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2014-2015 NBA Season Analysis- Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder will again be fighting for the top spots in the Western Conference, but I believe they need more production off the bench to get to the next level and try to reach the Finals once again. Hopefully, the acquisition of Anthony Morrow and the possible explosion of guys like Reggie Jackson or Perry Jones will help them in that regard.
Coach: Scott Brooks
PG: Russell Westbrook; Reggie Jackson; Ish Smith
SG: Jeremy Lamb; Anthony Morrow
SF: Kevin Durant; André Roberson; Lance Thomas
PF: Serge Ibaka; Nick Collison; Perry Jones III; Grant Jerrett (Rookie); Mitch McGray (Rookie)
C: Steven Adams; Kendrick Perkins
Let’s talk about the offensive end of the court:
First of all, I’d like to see more ball movement, as opposed to the ball sticking in Westbrook and Durant’s hands for so long. I understand that as a team you’re tempted to put the ball in their hands and let them play 1-on-1 every single time, but I believe you need more than that to become a real championship contender.
Scott Brooks is gonna have to trust guys like Jeremy Lamb more (he barely played in the last Playoffs after a decent Regular Season). The Thunder need to get deeper and they need guys that can stretch the floor to give more space to the dynamic duo’s penetrations, so that they can get some easy baskets every now and again. We all know the kind of numbers these two players can put up night in and night out, but they’ll need a consistent offensive player other than Ibaka to help them get to the next level, and I believe Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and eventually Perry Jones can really help in that regard.
One of the problems they’ve always had is having non-capable offensive players in their starting line-up (this season in Roberson and Sefolosha and Perkins in the past), what allows their defenders to fearlessly help out their teammates and make the Thunder’s buckets much tougher. They’ve already improved in that regard moving a more capable Adams to the starting line-up, but I still see this issue as a liability.
Also, I consider Westbrook’s ability to stay focus and make good decisions as a key factor for their success, because his shot selection’s not always the best and he tends to turn the basketball over way too many times in certain games.
Focusing on offensive plays, I believe any kind of screen with Ibaka involved will be a real powerful weapon for them because of his ability to knock shots down from the outside. Having multiple ball handlers (Westbrook, Durant, Jackson…) makes this weapon even better because you can play such amazing players off the ball, and defensive rotation is tougher because defenders have to think twice before leaving their man wide open. Obviously, pick and rolls between Westbrook and Durant just drive the defenders crazy and open up plenty of possibilities for their teammates, that’s why I find pretty important the fact that they’re surrounded by capable offensive players.
Finally, we all know how dangerous this team is on the run, so staying solid in defence and the awareness of the Thunder’s big men to quickly make the outlet pass after defensive rebound will be important for them to get easy points and some separation on the scores board.
Let’s now switch on to the defensive end of the court:
The Thunder have a bunch of great athletic individual defenders, but I consider Ibaka as the key player on this end of the floor. We saw that in the last Western Conference Finals, when he missed the first two games and really made a difference when he came back in the third. He makes you earn every single basket you score at the rim, and not only is that a strength in itself but also allows his teammates to avoid over helping and helps them close out better on perimeter shooters (this is especially important against teams that really move the ball well and love to make the extra pass like the San Antonio Spurs, because without Ibaka they can either kill you in the paint or find the open man consistently if you try to help too much in there).
With this being said, plus the great individual defenders I talked about (Westbrook, Roberson, Adams…), I do think OKC should really make a difference on this end of the floor and become a much better defensive team, which I believe has been one of their problems in the past years.
Likely Starting Line-up
Westbrook – Roberson – Durant – Ibaka – Adams
Although they’ve got the unbelievable dynamic duo in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, I believe they don’t have the necessary depth to fight for the top spot in the West yet (plus all they’ve been through with injuries so far), so my prediction is they’ll be able to bounce back but won’t get further than the 3rd spot (I have to stick with the prediction I made before this NBA Season started off, but I think it’ll be real tough for them to get such a high spot in the loaded Western Conference).
Here are some of the top plays from the Oklahoma City Thunder's main players: