5 Oklahoma City Thunder Players That Need Great Showings in 2013 Playoffs
Players That Need Great Showings in 2013 Playoffs
The Oklahoma City Thunder have just eight games left in the regular season. With the playoffs just around the corner, the Thunder get another shot at reaching their ultimate goal of becoming NBA champions. Each of the players on the Thunder's roster will have a specific role when it is playoff time, some more important than others. Even though the Thunder have two go-to scorers in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they will need to find some other players that contribute offensively on a nightly basis.
The pressure will be on the Thunder's All-Stars even more this year since they do not have the likes of James Harden coming off the bench for them. They lost a huge chunk of their offense when they traded the bearded one away a week before the season's start. Despite losing Harden, the Thunder have improved offensively this year. They average 110.0 points per 100 possessions--almost three more points per 100 possessions than last year.
Even though they have shown improvements statistically for offensive efficiency this year, the Thunder are still having trouble finding a consistent offensive threat outside of Durant and Westbrook. Guard Kevin Martin has shown glimpses of the great player he could be, but he has been far from consistent throughout the year. Point guard Reggie Jackson has improved drastically this year, proving to be the man to run point when Westbrook is on the bench, but he is still very young and is prone to rookie mistakes.
The Thunder's bench will be the catalyst to their hopes of becoming NBA champions. All-Stars like Durant and Westbrook will also have to keep playing the way they have the entire season if they want to reach their goal. A lot of things have to fall into place at the perfect time for a team to go all the way. Will the stars align for the Thunder come playoff time? I guess only time will tell.
These are the five players for the Thunder that will need to have great showings during the 2013 playoffs.
If there is one player the Thunder do not have to worry about contributing, it would be Durant. This guy has been great since his arrival in the NBA. He is currently the league's leading scorer with 28.3 points per game. Unfortunately, Durant's chances for MVP are pretty much gone, which does not seem fair considering the year he is having. He has almost locked up his membership in the 50-40-90 club, which consists of players that shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point land and 90 percent from the charity stripe.
Anytime I write about Westbrook, I feel like I have to defend him. He is one of the most scrutinized players in the league due to his reputation of being too aggressive, reckless and selfish--all of which are so untrue. The truth is Westbrook has supreme confidence in his game, and he believes that he can score on any possession. Yes, he may take some shots from Durant, but that is just what makes Westbrook, so Westbrook. He knows that he is not a very efficient player, yet he still sticks to his game. That, my friends, is one of the main reasons the Thunder are such a great team. Westbrook needs his shots throughout games if the Thunder want to compete for an NBA championship. The only time I would like to see Westbrook pass the ball would be late in games. That is undoubtedly Durant's time to shine. We have seen maturity from Westbrook this season by repeatedly passing the ball to Durant in clutch situations, which does not seem very selfish to me. He may put up a lot of shots, but if they are falling, the Thunder are unstoppable.
Serge Ibaka had transformed into quite the spot-up shooter this year, which is just great. Since defenders like to double on both Westbrook and Durant, it often leaves Ibaka wide open. He has been able to hit those shots pretty consistently this season, and we are starting to see defenders hang around Ibaka. That leaves Durant and Westbrook in more one-on-one situations, which often provides for a huge mismatch for opposing teams. Ibaka has also continued to be the great defender that he has always been. He averages 7.8 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. He will need to continue his great play going into the playoffs.
The main question going into this year was if Martin would be able to fill the shoes of Harden. He is averaging 14.2 points per game on 44 percent shooting from the field, which isn't bad. The problem with Martin is that he could go 6-6 one night and then 1-6 the next. He is not the same type of facilitator that Harden was, but his ability to catch and shoot is great. Martin will likely be the catalyst to the Thunder's playoff run. He needs to be the guy that comes off the bench and puts points on the board. He has sacrificed a lot playing with the Thunder by taking a backseat to Westbrook and Durant. Still, his role is very important. His play during the playoffs could determine if the Thunder re-sign him this offseason.
What a great surprise Jackson has been this year. He has improved leaps and bounds this season coming off the bench. He has earned himself the backup role to Westbrook, getting around 13 minutes per game. What is even better is that Jackson is getting better and better each game. His speed and strength allow him to get to the basket almost at will. Thunder coach Scott Brooks has been putting Jackson and Westbrook on the floor together lately in games. I really like that line-up because it puts a tremendous amount of speed on the floor for the Thunder. Jackson could certainly leave his mark in the playoffs this year and continue to surprise people around the league.