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TomShoe's Player Profiles: Oklahoma City Thunder

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TomShoe's Player Profiles: Oklahoma City Thunder

Here's the OKC Thunder, last one for the day. Celtics and Spurs up tomorrow. Enjoy.

- TomReebok

PROJECTED STARTERS



RUSSELL WESTBROOK, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
27.6
4.9
6.7
23.7
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Freakishly athletic shoot-first guard with great burst to basket. Penetrates at will.
+ Shaky long-range shooter but excels at midrange pull-up. Makes bad decisions.
+ Could be excellent defender, but effort has slackened. Great offensive rebounder.

Analysis
Westbrook is still getting the hang of this point guard thing, but you can see the quality of his decisions and passing gradually improving -- most notably in the stunning conference finals turnaround against San Antonio.
That said, he's still a scorer at heart, ranking just 63rd out of 70 point guards in pure point rating and seeing his assist ratio tank to 2-guard levels last season. Westbrook led all players except Kobe Bryant in usage rate last season (see Bryant comment), which was a bit eye-opening what with the scoring champ playing next to him and all.
Westbrook shot only 31.8 percent on 3s and took over three a game, and while he's not a bad midrange shooter (40.9 percent on 2s beyond 10 feet), again, his tendency to highlight this aspect of his game is frustrating. You'd much rather see him attack the rim, where he shot 61.6 percent in the basket area, drew heaps of fouls, and was money from the line.
Defensively, Westbrook has the talent to be awesome, but in reality is pretty average. Synergy Stats rated him the worst defender on the team and decidedly below the norm for his position; the Thunder weren't any better or worse with him on the court defensively, and opposing point guards had a 15.7 player efficiency rating against him, according to 82games.com. Westbrook is actually too aggressive for his own good at this end, often running himself out of position and overgambling, offsetting his advantages in size, quickness and athleticism.

THABO SEFOLOSHA, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
8.7
5.8
2.3
10.2
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Strong wing defender with good size and lateral movement. Very good rebounder.
+ Good handle for size but has poor offensive instincts and makes terrible decisions.
+ Effective finisher in open court but a mediocre outside shooter.

Analysis
Statistically Sefolosha's season looked about the same, but the one encouraging sign was his 43.7 percent mark on 3-pointers. He took so few that it might be a fluke, but his ability to make corner 3s is the key variable in whether he can stay on the floor most of the game. Oklahoma City frequently turned to Derek Fisher or Daequan Cook last season because Sefolosha couldn't adequately space the floor, with his 16-of-49 shooting from 3 in the playoffs a discouraging harbinger for this season.
The other problem for Sefolosha is that a catch-and-shoot guy can't be throwing it all over the gym like this. He took nearly half his shots from beyond the arc and yet had the worst turnover ratio of any shooting guard; that's completely unacceptable. He also had the lowest usage rate at his position -- again, it's nice that he made the shoots he took, but he has to make himself more of a threat.
Otherwise, he fills his role to a tee. Defensively, he's a not-quite-elite caliber player who ranked ninth at his position in blocks, 10th in defensive rebound rate and 11th in steals. He fouls too much, but his combination of size, agility and toughness makes him one of the better wing defenders in the game.

KEVIN DURANT, SF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
29.1
8.2
3.7
26.1
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Tall, long-armed scoring prodigy with unblockable release. Deadly in transition.
+ Great foul shooter. Lacks strength. Struggles to get open against physical D.
+ Good handle and improved passer. Length an asset on defense and boards.

Analysis
Durant led the league in scoring again, and did it with a 61.0 true shooting percentage. That's just ridiculous. It's one thing to be a high-volume scorer, or to be a high-efficiency scorer. Being both at the same time? That's special. Durant didn't draw fouls at quite the prodigious rate of previous seasons, but he shot the ball better. His 3-point shot, which had been quite average, improved to 38.7 percent, and he shot an incredible 46.4 percent on long 2s.
Of course, his length and speed also make him unstoppable going to the basket; Durant hit 72.2 percent of his shots at the rim. He found more teammates too, boosting his assist ratio to the middle of the small forward pack. In particular, he has become adept at finding his big men when he's doubled coming off a pindown.
Unfortunately this came at a huge cost in turnovers, and Durant's ranking of 64th in pure point rating -- out of 67 small forwards -- was unacceptable for a player of this caliber. (Not to mention the difference-maker between Durant and a certain other small forward who ranked third in this category).
Defensively, Durant is getting better but he's still a pretty neutral player at this end. Synergy Stats graded him fairly well but the Thunder gave up more points per possession when he was on the court. Partly that was because he played more as a smallball 4, which isn't a stretch for him height-wise but forces him into some tough physical battles.
His best asset at this end is on the defensive boards, where he ranked first among all small forward with a 20.4 defensive rebound rate. He's also an excellent shot-blocker and rarely fouls; he's just not great laterally and struggles physically.

SERGE IBAKA, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
14.4
11.3
0.7
19.5
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Athletic, long-armed, shot-blocking ace still learning fundamentals.
+ Overrated defender who struggles against floor-spacers. Good rebounder.
+ Very good midrange shooter. No post game and poor offensive instincts.

Analysis
There's a lot more to defense than blocking shots, people. Ibaka finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting based on his phenomenal shot-blocking total, but the Finals really underscored how far he has to go to be an elite defender overall. Ibaka's shot-blocking skill is second to none -- his 5.38 blocks per 40 minutes led the league comfortably (see chart) -- but he still struggles mightily against face-up 4s and in the finer elements of help defense.
Most blocks per 40 minutes, 2011-12

Player Team Bk/40
Serga Ibaka OKC 5.38
Larry Sanders Mil 4.73
Greg Stiemsma Bos 4.44
JaVale McGee Was/Den 3.44
Brandan Wright Dal 3.19
Min. 500 minutes
Overall, then, he was merely decent defensively. The Thunder were better with him on the court but not dramatically so (2.8 points per 100 possessions), while Synergy Stats rated him in the middle of the pack. The Thunder didn't act like he was a vital defensive cog, either, often opting to keep Kendrick Perkins or Nick Collison on the court instead of him.

Offensively, Ibaka is an underrated shooter -- proving it when he went 12-for-12 in Game 4 of the conference finals against San Antonio. Ibaka shot 46.5 percent on jumpers from 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata.com, stellar work that indicates he's still underutilized in the Thunder's pick-and-pop game; he also shot 69.8 percent at the rim. Unfortunately he can't create any of these shots himself, as he has poor offensive instincts and no post game.

KENDRICK PERKINS, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
8.5
10.4
1.5
9.6
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Tough-as-nails post defender who likes physical play. Very strong.
+ Plodding low-post game. Lacks elevation and takes forever to gather and go up.
+ Sets bone-jarring screens but prone to offensive fouls. Can make short jumpers.

Analysis
The thought in Oklahoma City was that Perkins would recover from his knee injury and be a much better player in 2011-12. He wasn't, and instead left the Thunder in a bizarre situation where they basically pretended he was still good, even when it was killing them in the Finals.
We should note that Perkins is not without value. He's the Thunder's best post defender and a good help defender too; Synergy Stats rated him as the team's best defender and among the league's better centers, while the Thunder defended better with him on the court.
Unfortunately, that value does not come from chasing Shane Battier around the 3-point line. Additionally, Perkins takes away so much on offense that it often more than negates his defense. He had the NBA's second-worst turnover ratio for a second straight season (see chart), plus he shot only 48.9 percent from the floor.
Worst turnover ratio, 2011-12

Player Team TO Rate
Reggie Evans LAC 26.8
Kendrick Perkins OKC 23.3
Omer Asik Chi 22.6
Ryan Hollins Cle/Bos 21.7
Aaron Gray Tor 19.6
Min. 500 minutes
Perkins' 7.5 points per 48 minutes was among the worst figures in basketball, and despite the Thunder's glowing raves about his screening, he still killed them offensively: the team scored 8.4 points per 100 possessions less with him on the court. One particularly maddening trend was their tendency to being halves with static post-up plays for him to "get him involved," as though involving him was in any way desirable.

All this sets up a very interesting 2012-13. Perkins has real value against teams like the Lakers, but against most opponents the Thunder are better off with other frontcourt arrangements. If his play doesn't improve, one wonders if and when they'll address reducing his role.


RESERVES


JAMES HARDEN, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
21.9
5.2
4.6
20.8
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Skilled left-hander who excels at pick-and-roll game. Prodigious drawer of fouls.
+ Left-dominant. Sees court well but turnover-prone. Good set shooter from 3.
+ Middling wing defender who rebounds well. Good hands, has cut foul rate.

Analysis
The second coming of Manu Ginobili, Harden technically plays shooting guard but is really a huge pick-and-roll point guard. His forays to the rim off the bounce are simply deadly, as he has a tight, low handle, exquisite passing skills, and an almost supernatural sense for how to draw fouls. Harden's 0.59 free throw attempts per field goal attempts was the best of any non-center, with his 84.6 percent mark from the line the cherry on top.
Additionally, Harden was a fantastic finisher when he wasn't fouled, particularly going left. Harden had the best shooting percentage at the rim of any guard, converting an amazing 70.4 percent of his shots in the basket area. Again, this was in addition to all the fouls he drew. Virtually the only chance of stopping him was to force a turnover first -- he was in the bottom quarter of guards in turnover ratio and will give it away trying to split pick-and-rolls.
Top shooting percentage at the rim, guards

Player Team Pct.
James Harden OKC 70.4
Gerald Henderson Cha 68.4
Arron Afflalo Den 68.0
Marcus Thornton Sac 67.5
Kobe Bryant LAL 66.2
Min. 150 attempts
Meanwhile, his spot-up game has grown more deadly too: Harden shot 39.0 percent on 3s and took nearly half his attempts from out there. In a related story, he's become much more comfortable playing off the ball with Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant doing the ballhandling. Overall, his 66.0 true shooting percentage sits firmly in you've-gotta-be-kidding-me territory; naturally, the only perimeter player to top it was Ginobili, by eight-tenths of a point (see Ginobili comment). Harden also ranked fourth in the league in secondary percentage (see Chauncey Billups coment).

The next step is upgrading his defense, which remains a vulnerability. Harden has cut his foul rate but it remains above average for a shooting guard, and he needs to defend star wing players to start with Durant and Westbrook. As it is he's the game's best sixth man and an All-Star talent, but he can still get better.

NICK COLLISON, PF

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
8.2
7.6
2.1
10.3
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Heady big who excels at defending pick-and-rolls and taking charges.
+ Not as strong in 1-on-1 defense. B-athlete but elevates quickly. Fouls often.
+ Decent midrange shooter but rarely shoots. Good offensive rebounder.

Analysis
Collison was once again a plus-minus god, with the Thunder outscoring opponents by 7.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the court, but this time it was on offense where he made an impact. Individually, his statistical profile didn't change much, as his 59.7 percent shooting topped all power forwards but he rarely shot, averaging a meek 8.7 points per 40 minutes.
Collison was once again a pest on the offensive glass, ranking 13th out of 70 power forwards in offensive rebound rate with the help of numerous tap-outs, and it's notable that he shot 52.5% on longs 2s -- a shot he doesn't take unless wide open, alas, so he only had 43 attempts. However, he was a non-factor on the defensive glass, as only two power forwards fared worse.
Defensively, both Synergy Stats and his counterpart data on 82games.com seemed to indicate he slipped last season, but that partly may be a result of fewer minutes at center -- his mobility is more challenged at the 4 and he doesn't line up against quite as many pick-and-rolls from that spot. Subjectively, his elevation seemed as strong as ever, so at 31 he stills seems primed for a couple more effective seasons.

ERIC MAYNOR, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Steady point guard with pass-first mindset. Good handle but B-grade athlete.
+ Average outside shot, and struggles to get to rim. Returning from knee injury.
+ Decent position defender. Has thin frame but moves well and competes.

Analysis
Maynor tore his ACL after nine games and missed the rest of the season. He wasn't playing very well at the time, but given the nine-game sample we shouldn't take that too seriously.
However, in the big picture his profile is much more of somebody who is just a decent backup than a guy who can take over a starting spot someplace else. He should bounce back fine from the knee injury since his game isn't predicated on athleticism, and stabilize a spot that was a liability a season ago.

DAEQUAN COOK, SG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
12.6
3.7
5.1
9.3
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Jump-shooting wing with strong catch-and-shoot game. Elevates well on jumper.
+ Solid athlete, but a weak ball handler. Virtually never goes to the basket.
+ Solid, unspectacular defender but a bit undersized for the 3. Not a rebounder.

Analysis
Cook got the same shots as a year earlier, he just didn't make them -- leaving a worrying question of whether 2010-11 was an outlier and this was his real talent level. His 34.6 percent mark on 3-pointers was unacceptable for a long-range specialist, and dragged his career mark down to 36.5 percent.
Cook took more than three-quarters of his shots from beyond the arc, the fourth-highest rate in the league (see Jason Kidd comment), and scarcely did anything else: He was first in turnover ratio and last in assist ratio at his position, a perfect synopsis of his mission as a catch-and-shoot specialist. His turnover ratio, in fact, was the league's second-lowest (see Matt Bonner comment). Along the same vein, he had one of the league's lowest free throw rates, earning just 22 all season.
Unusually for a shooter, Cook may have as much value on defense as on offense. His Synergy Stats grades were solid and the Thunder gave up fewer points per possession with him on the court, albeit working mostly against opponents' subs.
All of which is fine, but the ball has to go in. Cook shot 42.2 percent on 3s in 2010-11, and if he does that he has value. Making barely a third of them, however, he has none.

REGGIE JACKSON, PG

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
12.1
4.1
5.6
10.9
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Athletic point guard who plays out of control. Needs to calm down.
+ Good court vision but instincts are as scorer. Quick and has good size.
+ Disappointing shooter as rookie. Must improve finishing and shot selection.

Analysis
Jackson was given a chance to claim the backup point guard job after Eric Maynor's injury but wiped out, playing hyper and flinging up bricks. He finished with an abysmal 40.8 true shooting percentage, very nearly the league's worst, and the breakdown showed he was bad everywhere: 21.0 percent on 3s, 44.4 percent at the rim, and 25.2 percent on 2s beyond ten feet.
Jackson should shoot better, as he had good numbers in college and his form isn't broken. It's his decision-making that's the bigger worry. He looked nothing like a point guard while running the offense, over-penetrating and dribbling himself into bad spots, although he did show some knack for passing.
Defensively he shaped up better. Jackson had a strong steals rate, rebounded well, and has the size and quickness to defend most 1s. He took his usual rookie lumps, but his metrics all indicate the Thunder didn't suffer much with him on the court at that end; it was his offense that killed them.

COLE ALDRICH, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Long big man who can rebound and block shots.
+ Can finish at rim but has few other offensive skills.
+ Needs more game experience and better defensive reactions.

Analysis
Aldrich's second season was much more promising than his first, as he got into 26 games and made decent contributions in his limited minutes. He's still limited offensively but brought more energy to the proceedings at both ends and, more importantly, drastically reduced the mistake plays that held him back as a rookie. He has a good chance of moving into the back end of the rotation this season, which would give him a chance to develop further.

PERRY JONES, F

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Tall combo forward who can run, jump and score. Good shooter for size.
+ Athleticism doesn't impact games. Tends to disappear. Questionable motor.

Analysis
Jones is 6-11 and athletic, and has the skills to play the perimeter, so he should have been a dominant college player. He wasn't, and that's the mystery. He had solid shooting numbers for a player of this size and should only get better, but in other areas he was hard to figure out. How could a player like this block shots so rarely, have such poor rebound numbers, and disappear so readily? How did he only shoot 52 percent on 2s and avoid drawing fouls?
His college stats said he was a second-rounder, but Oklahoma City took a gamble on his potential late in the first. At his size, his NBA future is almost certainly at the 4, and he may become an extremely effective stretch 4 in time. If it works out he fits a glaring need for the Thunder, but he needs to play with much more intensity than he showed in college.

LAZAR HAYWOOD, F

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Tough, aggressive wing but fouls like crazy. Good rebounder for size.
+ Poor outside shooter. Cannot elevate or finish. Weak ball skills.
+ Strong and competes on defense, but lateral quickness iffy.

Analysis
The Thunder picked up Hayward with their last wisp of cap space thinking he might be able to play tough defense and hit corner 3s. The evidence for the former is stronger than the latter. While he's tough and aggressive he hasn't shown he can be any kind of offensive contributor, and when he played in Minnesota his defense was fairly wanting, too.
Hayward did play quite well in three D-League games for Tulsa, but he also shot 13-for-38 for the parent club and fouled with wild abandon (18 personals in 141 minutes for the Thunder, 15 in 103 minutes in the D-League).

HASHEEM THABEET, C

Hollinger's 2012-13 Projections
PTS
REB
AST
PER
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
(Stats are per 40 minutes)


Scouting report
+ Long, tall, slender center with knack for shot-blocking.
+ Lacks strength. Foul prone. Has poor basketball instincts at both ends.
+ Can make short-range jumpers but has no post game whatsoever.

Analysis
Backhanded compliment time: Thabeet got into 20 games with Houston and Portland and played more competently than he'd done the previous season in Memphis. He scored enough to be somewhat useful should his defense come around, and put up very solid rebounding totals.
That said, his shot-blocking has yet to translate into genuine defensive value because he's so bad in other respects. It was a small sample, but both Houston and Portland were outscored by more than 10 points per 100 possessions with Thabeet on the court, and opposing centers had player efficiency ratings approaching 20. Synergy Stats rated him as nearly the worst defensive player in the league. For a player whose theoretical value lies almost entirely at this end of the floor, that's a huge problem, but the Thunder will take a low-dollar risk at seeing if he can turn it around.


Chewy
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Joined: 06/10/2010
Posts: 1310
Points: 3615
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Easily

one of my favorite teams to watch for obvious reasons. Jordan won without a dominate big man, Thomas won with a bunch of thugs on the frontline, James won while actually being the dominate post presence for his team. It can be done... does the guard trio of Durant, Westbrook and Harden have enough to take out the Heat and a new look Lakers?

I'm excited to find out.

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