We are at the All-Star break 34 games into this condensed season. The Oklahoma City Thunder stand at 27-7, atop of the West and tied with the Heat for the best record in the NBA. Coming into the season, the Thunder were a popular pick to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. They are well on their way to making that prediction a reality. Some Mid-Season grades are in order.
Kevin Durant- A+ 27.7pts/8.2reb/3.4ast/1.4stl PER: 27.3
If it were not for LeBron James, Kevin Durant would have a very good shot at winning his first MVP award. He is 2nd in the NBA in PER, win shares, and points per game. Durant is just half a point behind Kobe Bryant in the race for the scoring title, which would be Durant’s third straight. The highlight of the Thunder season was on last week’s game against the Nuggets, when Durant scored 51 points, leading the team to an overtime win. He has shown a lot of improvement, especially on the defensive end, where he has improved his Defensive Rating to 100, from his career rating of 107. Durant’s play will be the deciding factor as to whether the Thunder make the NBA Finals or not.
Russell Westbrook- A 23.6pts/4.8reb/5.5ast/1.9stl PER: 23.5
The second All-Star for the Thunder, Russell Westbrook is having another strong year. Improving in almost all facets of the game, Westbrook is showing why he is a top five point guard in this league. He has turned the ball over a little too much, but that isn’t unusual for point guards, considering the worst player in the top 14 in career turnovers is Reggie Theus. My one complaint is that he is eighth on the team in eFG%, at .491. If Westbrook can score a little more efficiently, he can be that much better.
James Harden- A+ 16.8pts/4.1reb/3.7ast/1.0stl PER: 21.1
Harden has been playing great all year long, coming off the bench. Coming off a big showing in the playoffs last year, the third year player has put himself on the same level as teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. He is third in the NBA in True Shooting Percentage, and Offensive Rating. The team trusts him to handle the ball late in the game, and has come up big in clutch moments during the first half of this season. The 6th Man of the Year award looks like an essential lock for James Harden.
Serge Ibaka- B+ 8.2pts/7.5reb/0.5ast/3.2blk PER: 17.4
After Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, the points really drop off for the Thunder. Ibaka has come through at times, but most of their losses are due to the lack of post presence on the offensive end. Ibaka has struggled to become a factor on this side of this side of the ball, scoring just 8.2 points on seven shots per game. His defensive game has been amazing though, leading the league in blocks, including three, 10+ block games. His triple-double, with blocks, against the Nuggets showed how much he can affect a game defensively.
Daequan Cook- D 6.0pts/2.7reb/0.3ast/0.5stl PER: 9.1
Thrust into the starting roll with Thabo Sefolosha going down, Cook has not played all that well. He had a stretch of 4-34 from 3-point land over six games. Honestly, Cook is just a placeholder until James Harden gets in the game. He barely touches the ball, and generally misses, shooting just 36% for the year.
Thabo Sefolosha- B 5.2pts/2.7reb/0.9ast/0.9stl PER: 11.6
Last week, Sefolosha was ruled out indefinitely with a foot injury. He has only played in 18 games this year, and played pretty well. When healthy, Thabo shot 48% from three, and was a very good defender. His absence has been noticed, as the Thunder were 16-2 with him, and are 11-5 without. Hopefully he can come back by the playoffs, to spell the Thunder of Daequan Cook.
Nick Collison- B- 4.5pts/4.1reb/1.3ast/0.52stl PER: 12.0
I like to think of Nick Collison as a poor man’s Joakim Noah. He gives the team great energy and effort. He is not asked to do much, but when he is on the floor he grabs rebounds, goes for loose balls, and plays quality defense. Four points and rebounds isn’t much, but there are other people for stats. Collison has been good when giving Perkins and Ibaka a break.
Kendrick Perkins-D 4.4pts/6.1reb/0.9ast/1.21blk PER: 7.0
Kendrick Perkins has been very disappointing since his arrival in Oklahoma City last year. After some big years in Boston, Perkins has not played near that level with the Thunder. He averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds during the 2009-10 season, and hasn’t come close to those numbers since. He has no effect on offense, and is being overshadowed by the play of Serge Ibaka. Perkins has played well in spurts, but it is not enough to make this a championship front court.
Eric Maynor- Incomplete 4.2pts/1.4reb/2.4ast/0.6stl PER: 9.4
This has been the most frustrating part about this team. Eric Maynor has been one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. Unfortunately, he had surgery on his knee after just nine games, and is out for the rest of the season. If Maynor could play, he and James Harden would be a great duo off the bench for the Thunder and Westbrook wouldn’t have to take most of the ball handling duties. This injury just makes me sad.
Reggie Jackson- B+ 3.7pts/1.1reb/1.7ast/0.7stl PER: 10.5
Reggie Jackson has been a nice surprise coming in after Maynor’s injury. In his 11 minutes, he shows confidence handling the ball, and can drive to the basket. He could potentially be thrown in a trade for a big man, or just ride out the rest of the season splitting backup minutes with Royal Ivey.
Nazr Mohammed- B 3.1pts/3.0reb/0.3ast/0.6blk PER: 11
Mohammed is at nine points and blocks per 36 minutes, though he only plays 12. The Thunder haven’t played their non-Harden bench much all year, and they don’t make much of an impact. Nazr does a decent job with his minutes, and provides a little defense off the bench.
Royal Ivey, Cole Aldrich, Ryan Reid, and Lazar Hayward all play under 10 minutes each game and have minimal impact. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden dominate the scoring, and come playoff time, these guys won’t get more than one rotation on the court.
Team Grade- A