Russell Westbrook being out of the lineup on Sunday night for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s matchup with the Dallas Mavericks didn’t do the team any favors. Neither did the fact that Kevin Durant shot just 8-20 from the floor on the night. Unsurprisingly, those were two big factors in the Thunder getting blown out by Dallas by a score of 109-86.
However, it wasn’t the stars that were the cause for concern for one of the NBA’s best teams, but was instead the contributions of their role players that were worrisome. With Durant not at his normal level of efficiency and with Westbrook out, Oklahoma City’s role players failed to deliver in a time when they needed to.
Outside of Durant, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, the Thunder’s role players shot a combined 9-32 from the field and 3-17 from long-range. You could call it just an off night for the Thunder’s role players, which is part of the case. However, this game really relays the importance of OKC’s role players being able to perform well down the stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.
Jackson will obviously be huge for this team coming off of the bench when Westbrook is in the lineup as he’s easily their most reliable role player and bench player. However, it’s guys on the wings like Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones and the newly acquired Caron Butler that will be the biggest factors in a possible run at a title.
Though these guys have all had success at times this season, the Thunder’s role players have been maddeningly inconsistent this year. For this team to reach their maximum potential, they are going to have to develop some kind of stability. Whether that means one guy of the group stepping up consistently or the group stepping up as a whole doesn’t matter; what does matter is that they are able to produce.
Obviously any team with a healthy Westbrook and Durant, as well as Ibaka, is going to be competitive in the postseason. However, it’s their role players that could potentially swing whether or not they capture a championship or not.