Seven games in the season, and the Thunder are a mildly surprising 6-1. Coming into the year, the Thunder were a bit of a question mark, with inquiring minds wondering how the Thunder would operate with Russell Westbrook flying without a co-pilot. And, absent the whipping inflicted by Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, the Thunder have been impressive, wrapping up this week with two blowout wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Miami Heat.
THREE GOOD THINGS
Steven Adams. Adams as a passer is in its infancy, but I’m starting to believe that Adams has progressed. Sure, he’s only averaging an assist per game, but many of his assists have been excellent, especially that blind dish to Andre Roberson for the slam. If Adams can develop into a reliable passer out of the post, watch out world.
The Thunder Defense. Last week I applauded the Thunder’s ability to continue to pile on points even with the loss of Dion Waiters this offseason, but hello defense. Not even the Warrior’s 122-point explosion diminished the Thunder’s ranking among the league’s elite defenses. The Thunder currently rank fourth in defensive rating, fifth in opponent field goal percentage, first in opponent three-point percentage, and eighth in opponent scoring.
Jerami Grant. So, I wasn’t too high on the Ersan Ilysova-Jerami Grant swap when it happened, but Grant has shown himself to be a more than capable defender and rim protector. In his four games with the Thunder, Grant has recorded seven blocked shots, including a four-block party against the Timberwolves. All this said, his posterizing dunk on Durant was reason enough love the trade.
THREE NOT SO GOOD THINGS
Enes Kanter’s Inconsistency. Kanter’s inconsistency as a contributor was on full display this week. In the two west coast games, Kanter was 3-14 from the field and scored just 6 points, including that pooper of a game against the Warriors, where the Warriors space-and-pace offense forced Donovan to sit Kanter on the bench for all but 3 minutes. On the flip side, in the Thunder’s two home games, Kanter shot 19-26, scored 44 points, and recorded double-doubles in both games. While we’ve seen Kanter give effort on defense (he’s made great strides in his on-ball defense), he still struggles with the pick and roll and, offensively, Kanter has a bad case of tunnel vision. He did throw some mean trash talk to Durant during the game against the Warriors, though, reportedly asking Durant why he didn’t play that well in the playoffs.
Turnovers. Seven games in, and the Thunder rank as the eighth-worst team in turnovers, averaging 14.6 per contest. After a great start to the season with just 10 turnovers against the Philadelphia 76ers, the turnovers began to pile up, as the Thunder recorded three-straight games with 20 or more turns. The Thunder offense is never going to operate with clinical precision, but that is precisely the reason why each possession must be valued by the team.
Kevin Durant. Durant’s 39-point performance was the salt in the open wound of seeing him in the opponent’s jersey. Westbrook did swat a Durant shot into oblivion, so there’s that.
ONE MORE THING
The Next Two. The Thunder made quite a statement in a thrilling win over the Clippers in Los Angeles, but winning both (or even splitting) the next two at home against the Toronto Raptors and the Clippers would go a long way to firming up Oklahoma City’s place among the best in the Western Conference.