Grading The Starting 5: The Oklahoma City Thunder
Grading The Starting Five: Oklahoma City Thunder
Two weeks of NBA actions has passed and it's a good time for everyone to start giving out grades for teams, coaches and players around the NBA. My focus is on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who've overcome a lot of doubt here early on in the season. I don't think that many people saw them sitting at 5-1 through their first six games, mostly due to the fact that Russell Westbrook wasn't supposed to be back on the court until December.
Barring any excuses, the Thunder have been solid and will only get better. They actually have a lot to work from what I see. It's great that they're still able to get victories as they're still searching for their true identity as a team.
Every player on their roster has done their part. Different players have stepped up in different situations; that's a good sign considering that the Thunder are in extreme need of players not named Kevin Durant and Westbrook to shine. It's good to see your superstars do what they do, but it's an even better feeling when the third man off the bench is coming in and being a difference maker out there.
Guys like Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams have restored all hope within the organization; at least for the time being. I only see these players working harder and getting better as the season progresses. Hard work over the summer has put this team in position to be just as good if not better than they were when they made it to the NBA Finals. Although the Thunder's bench has been played outstanding, I'm here to present my grades for the Thunder's starting lineup.
5. Kendrick Perkins - Grade: D-
Honestly, at this point, I wish I didn't have to associate this guy with this Thunder team. He's been doing nothing but wasting space when he's on the court. I used to actually like Kendrick Perkins, but the way he carries himself on the court is just terrible. Perkins is only averaging three points per game through two weeks. Rookie Steven Adams has outplayed him in every way. I'd like to see Perkins get a major demotion or be shipped off elsewhere. OKC needs to pick up another center and go with Adams as their starter. I don't expect much from Perkins anymore, and I regret ever expecting anything from him. I was close to giving him an F- actually, but I know there's always someone worse out there somewhere. He may actually deserve an F- because the cap room he's eating up makes this whole situation all the more unbearable.
4. Thabo Sefolosha - Grade: C-
Thabo Sefolosha is one of the harder players grade on the Thunder's roster. He's been below average on the offensive end and he's sorta always has been. Last year he gave OKC another threat beyond the three-point line; this year he has started out shooting only 15 percent from distance. I told myself not to get excited about his three-point percentages last year because he's usually not so good of a shooter. I figured it was just luck and I'd wait another year to see if he can duplicate that performance. Sefolosha may not be shooting all that well but he still finds a way to get a few easy buckets. His value is underrated in every way. I love his efforts on the defensive end and his hustle on the glass. He's one of those players who is just good enough at just enough different things to be a difference maker. Expect his shooting to get better as the Thunder get more comfortable.
3. Serge Ibaka - Grade: B
Serge Ibaka "da shot blocka" hasn't really been himself on the defensive end, but he's clearly becoming a better all-around player. Through six games, he's only averaging 1.8 blocks per game; his lowest mark since his rookie campaign. This is more likely a case of his opposition becoming wiser about going up with the ball in his presence, opposed to any signs of decline in his abilities. Those players can run but they can't hide; Ibaka will find his mark and he'll starting swatting away shots left and right. He's averaging just about the same points per game as last year but you can tell that those numbers will be on the rise all year. Ibaka has been a lot more active on the glass on his way to currently averaging 10.5 rebounds a game. He is also coming off the best game of the young season where he put up 25 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Ibaka will be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year; as he normally is. The one thing I want to see less of from him is three-point attempts. He's trying to prove that he's a good shooter but we know he is. Ibaka is better off learning to get down low and get his buckets that way.
2. Russell Westbrook - Grade: C+
Back early from an injury that was supposed to keep him out until December, Russell Westbrook has shown flashes of his usual greatness, but he's also shown a lot of rust. No one can say anything negative about this kid. He came back early because he knew his team needed him to be on the court for them to succeed. He's out there giving it his all and the Thunder just wouldn't be where they are without him. Just his presence alone is good enough. A not so fully healthy and rusty Westbrook is better than having a lot of starting point guards in the league. Westbrook may be only shooting at 33 percent and averaging four turnovers but he's still basically in recovery from the injury that sidelined him in last year's playoffs. My hat goes off to Westbrook for his dedication to the game of basketball. Even if you don't like some players -- although I do like Westbrook -- you have to respect their passion. Derrick Rose is basically in the same position and playing even worse but I know that in due time he'll be back in the MVP talk. Things can only get better Westbrook from here on out.
1. Kevin Durant - Grade: A
Here's the no brainer. Kevin Durant is a first-class athlete and he always passes the test. It was hard not to give him an A+ but I know that the best is yet to come from the yearly MVP candidate. 30.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and four assist a game is nothing short of grade A ballin'. While some writers and websites have him ranking second in the MVP race, he's clearly been deserving of the number one spot. LeBron James is averaging more assists than him but that'd be about it; yet somehow this guy still leads the pack. Being overlooked will only add fuel to a fire that's already burning hot. Durant is one of those players that is constantly getting better; I wouldn't be surprised if he nabs his fourth scoring title in five years. Durant will tell you himself that those stats and accolades are great but winning is the only thing that matters. He has more desire within himself to win that elusive NBA championship that was once in arms reach.
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