Zach Lowe of ESPN.com: “You shouldn’t go to the well with this too often. Defenses will sniff
it out once they’ve seen it once or twice in a short span. Westbrook and Oladipo are about the same size, so most defenses should be able to switch this action without pinning themselves into an untenable mismatch. But the Thunder can catch teams off guard if they use this play sparingly, and spring it after some misdirection that tricks defenders into expecting something else. Guards aren’t as used to guarding the screener in the pick-and-roll, and mistakes happen when offenses shock defenders out of their comfort zones. It’s also a good way to get Oladipo more actively involved with Westbrook on the floor. He needs to be a partner, not a bystander.”
Berry Tramel: “Who knows what the Thunder will do without Kanter. Domantas Sabonis and Joffrey Lauvergne will have to play more, the Thunder will go small more and the double-burger lineup with Adams and Kanter will be scrapped until Kanter’s return. Billy Donovan gave hope, saying that Kanter actually bloomed this season when Victor Oladipo was sidelined by injury and that others could do the same. The Thunder bench certainly didn’t step up in Kanter’s absence Thursday night. The Mavericks scored 13 straight points against a lineup comprised mostly of reserves, and not until Westbrook and Adams returned to the game early in the fourth quarter did OKC finally end Dallas’ hopes for a major upset.”
Tramel on January: “January is almost over, and the Thunder has survived. Come to think of it, the same could be said about Thursday night, when the Thunder played its first home game in 15 days. Looking like the rest of us do when we get home all worn out from a long trip, the Thunder plodded through a 109-98 victory over a ghost team of Dallas Mavericks. Only a 45-point performance by Russell Westbrook kept OKC afloat. The woebegone Mavs, already struggling at 16-29, played without the resting Dirk Nowitzki and the ailing Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea.”
My story from last night’s game, where Westbrook has a lot more on his plate.
James Herbert of CBSSports.com: “Despite Kanter’s well-documented defensive deficiencies, this is a big blow to the Thunder, who do not have a long list of players who can create their own offense. Kanter is their third-leading scorer, the focal point of their bench unit and an improved passer. This puts even more pressure on Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams to keep the offense afloat. In his absence, reserve bigs Jerami Grant, Joffrey Lauvergne and perhaps Nick Collison will likely battle for increased playing time.”
Fred Katz: “For much of Kanter’s Thunder career, public perception has pinned him as an asset. People have wondered about his fancy contract, how he would fit in other organizations, what his value would be in a trade. With the way he’s been playing lately though, part of that narrative has shifted. He’s become the Thunder’s second-most-important offensive weapon behind Westbrook, averaging 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds over his previous 18 games heading into Thursday night. More importantly, OKC has used him as a facilitator for the second unit more than ever before. And now, the Thunder lose one of the league’s most helpful bench players, one of only a few go-to scoring options.”