OKC Thunder solid play has quietly flown under radar at quarter mark – progress report

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OKC Thunder

Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The OKC Thunder are 20 games into the season and flying under the radar. A quarter of the way through the schedule it’s time to review the squad.

It’s been quite a weird season so far, to say the least. The Warriors are vulnerable for once – they look sluggish on-court and implosive off-court. The Wolves have just flat-out imploded, and the surprising LA Clippers hold the best record in the West. Meanwhile, the OKC Thunder have actually been playing well, despite missing their star man Russell Westbrook for 40 percent of their games.

Before the madness spirals any further, here’s a quarter-mark progress report on how the Thunder’s season has gone so far. We’ll cover some macro narratives, then drill down into some nitty-gritty.

Revisiting the Melo trade:

Let’s start a little tangential, and talk about the Melo situation. Less than a month into the season, news broke that Houston was pulling the plug on the Melo experiment. Two weeks on, the man is still stuck with the Rockets while the team looks for a potential trade partner.

Watching the 10-time All-Star fall from grace has raised questions on how OKC’s front office handled Melo while he was on board. There are two ways to see it.

One, the Thunder made a huge bet, failed – and everyone knew that – but refused to cut their losses. For all his credentials, Melo’s three biggest issues today are his poor shooting, embarrassing defense and locker room presence. Houston is being so ruthless with him because they know these issues have been so entrenched since his stint with OKC that it wouldn’t even make him worth a minimum contract. Which begs the question – if the issue was so obvious, was Sam Presti wrong to hang on to him for so long?

But, there’s another perspective, one which I find more convincing. Take a step back, and you will realize Presti essentially turned Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott into Dennis Schroder. Regardless of how this season pans out, I say this swap is at worst, a lateral move. And given Anthony’s profile then, and the need to woo Paul George, the risk involved in trading for Anthony was justified.

So, sorry Presti haters, try again next time.

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