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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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    01/17/2021 9:32 AM

2013/14 NBA Team Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

Season Review 2012/13:

Advanced Stats
Numbers
Rank
Pace
93.3
10
Offense
112.4
1
Defense
102.6
4
Rebound
49.9
17

4 Factors
Offense
Numbers
Rank
Defense
Numbers
Rank
eFG%
52.7
3
eFG%
46.9
2
TO%
14.4
29
TO%
13.5
18
Reb%
26.7
15
Reb%
26.6
18
FT%
28.0
1
FT%
19.7
11

Monthly Performance
Record
OffRtg
DefRtg
November
13-4
114.6
103.4
December
11-2
116.2
105.7
January
11-5
113.2
104.1
February
7-4
118.8
101.0
March
12-5
112.7
102.6
April
6-2
115.9
103.9


The Thunder’s 2012/13 season had a key moment even before the regular season started, with a trade that sent James Harden to Houston in exchange for Kevin Martin and some prospects for pure financial reasons, a decision that might come back to haunt Oklahoma City in the next few years, especially if Houston manages to get what the Thunder wants so much: a NBA title.

Then, naturally the Thunder’s season changed with Russell Westbrook’s injury in the playoffs against the same Rockets. Oklahoma City was eventually able to still beat Houston in the first round of the postseason and then they even defeated the Grizzlies in the Game 1 of the second round, with a tremendous clutch performance by Kevin Durant, but Memphis’s defense found a way to punish Durant and Oklahoma City lost the following four games of the series and consequently lost the series altogether.

This will be the narrative that will talk about Oklahoma City’s 2012-13 season, something that is a shame as they had an amazing regular season, where they grabbed the #1 seed on the Western Conference with an amazing 60-22 record.

The Thunder didn’t “just” win games on the regular season. They crushed their opponents by having the best point differential in the league both at home and on the road. Their average margin of victory at home was a ridiculous +13.0 ppg (!), while their MOV on the road was also a stellar +5.4 ppg!

Thanks to this domination where Oklahoma City won 44 games by 10 or more points during the regular season, Coach Scott Brooks had an “easy task” in managing the team’s effort. Both Durant and Westbrook played less minutes per game than in the previous season, while 12 players were on the court for at least 11 minutes per game.

Oklahoma City was also the best offense in the league during the regular season with a 112.4 offensive rating, with their strengths being based in two main areas:

      1) Great Shooting: #3 in the league with 52.7% eFG%
      2) Free Throw attempts: #1 in the league with 28% FT/rate%

As usual, the Thunder were also one of the worst teams in the league in taking care of the ball and this won’t change anytime soon due to the aggressive style that their best players uses on court.

Kendrick Perkins was the team’s only disappointment last season, especially when the Thunder decided to “sacrifice” James Harden over him regarding the team’s future. During the regular season, Perkins was on the court for 49% of the time and the team had constantly better numbers with him on the bench than with him on the court (+10.0 versus +8.3 according to 82games.com). His offense was almost non-existent if we exclude some pretty bizarre moments where he would commit stupid turnovers, while his defense was also problematic especially against teams that explored his lack of speed.

Miami won the title over Oklahoma City two years ago mostly due to Scott Brooks’s reluctance in playing “small ball” against the Heat, leaving Perkins on the court for too long. In theory, Perkins is serviceable against teams that feature a traditional frontcourt line like… Memphis, but the truth is that he got completely outplayed by Marc Gasol in the playoffs in both ends of the floor. Besides his 4-24 FG mark against Memphis, he ended the postseason with more personal fouls (39) than points (24), something that says a lot about his inability to help his team.


Offseason Report:

The Thunder basically didn’t make any movement to upgrade the team during the offseason, while they lost their 6th man Kevin Martin on free agency, something that says a lot about GM Sam Presti’s trust on the development of his young players.

With Kevin Martin gone, if Jeremy Lamb doesn’t develop at least into a serviceable player, then James Harden’s trade will be on Presti’s back for the rest of his career.

Ryan Gomes was the Thunder’s most “important” signing on the offseason, something that says a lot about the team’s inactivity on the market.


Season Preview:

The Thunder’s expectations for this season are directly connected with Russell Westbrook’s physical condition. He will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season and even after that, it’s not possible to predict how fit he will be for the rest of the season. This is especially problematic, as looking at Westbrook’s aggressive style, he really needs to be at 100% physically in order to help his team.

In comparison with the previous season, Westbrook dramatically improved his all-around numbers by having for the first time on his career +5 rebounds/game (5.2) and his assist/turnover ratio (7.4/3.3) was also much better than in 2010-11 (5.5/3.6). He regressed a little bit shooting wise with his worst mark of the past three seasons with 43.8% FG, but his importance on the team was quite visible on the postseason. There is no way the Thunder will win the Championship without a healthy Westbrook.

On a league without LeBron James, Kevin Durant would be the league’s best player by a country mile. Durant is coming from his best season of his career and his ridiculous efficiency on the offensive end was historic, as he joined the extraordinary short list of players in the 50-40-90 club: he shot 51% FG, 41.6% 3pts and 90.5% FT! Only nine other players in the league history have achieved this, with Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki being the only players alongside Durant to put a 50/40/90 effort, while averaging at least 20 points per game!

I’ve been always a critic of how Durant couldn’t improve his playmaking skills to take advantage of the extra attention that he gets from his opponents and after five seasons in a row where he couldn’t even reach the 4.0 assists/game mark, Durant finally achieved that last season with 4.6 assists/game! His previous career high was 3.5 assists/game, achieved on the 2010-11 season.

Durant’s performance on the playoffs was criticized by his inability to solve the games down the stretch against the Grizzlies, but I don’t agree with that. In my opinion, Scott Brooks isn’t a good coach in making adjustments, as he basically has a “Plan A” and no backup ideas, so after the “Plan A” went down the toilet with Westbrook’s injury, the team was doomed! Memphis harassed Durant throughout the whole series and he simply ran out of gas in every game down the stretch, something that will happen to every player in the league, while playing 46, 48 and 48 minutes in three consecutive games. We can expect another MVP-caliber season from Durant this year.

While Kendrick Perkins will inevitably struggle once again, Serge Ibaka has been developing his game smoothly. For the first time on his season, Ibaka averaged double digit points with 13.2 points per game and this improvement came with an improved shooting efficiency as well, even though he took more shots: a great sign! Note that we aren’t talking about just shots near the rim, as Ibaka attempted 3.6 shots per game from 16-23 feet and had an excellent 47.0% FG mark on those! His defense remains excellent, even though he gambles too much just to get some extra blocks, but at 24 years old, Ibaka is already a key piece on this organization. Like Durant, Ibaka struggled against Memphis in the playoffs, but then again his matchup would never be easy against Memphis’s frontcourt and he simply wasn’t ready to be the team’s #2 option on offense, something that happened as soon as Westbrook got injured.

The only “good news” that Westbrook’s injury brought to the team was Reggie Jackson’s breakthrough, who didn’t disappoint at all in the starting lineup. Jackson’s performance was so good that with Kevin Martin gone, he will be the team’s 6th man when Westbrook returns from injury. Jackson started at the PG position after Westbrook’s injury, but his game is possibly better suited for the SG position, so it will be interesting to see what will be his role on the team as soon as Westbrook returns. Jeremy Lamb is another player that the team expects a lot of good things from him in the future. Scott Brooks didn’t trust him a lot last season with just 6.4 minutes per game during the regular season, but on the D-League, Lamb posted nice averages of 20.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists.

Both Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison will be once again serviceable players on the organization, especially Sefolosha if he has another good shooting season like he had last season, where he shot 48.1% FG and 41.9% 3pts! If this happens, he will offer some positive value to the team on the offensive end, while on defense he will continue showing that he is indeed a good defender.

Oklahoma City will be once again a top team on this upcoming season. As long as Kevin Durant keeps playing at the level that he has been showing on this league, especially last season, it’s impossible for the Thunder not to be a top team. But, will they be legitimate contenders to come back to the NBA Finals? It will all depend on Russell Westbrook’s physical condition, how well Scott Brooks adjusts his team when needed (not counting on miracles in this department), how much Kendrick Perkins keeps struggling and how well the young players will develop. If everything goes well for them, then Oklahoma City will definitely be a top seed in the Western Conference once again and they will primed for a good playoffs run.

My name is André Gomes, I’m from Portugal and I am a Professional Handicapper. My sole purpose is to constantly beat the sportsbooks by taking advantage of the evaluation errors they make. It is most... Read more

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