5 Reasons Why the Oklahoma City Thunder Aren’t For Real in 2014
Breaking Down the Great Start of the Oklahoma City Thunder
In what seems to be an annual occurrence, the Oklahoma City Thunder have jumped out to an exceptional start over the first half of the NBA season as their 28-9 record places them in a tie with the Portland Trail Blazers for the second spot in the Western Conference. Attaining this record has looked rather easy for the Thunder as Kevin Durant has led the way for the team -- and the NBA for that matter -- with a league-leading 29.6 points per game.
But of course Durant has not done everything by himself, as Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb and Thabo Sefolosha have all provided a key threat either offensively or defensively for large portions of the season. When each of these guys is healthy and playing up to their potential the case can be made that the Thunder can stack up against any team in the NBA. But this does not mean they necessarily will when it comes playoff time.
Of course winning in the playoffs is all that really matters during the current season. After four straight seasons with at least a .610 winning percentage and no championships they are closely approaching the status of chokers come playoff time. Unfortunately for the Thunder and their fans, there is significant reason to believe they will yet again have a wonderful regular season and not have anything to show for it come playoff time.
But just making this claim would be foolish, so I have come up with five reasons that the Thunder are not for real during the 2013-14 season. These reasons include factors that are both inside and outside of the organization, but all of them will ultimately halt what looks to be a season for the ages on paper.
Undoubtedly there will be some people who disagree with my assessments, and to that extent I encourage you to leave a comment and engage in open-ended conversation.
5. Health of Russell Westbrook Is Questionable
Oklahoma City's biggest threat aside from Kevin Durant is undoubtedly Russell Westbrook, but unfortunately they have no idea what they will get from him moving forward. Since last April Westbrook has had three knee surgeries, including shortly after a Christmas Day win over the New York Knicks. Of course repeated injuries to the same knee is never a good sign, and after watching the Thunder go 5-4 since their point guard went down it is clear he is needed.
4. Too Many Turnovers
Currently the Thunder are tied for ninth in the NBA for team turnovers per game at 15.5, which simply is an unacceptable total. Key culprits of this have been Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who will all have to play heavy minutes to win a championship. Against teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat turning the ball over will be a deathblow, although changing trends like this mid-season is nearly impossible.
3. Offense Is too Reliant on Kevin Durant
While Kevin Durant is an absolutely phenomenal basketball player and can win single games by himself, it is clear the Thunder are too reliant on his services. An average of 19.2 shots per game does not seem extreme until consider that Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb average 19.6 shots per game together. If these shooters continue to receive half the shots that Durant does teams will immediately double-team the star, and past playoff series have shown this can stop him from producing efficiently.
2. They Are Weak at the Position of Center
When it comes to play down in the post there is no doubting that power forward Serge Ibaka is an absolute monster, but he really doesn't have a partner at the position of center. Kendrick Perkins has been absolutely brutal this year, averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game despite averaging 19.2 minutes on the court. Other options on the roster include Hasheem Thabeet, and Steven Adams, although neither has shown an ability to consistently be effective. As a result the Thunder will likely be dominated by other centers down low.
1. The Miami Heat are Still too Good
Ultimately to win the NBA Championship this season the Thunder will surely have to take down the Miami Heat, who just happen to have won two straight titles. The first of those two titles happened to be against Oklahoma City when they exposed the team through effective ball movement, good shooting and pure dominance from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. That trio may not always be great in the regular season, but there is no doubting they will step up come playoff time and be too much for the Thunder to handle if they did make the NBA Finals.