ESPN has Russell Westbrook at number 69 on its list of the NBA’s most influential players ever: “It seemed no one would ever average a triple-double again — until Westbrook did last season. Only he and Oscar Robertson know how it feels to average more than 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for a season. But stats are not what makes Westbrook most special. Rather, it’s his relentless, powerful style of play from the point guard position — again, much like Robertson in his day.”
An updated playoff picture after last night’s losses by Denver and Minnesota: OKC remains locked in the four-seed, half a game up on New Orleans and San Antonio.
Brett Dawson on Paul George’s shooting slump: “Before the break, George was shooting six 3-pointers per game from above the break — the wings and the top of the key — and 1.7 from the corners. Since, he’s taking 5.9 above the break and 1.1 from the corners. George still is shooting well from the right corner — 38.5 percent after the break, compared to 44.8 percent before — but he’s struggled above the break, in his preferred shooting spots. Since the All-Star break, George is shooting 26.3 percent on above-the-break 3-pointers. Before the All-Star break, he shot 42.9 percent.”
Tim Bontemps (WaPo) on Carmelo Anthony being unable to be a supporting player: “Has he successfully adjusted? The answer has to be no. For the first time in his career, that’s not happening. According to Synergy Sports data, Anthony is using 23.9 percent of his possessions in spot-up opportunities. That is, by far, the biggest percentage of his career, his previous high being 15.4 percent. It’s also the first time his top play type isn’t either isolations or post-ups. Meanwhile, he’s shooting just 36.8 percent (105 for 285) on those spot-up opportunities.”
Grant Hughes (B/R) on the Melo Problem being more perception than reality: “Has he really been all that disappointing? Because what should any of us have reasonably expected? Given the conspicuousness of his shortcomings, on full display in Sunday’s loss, it’ll sound strange to hear that what Anthony’s done this season lines up with what we should have seen coming. His 2017-18 exploits can only qualify as a failure if you thought he was, at 33 and coming off several seasons of pronounced decline, going to become something more than he’d been before. Anthony has been slipping for five years, and the knee surgery that cost him half the 2014-15 season accelerated the slide. Effective field-goal percentage, free-throw rate, usage percentage, player efficiency rating — all trending downward since 2012-13.”
Josh Planos (WaPo) on it being time to bring Carmelo Anthony off the bench: “In the 513 minutes the team has played with Westbrook on the floor and Anthony on the bench, according to NBAWowy, Oklahoma City has an offensive rating of 111.1 and a defensive rating of 101.5, which would rank fifth and second, respectively, if maintained over an entire season. The team currently ranks ninth in both metrics. Westbrook, for obvious reasons, garners a lion’s share of the offensive possessions when he’s on the floor. Anthony has cultivated a career out of needing to have the ball in his hands, which isn’t tenable with Westbrook running the show. And since Anthony isn’t a knockdown perimeter shooter, he mostly idles while Westbrook runs the offense. But when Westbrook sits, Anthony can lead the second unit. With Westbrook on the bench, according to NBAWowy, Anthony’s personal usage rate spikes from 23 percent to 40 percent, and his true-shooting percentage jumps from 50 to 53.”
Fred Katz breaks down the Thunder’s after-timeout plays: “The Thunder have found success this year on Donovan’s ATOs, averaging 94.9 points per 100 possessions on those plays, which ranks 10th in the NBA, per Synergy Sports. It’s a significant jump from Oklahoma City’s half-court offense, which is 21st in the league in points per 100, according to Synergy. “I yell a play call off the bench, OK, and it works the first time and I come down and yell it again, it’s going to be really hard to make it work again,” Donovan said. “There’s got to be some element of — I don’t want to say surprise, but there’s got to be an element of randomness. There’s got to be multiple options.”
ESPN has the Thunder seventh in its latest power rankings: “Should there be a shake-up to OKC’s end-of-game strategy? Carmelo Anthony went 0-for-4 with a turnover down the stretch of Sunday’s loss, and on the season is now shooting under 30 percent in clutch time despite ranking second on the team in clutch-time attempts. Over the past three seasons, there are 100 instances of a player attempting at least 60 shots in the final five minutes and the score within five. Anthony this season is the only one of them to shoot under 30 percent.”
Erik Horne on Paul George and Terrance Ferguson’s new Gatorade commercials: “Look at Paul George spreading the advertising love with Terrance Ferguson. The Thunder forward has brought along the rookie guard for his latest commercial for Gatorade Flow. In the spot, George describes Gatorade Flow as “real smooth”, and Ferguson makes the mistake of questioning why George always says that.”
New Mr. Presti’s Neighborhood Podcast: “On episode 34, host Brandon Rahbar is joined by the head cheese of DailyThunder.com and Up the Thunder, Weston Shepherd, as well as Daily Thunder’s 5th or 6th best contributor, John Napier. Discussing OKC vs Portland, the Thunder’s Melo problem, potential playoff match-ups, and more.”
Around the League: Markelle Fultz returned for the Sixers…. Isaiah Thomas has left the Lakers to get his hip evaluated…. John Wall is still unsure of when he will return from injury…. A G-Leaguer passed away after collapsing on the court…. Enes Kanter believes his Turkish political views impact his endorsements.