With the first week of the season in the books, I figured it was time to publish the very first Week in Review for the 2017-18 season. For those new to Week in Review, it’s my opportunity to run through the highlights and lowlights from the past week in Thunder basketball.
This week brought us the most anticipated opening night in the Thunder’s 10 year history, except for maybe that first season when the allure of an actual professional franchise located in Oklahoma City was a monumental event. The Thunder paid off the anticipation with a double-digit win over the New York Knicks, who were led by star big man, Enes Kanter, Kristaps Porzingis. The efforts to seamlessly integrate two perennially All Stars then hit a snag as OKC dropped the next two before closing out the opening week with a win over the Indiana Pacers.
SIX THINGS FROM THE WEEK
OK11. While most eyes were on Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George (aka, the OKC3), who would play alongside those guys and when was a question mark. Would Billy Donovan stagger the stars? Who would be the sixth man? Would young guys like Terrance Ferguson and Josh Huestis get playing time? While the answers may still be coming into focus, a few things have become clear: (1) Yes, Donovan will stagger the stars (about 1 minute of actual non-garbage-time minutes have been without one of the OK3); (2) Alex Abrines is the clear sixth man, getting the fifth most minutes to date, and often the first off the bench; and (3) Donovan is certainly willing to integrate Ferguson and Huestis into the lineup. Knowing Donovan, the rotations will be a moving target through the season, and as many of 10-11 players will get minutes on any given night.
Paul George. The biggest trade acquisition in Oklahoma City history has been… meh so far. Against his former team, the Pacers, George fouled out after just 19 minutes of play, the culmination of a very average week. George averaged 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in 33 minutes per game, but shot poorly (just 39 percent from the floor with a TS% of only 49 percent) and generally looked uncertain of his role. If you think about it, it makes sense that George would have the biggest struggles integrating. Anthony has largely played the same as he has his entire career (mostly isolation plays), just a little more deferential. Westbrook is Westbrook. George, on the other hand, seems very clearly to want to change his style, but doesn’t seem to know how to do so successfully. But George is one of the best players in the world for a reason, so the more minutes he plays alongside Westbrook and Melo, the sooner he will make the impact we all expected him to make.
Carmelo Anthony. I just mentioned that Anthony has largely played the same as he has his entire career. This play against the Pacers is indicative. Off a screen from George, Anthony gets the ball about 15 or so feet from the basket with 14 seconds on the shot clock. Though the weakside action is well defended (George runs a curl off a screen), there’s really no reason for Anthony to launch an off-balance contested long two. There is certainly no reason half of his shots need to be mid-range jumpers, though 54 percent of his shots have been from the mid-range this season (vs. 45 percent last year).
Andre Roberson does what Andre Roberson does. Speaking of a tiger and his stripes, Roberson treated us to two straight airballed free throws against the Minnesota Timberwolves. At first his free-throw shooting was almost comical, now you almost feel sorry for him. I don’t know if it’s flak regarding his free throw shooting or something else, but Roberson did delete all of his Instagram posts this week. I call that, the “Reverse KD.”
Russell Westbrook’s Free Throw Shooting. On the topic of bad free-throw shooting, (I am killing it with the segues, by the way), Westbrook is converting a paltry 57 percent from the free throw line this season. Westbrook blames his woes on a new NBA rule which prevents him from engaging in his routine of walking beyond the arc before taking his free throw. As you probably know, Westbrook is a creature of habit who adheres religiously to his routines. Unfortunately, he’s been using the same free-throw routine for quite some time. “I’ve been doing that $*#)* since high school,” Westbrook said. He added that he’s just got to figure out a new routine and the shots will fall. In the meantime, we can all watch him develop a new routine.
Steven Adams. I feel like I’ve been mostly negative or at least light on positivity, but the brightest spot of this young season has been Steven Adams. Not only has Adams been a stalwart defensively, averaging 2 blocks and 2 steals a game, but he’s also been a strong contributor offensively. Adams is scoring almost 15 points per game on 67 percent shooting, converting lobs with authority, demonstrating touch in the post, and grabbing a whopping five offensive rebounds per game. That $100 million contract is looking better now.
AND ONE MORE MAKES SEVEN
Steven Adams, Quarterback. I just dropped Tom Brady and replaced him with Steven Adams in my fantasy football league.