It would be greatly appreciated if somebody can post the espn insider on the problems with OKC? Also, does anybody see Presti making a trade, for pieces than players most likely, by the deadline?
Which one are you talking about? What's the title of the story?
everything ok in OKC?
I can't seem to find it, can you post the link?
Expectations always frame our viewpoint. The Philadelphia 76ers, for instance, are three games below .500. But because most pundits expected them to be worse, we view their season in a positive light.
Similarly, the world expected big things from the Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Maybe not championship-big, but the expectation was that they would provide a stern challenge to the Lakers' dominance in the Western Conference. And the Thunder's big star, Kevin Durant, was widely expected to win the MVP award this season, especially after his offensive pyrotechnics led the U.S. to gold at the world championships in Turkey during the summer.
Well, neither of those things seems likely to happen. The Thunder and Durant have both been good, yet we're all feeling a little underwhelmed at the moment. The team we anointed as the Next Big Thing most likely will lose in the second round of the playoffs.
So what happened? Let's start with the obvious: This says way more about us than it does about them. To their credit, the Thunder have remained much more patient than the rest of us regarding expectations for this team and how to fill out the current nucleus. There's a long-term plan, and they're not going to shortcut it based on winning a few more games than expected a year ago.
As for our expectations, it's pretty easy to see in retrospect where we might have been unrealistic. The Thunder won 50 games last season under perfect conditions -- they had no injuries of any consequence and skated through the season without the slightest whiff of adversity. So when they brought back basically the same team, it's not clear why we expected dramatically different results.
For that, it appears we'll have to wait. As of Wednesday, the Playoff Odds tool has Oklahoma City pegged for 52 victories as well as a No. 4 playoff seed and a division championship, all of which would improve upon last season's marks. But it's more gradual than many hoped. The Thunder's scoring margin, for instance, is essentially unchanged from last season (plus-1.9 points this season, plus-2.0 last).
So what happened? Let's start with the kids. The Thunder's youth was a major reason the masses expected greater steps forward. With every key player except Nick Collison aged 27 or younger, including 22-year-old stars Durant and Russell Westbrook, the thought was that the Thunder could keep taking huge steps forward.
In doing so, we perhaps overlooked what massive steps they'd already taken. Oklahoma City began the 2008-09 season with largely the same players and at one point had a record of 3-29. To become a 50-win team within a year was basically unprecedented.
Nonetheless, we expected a neat, logical progression from 50 wins to 60 and then to the promised land. It rarely works that way in real life. As with many young players, the development of Oklahoma City's kids has moved in fits and starts. Westbrook has emerged as a star, while Serge Ibaka's numbers are also substantially better, but the others have struggled to find their roles.
If it happens, this is where the Thunder's next step forward will come. Players such as Jeff Green, James Harden, Cole Aldrich and Eric Maynor need to join the party if the Thunder's potential is to be realized at the offensive end. Even with basically a two-man offense of Westbrook and Durant and a paucity of shooting (the Thunder are 25th in 3-point percentage at 33.6 percent), this team is fifth in offensive efficiency. Get the role players knocking down shots, and they'll be hellacious.
That's the case even if Durant makes no further progress. It's not that he's been bad this season -- he's probably going to win a second straight scoring title -- but he hasn't been any better than a season ago. His percentages are virtually identical, but he's drawing slightly fewer fouls and shooting more 3s than last season. The hope was also that he'd refine his ability to create for others, but so far that's not the case -- his rates of assists and turnovers are unchanged. It also raises a chicken-and-egg question: Perhaps the assists can only go up with better shooting around him.
Nonetheless, Durant provides an illustrative case for the larger point about the Thunder: Players and teams don't necessarily improve in orderly increments from year to year. Sometimes they make huge leaps, and sometimes we have to wait a while before the next breakthrough.
With all that said, Oklahoma City still would be on course for a win total in the mid-to-high 50s were it not for its regression on defense. The Thunder were the league's eighth-best defensive squad last season, which was a shockingly good performance for such a young team -- normally, age correlates strongly with defensive performance.
The Thunder haven't been nearly as effective this season, falling to 17th overall and being particularly vulnerable to the long ball. Oklahoma City was third in 3-point defense last season; this season it's 21st. Against field goal attempts of any kind, it's dropped from seventh to 23rd.
Most of the attention for this decline has focused on the departure of assistant Ron Adams, especially because his new team, Chicago, leads the NBA in defensive efficiency. But there's a good chance that other factors were at work, too. The Thunder's defensive numbers from last season seem like outliers given their lack of size; that they're 28th in opponent points in the paint this season seems to cement that argument.
Green, a power forward, particularly has struggled to guard big post players, with Tuesday night's abuse at the hands of Zach Randolph a fairly typical evening for him; he's had spectacularly bad defensive plus-minus numbers each of the past two seasons playing as an undersized 4. At some point, Ibaka likely will man this position, but that point isn't today.
Thus, the Thunder remain a work in progress. But if we look at their timeline rather than ours, they're still on schedule. Oklahoma City still has a ton of cap space to take into a new collective bargaining agreement. It still has more good young players than any team in the league, including two rising superstars in Durant and Westbrook, and is in as strong a position as anyone to make a blockbuster trade should the need arise.
In the big picture, perhaps it says all you need to know that we're all disappointed because the Thunder are "only" on course for 52 wins. They are still firmly on the track they established when Durant arrived four years ago. We're the ones who went off the rails.
Thanx so much man!!!!