Author’s Note: Since I took a week off due to a family vacation, this column references a couple of games that occurred within the last two weeks. Don’t judge.
After Roberson suffered his season-ending injury against the Detroit Pistons on January 27, the Thunder has struggled, to say the least, going just 4-6 in the ten games since the injury. While the Thunder has scored an average of 110 points per game — the defense has struggled. The team’s defensive rating has declined from 104 to 108.6. In addition, while the Thunder’s opponent points per game has ranked in the top 10 all season, the 110 points per game the team has given up over the last ten would rank 27th in the league over the course of the season.
After standing pat at the trade deadline, and the buyout market going quietly without the Thunder having yet made a move, Billy Donovan has relied upon a hodge-podge of Josh Huestis, Alex Abrines, and Terrance Ferguson to fill the void. At the end of the day, for the Thunder to make a push in the playoffs, one (or hopefully more) of those guys will have to step up in a big way.
Speaking of stepping up, Paul George is having a heckuva year. After a bit of a slow start, George has come on as arguably the Thunder’s best player. George, averaging a career-high 2.2 steals, is leading the league in that category. He is also on pace for career highs in three-point shooting, true shooting percentage, and effective field goal percentage.
In the Thunder’s ten year history, there’s never been a two-way weapon like George, and by golly (or by George, I guess you could say), Paul deserves his spot in the All-Star Game this weekend.
Westbrook and Adams
Steven Adams has converted 42 alley-oops this season, the vast majority of those being the dunk variety. Adams has also flushed 108 rim-rattlers. Most of those have come compliments of a Westbrook assist. Over half of all passes to Adams come from Westbrook and 154 of Westbrook’s 593 assists are to Adams. You could say that the two have developed quite a chemistry.
The downside to this is that when Westbrook is out, Adams’s effectiveness offensively goes down. With Westbrook out against the Lakers, Adams struggled, shooting just 4-11 as the Thunder got pummeled. On the season, when Westbrook is on the court with Adams, Adams shoots 64 percent from the field and a whopping 70 percent of his points are assisted. When Westbrook is off, those numbers drop to 48 percent from the field with 65 percent assisted.
After setting an NBA record for most triple-doubles in a season last year with 42, Westbrook has recorded just 17 so far this season, a paltry pace of 24 over 82 games. However, Russ still has an outside chance of recording a second straight season averaging a triple-double. Assuming he plays every remaining game, he needs to average 11.6 rebounds and 9 assists per game to hit the triple-double average again. Stay tuned.
Yes, the Thunder still have to play the Warriors twice more (once at home, once on the road), but in the two games played to date, the Thunder has absolutely roasted the league’s best team. After beating the Warriors by 17 in Oklahoma City, the Thunder went to Oakland on February 6 and won by 20. Now, I don’t want to be petty and all, but it feels good, man.
The Thunder goes into the All-Star Break at 33-26. While most of the team will get some rest, Russell Westbrook and Paul George will be Los Angeles for this weekend’s All-Star festivities. George, along with the sixth-best three-point field goal percentage in the league, will also be participating in the three-point contest on Saturday night. So hey, while there are no Thunder games this weekend, there will still be plenty to watch.
AND ONE MORE MAKES SEVEN…
Nice dunk, kid. Nice dunk.