When you look at the success the Thunder have had over the past two or three years, it is evident that it has been led by the dynamic duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. For the past few years, James Harden was the “third option” and the go to guy when Durant and Westbrook weren’t playing well. Harden did it in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, and in the first round against the Mavs last year.
In the 2012-13 season, things are different. At 33-9 and at the top of the Western Conference, things are different for the better. Serge Ibaka is having career high numbers averaging 14 and eight, and Kevin Martin has came in from Houston and has done everything the Thunder wanted him to do off the bench averaging 15 points a game.
With the loss of Harden, this Oklahoma City team success comes down to the production of play from Ibaka and Martin.
Every NBA team has an inside scoring presence that clogs the paints for their given team. In Miami, that guy is Chris Bosh, In Boston its KG, for the Clippers its Blake Griffen and in La La town its Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. The Thunder have been looking for that guy since becoming the “Oklahoma City Thunder”. Can that guy be Ibaka? Early on in the season, it has been.
Oklahoma City leads the league in scoring with 106.1 points a game, and a majority of that goes to Durant, Westbrook, and Martin. If Martin can come off the bench and give the Thunder 15 or so a game the Thunder are dangerous. When opposing teams come up with schemes to defend Westbrook and Durant, they may forget about number 23.
Anyways, just listen to the buzz about this team as of late:
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com gives OKC an A+ midseason grade: “They’re great. They’re the best team in the league this season, hands down. Beard, no beard, Harden, no Harden, they’re terrific. On the road, at home, on a boat, with a goat, in a box, with a fox, it doesn’t matter. This team is a lightning storm (complete with thunder, get it!) wrapped in a gigantic lazer gun.”
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com names KD his first half MVP: “At the same time, Durant is doing more than ever before to get his teammates involved. He’s averaging a career-high 4.2 assists per game. More than that, he has taken on a greater responsibility for infusing this team with his will. LeBron hasn’t had to deal with the major personnel change the Thunder made by trading James Harden. The vibe feels different in the Thunder locker room, as if there’s a missing Musketeer. But Durant hasn’t let that derail this team. Finally, never forget that the MVP is a media-voted award, and it’s subject to storyline as much as stats. Another MVP award for LeBron would be his fourth in five seasons. The media crave fresh stories. Lucky for them, Durant has given them every reason to write a new one.”