As of the completion of the Minnesota game on Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder head into the second half of the season with a 24-17 record. Russell Westbrook is still averaging a statistical triple-double at 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists. To date, he has 19 triple-doubles, which is the most in a season since the NBA/ABA merger in 1976. Let me say that again: Westbrook has already surpassed the record for triple-doubles in a season and he still has 41 games to play. For this 5 on 5, we look at some of the highlights from the first half of the season and look forward to certain things from the 2nd half of the season.
1. Which Thunder player has surprised you the most in the first half of the season? And why?
Andrew Schlecht of DTD: Without a doubt, it is Russell Westbrook. 31 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists?! A usage rate of 42?! A near career high of 32.8% from 3?! It’s been unreal. I thought if Russ had a usage rate of 35+ it would be hurtful to the team, but that was wrong. The more he has the ball the better he’s been, and the better it is for OKC. This is peak Russ and he’s been better than anyone could have ever thought. A few more stats from this stupidly great season:
- First in scoring and PER
- Second in Free Throw Attempts and Assists
- And 9th in total rebounds
- But the most impressive stat after seeing those is he is 20th in minutes per game at 34.7
Dustin Ragusa: I think for me it’s Victor Oladipo. I knew he was a good player with the Magic and I expected him to make an impact, but I didn’t think he would be as important to this team as he’s been. We saw it first hand in the 9 games he missed with his wrist injury. The Thunder need him to help space the floor and take the ball handling duties when Westbrook is off the floor, espeically since Cam Payne was out. His 38% 3-points percentage is a surprise too because I expected him to be in the lower 30’s, closer to his career average. He’s also been pretty solid on defense.
Alex Roig: It’s easy to say Westbrook because he has somehow exceeded expectation. But that was somewhat expected. Questions about whether he could average a triple-double over the course of a season started the minute we knew he would be here at least for this season. The player I’ve been most impressed with has been Enes Kanter. The mark of a great player is to consistently add something to your arsenal every year. And this season, Kanter has added interior play-making to his repertoire. That has allowed the bench unit to not only depend on him for scoring, but also depend on him for floor leadership in a strange Vlade Divac sort of way.
Daniel Wojciechowski: It’s a toss up between Oladipo’s shooting and Kanter’s passing. I’m going with Oladipo’s shooting because I’m not sure if Kanter can effectively be a playmaker in the post consistently against elite teams and in the post season. Oladipo is a great fit with Westbrook, he’s shooting 38% on three-pointers so far and I really thought the combination of Oladipo and Westbrook on the floor together would be a little redundant, it’s definitely been a pleasant surprise.
Tyler Parker: I think it’s Westbrook. I expected dominance, but this much of it is insane. 19 triple doubles in 41 games is absolutely absurd. Even at my homerest, which isn’t a word, I wouldn’t have expected this.
2. Top 3 most memorable moments this first half of the season.
Schlecht: 1) Westbrook’s dunk on Capella to go up 5 on the Rockets. 2) The two Westbrook 3s in Boston to put the game out of reach. 3) Westbrook’s clutch mid range shot over Deandre Jordan to clinch the win against the Clippers.
Ragusa: 1) Russell Westbrook’s 22 assist game against the Suns. Career high numbers mixed in with some absolutely amazing passes. Including this one for assist number 22… Shammgod:
2) Russell’s 51-point triple double. The first 50 points triple double since Kareem in 1975… also against the Suns. 3) The 105-103 win over the Rockets in November. Great all around game by the Thunder against a quality opponent. The Thunder have played the Rockets well all season, and they were able to get the win in this one. Roberson played amazing defense on James Harden, holding him to only 13 points on 4-16 shooting.Roig: 1) The crowd reactions to both Serge Ibaka and Scott Brooks. Most relationships between players and/or coaches and teams end in discord. That was not the case with Ibaka and Brooks. And they were greeted as such by the Oklahoma City faithful. 2) Oladipo’s baptism of Dwight Howard. 3) The expectation of Westbrook’s clutchness in crunch time.Wojciechowski: 1) Westbrook dunking on Clint Capella to seal the game against the Rockets. 2) Oladipo’s double-clutch dunk on Dwight Howard. 3) Westbrook’s 50 point triple double—the second one in NBA history.Parker: 1) Westbrook’s baptism of Capela at the rim, mashing on him to win at the end of that first Rockets game. 2) Forgive the recency bias, but that Jerami Grant dunk near the end of the most recent Memphis game was bananas. 3) It’s a bad kind of memory, but that game at GSW, Durant’s fire show, sticks with me. Partly because of the way he was carrying himself, like the Thunder had somehow done him wrong. But also because he was just really good that game, and it really sucked that he was really good.3. Worst loss of the season and why?Schlecht: The loss to the Grizzlies on Dec. 29th, no doubt. Russ lost his mind, OKC was disrespected, and they were blown out by a team that has 2 blow out wins per season.Ragusa: Probably the 114-80 loss to Memphis at the end of December. Memphis is a good team, and a loss to them isn’t a “bad” loss, but the way the Thunder lost this one is why I picked it. They just didn’t look like they wanted to play and Russell getting ejected in the third quarter didn’t make it any prettier.Roig: The Warriors’ loss. But not because they got blown out. It was because they were up by 10 on the Warriors in the first quarter. And then the bottom fell out. That brief moment of euphoria was quickly quieted by the man that used to play for us. And that was very disappointing/sad to watch.Wojciechowski: The Warriors loss on November 3rd. The Thunder were clear underdogs in that match-up and this was the second night of a road back-to-back, but it was just really brutal to see them get picked apart so easily by Golden State. It was probably the most frustrating and disappointing game of the season for a lot of die-hard Thunder fans.Parker: The loss in Memphis when Westbrook got ejected. Probably the biggest egg of the season. Russ gets the boot without having recorded a single assist, and the game was never close. Though you could talk me into it being the Timberwolves loss from last night.4. Best win of the season and why?Schlecht: The November 2nd win against the Clippers for several reasons: They won a tight game, 85-83, against a fully healthy Clippers team. Russ was impressive, but he missed 2 crucial free throws that could have put the Thunder up 4 with 35 seconds left… dont worry, Blake Griffin tipped the rebound out of bounds. Typical Clippers. With a second chance gift wrapped to OKC, Russ hits a cold blooded mid ranger on Deandre Jordan to seal the win. Other than Russ, no other Thunder player scored in double digits (Adams had 2 points….). The Clippers were nearing the height of their “Can the Clippers Challenge the Warriors” powers, and it was on the road.Ragusa: I think the Rockets win that I mentioned above.Roig: The Clippers’ win. That game proved, early in the season, that we were good enough to sneak in and win some games against the league’s elite. Now, if the Clippers are still considered elite, I guess we’ll find out when they get fully healthy again.Wojciechowski: The home win against the Rockets on November 16th. That game featured a left-handed Westbrook game sealing dunk all over Clint Capela. This was also one of Roberson’s best defensive games of the season against Harden.Parker: I think the Rockets win has started to look better and better. They have the best win-loss record of any of the teams the Thunder have beaten and, again, I mean, that dunk was supreme.5. Next 41: What things are you keeping track of in the 2nd half of the season?Schlecht: Westbrook’s efficiency + MVP chances, Kanter’s minutes and passing, Jerami Grant’s 3P%, Adams PPG and USG%, Alex Abrines shot selection and 3PA, Cam Payne’s overall impact, and Kyle Singler’s clothes while he’s inactive.Ragusa: For the next 41, I want to see how big of an impact Cam Payne has on this team once he gets fully back into the swing of things. Also, I’ll definitely be interested to see if Russ can keep the triple double average throughout the rest of the season. Would also like to see them protect the paint better, they give up the most points in the paint per game in the entire league. I’m just excited to see how this team finishes the season and what they can do in the playoffs.Roig: Westbrook triple-double watch. How Cam Payne adapts to not only playing again, but being used differently now that the bench offense flows through Kanter. Westbrook triple-double watch. How Adams continues to develop this season. Who is still here after the trade deadline. And did I mention Westbrook triple-double watch?Wojciechowski: Alex Abrines’ three-point percentage. He’s shooting 40% from three since the beginning of December, he shot 27% up until that point. I’m watching to see how Payne fits in with this team after missing the first 38 games of the season. And of course, I’m still on Josh Huestis Island, that guy deserves to see some time on the floor this season.
Parker: Next 41: What things are you keeping track of in the 2nd half of the season?
- Russ’s triple doubles, of course.
- A trade that brings over a 3 and D guy. This won’t happen, because it never has, and why start now?
- Adams’ further development on offense.
- How effective Cam and Russ can be in two PG lineups.