Week in Review: Something’s Afoul
This week, Paul George again criticized how officials treated the Thunder’s big three of George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony. “We’re so aggressive; we play at the rim constantly,” George said. “We’re just officiated differently, all three of us. And it’s tough. At least one of us [should] get the benefit of the doubt. But when we’re on that floor, no one is getting the better side of that whistle.”
But what do the numbers say? I’ve compiled the free throw rate (the rate a shot attempt results in free throws) of the OK3 as well as three other “stars” known for getting their fair share of calls, compared against their volume of shots in the restricted area. However, to make things a bit more interesting, I’ve removed the names.
- Player A: 49.1% free throw rate, 20% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
- Player B: 35.4% free throw rate, 30% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
- Player C: 34.7% free throw rate, 20% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
- Player D: 33.0% free throw rate, 38% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
- Player E: 29.5% free throw rate, 20% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
- Player F: 17.2% free throw rate, 14% of shot attempts are taken in restricted area
Can you guess who the bottom three are? Westbrook, George, and Anthony, of course. Player A is James Harden, Player B is Damian Lillard, and Player C is Stephen Curry.
What blows my mind, and gives credibility to George’s complaint, is that Westbrook, a player who takes more shots at the rim than any other player on this list, gets significantly fewer free throws. Even more incredible, Curry and Harden are mostly jump shooters and boast the same volume of shots in the restricted area as George, but are rewarded with free throws at a significantly higher rate.
So, yeah. “Officiated differently” seems right to me.
Dirty Old Zaza
Although the Warriors blasted the Thunder on February 24 in Oakland, the story from the game was Zaza Pachulia’s “convenient” fall on Russell Westbrook’s legs. The fall was so blatantly intentional that veteran Warriors reporter Tim Kawakami took to Twitter to repeatedly call out Pachulia.
Of course, nothing came of it because it’s really hard to legislate intent, but context is important. Recall that just over a year ago, Pachulia delivered a hard foul on Westbrook, putting his hands up in an apparent takedown attempt — further proven by Zaza standing over Westbrook as if he just completed a knock-out punch.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here but Pachulia is a dirty player. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Russell’s Rare Double-Double
To date, Westbrook has 297 career double-doubles. Until Monday night, never had he completed a double-double without reaching double digits in points. With 8 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists as the game wound down, Westbrook avoided multiple opportunities to add two additional points at the free throw line, as the Magic were furiously fouling in a failed comeback attempt.
Yes, I say avoided. He could’ve easily taken a foul but he passed out, letting more clock burn. I don’t know if Westbrook was trying to prove he isn’t a stat hunter, or what, but it was somewhat bizarre to see him so tantalizingly close to a triple-double and not take an obvious opportunity to complete it.
Highlight of the Week
Sweet pass, Melo.
After standing pat at the trade deadline, it was believed the Thunder would be active in the buyout market. Right off the bat, OKC was linked to candidates such as Marco Belinelli, Joe Johnson, and Tony Allen. Then Trevor Booker and Ersan Ilyasova became available. And still, the Thunder had an open roster spot. That changed yesterday, as the Thunder finalized a deal with Corey Brewer, formerly of the Lakers.
Apparently missing Andre Roberson so much, the Thunder went out and got his offensive equal. In 54 appearances this year, Brewer is averaging a career-low 3.7 points per game. The “Drunken Dribbler,” as he’s affectionately known, is also converting a career-low 19 percent from three-point range on very low volume (less than an attempt per game).
The problem here is that Brewer is very much not Roberson’s defensive equal. Per nbawowy.com, the Lakers actually improved on defense when Brewer was off the court (DRTG of 112.9 with Brewer on the court and 109.4 with him off). His DRTG per NBA.com is an atrocious 107.6 and he ranks 57th out of all small forwards in DRPM.
Brewer does accumulate steals at a nice pace, as he has the length to get into passing lanes, but that’s not really what the Thunder need. The team needs a lock-down on-ball defender more than anything, and in Brewer, the Thunder has acquired a player who is arguably an older version of Josh Huestis. So this is what a robust buyout market provided the Thunder — another marginal defensive wing who can’t shoot.
Jerami Grant Welcomes Corey Brewer
I think Jerami Grant must have known Brewer was coming, because he paid tribute by getting away with a blatant travel — not unlike what Mr. Brewer did against the Thunder way back in December 2014.
AND ONE MORE MAKES SEVEN….
Sixty-three games into the season, the Thunder finds itself in a precarious spot. Just 2.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Clippers, yet only 2 games out of the three seed, the Thunder could swing anywhere from having home-court in the first round to totally missing the playoffs. It’s hard to believe that, with only 19 games remaining in the first season of the OK3, the Thunder would be facing a very tangible risk of missing the postseason.
It seems like a long time ago when the Thunder notched its eighth win in a row to go a season-high 10 games over .500, but Roberson went down with a horrific knee injury and the Thunder hasn’t been the same, going 6-7 since that glorious eight-game run. Even the wins are discouraging — nearly losing to doormats such as the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks just this last week. The continuing disappointing play has progressed from concerning to inexcusable.
I think Roberson is great, and his contributions are sorely underrated, but the Thunder has Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams. The team boasts strong veterans in Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton. It has an elite three-point shooter in Alex Abrines. And the Thunder is seventh in the West?
I don’t get it, man. I really don’t. Yeah, the West is really competitive. Yes, the Thunder has torched the Warriors twice and beaten the Cavaliers and Rockets. But there have also been two losses to the Mavs and defeats at the hands of the Lakers, Knicks, Nets, and Suns. The Thunder has lost to two of the three worst teams in the league, the Magic and the Kings.
I want to see this team in the playoffs because maybe it will finally play to potential. These guys should be really good. But with the total lack of consistency and shockingly poor play, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the Thunder, needing a win to make the playoffs, lose the last game of the season to the Memphis Grizzlies — the third of the three worst teams in the league. I mean, it would be the one sign of consistency from this team — its ability to consistently lose to bad teams.