mistake in 2005 when they only won 4 of their first 12 games, they won the division.

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