Blogtable: Are The Thunder Cooked?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 27: Thunder’s chances | Will Lakers contend next season? | Boston relevancy

The Thunder without Russell Westbrook: Is OKC’s chance at a title done?

Steve Aschburner: I didn’t think they could get past Miami regardless, but yes, this clinches it. The potential for breakout offensive mayhem that Westbrook always has embodied is just one reason. The energy dip of Oklahoma City overall without him on the floor is another. But I see a third one — the Heat or whomever OKC plays going forward in the West bracket won’t have to work as hard defensively, conserving more energy themselves for their own attacks. Meanwhile, defenses can load up on Kevin Durant as never before. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the absence of James Harden this postseason (well, till now).

Fran Blinebury: Westbrook’s loss doesn’t mean the Thunder’s chances are completely wiped out. But it does make the margin for error as narrow as the edge of a razor.  With Kevin Durant playing at his max level, they still need guys like Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher to have very, very good nights. They were always going to be underdogs to Miami if they got to The Finals. Now, I don’t believe they can get there.

Jeff Caplan: There will be no parade in Oklahoma City come June. Not that OKC was getting past Miami anyway, but they were my pick to at least get back to the NBA Finals. Russell Westbrook just brings more intensity to both ends than can be sufficiently replaced by the current roster. We’ve seen the offense completely stagnate at times in two games at Houston, and the Thunder will see much better better defenses than the Rockets.

Russell Westbrook (by Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Russell Westbrook (by Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

John Schuhmann: Yes. Right now, the Thunder are playing a team that ranked 16th defensively, and they’ve still scored at a pretty efficient rate in the last two games. But they will likely be facing a top-3 defensive team either in the next round (Memphis) or in the conference finals (San Antonio). And it’s when you face a great defensive team in the playoffs that you really miss your second scorer (just ask the Knicks). Those teams will take away your first option and make you beat them with secondary scorers and secondary plays. The Thunder will also miss those easy transition buckets that Westbrook gets. Of course, they never had much of a chance against the Heat (who have beat them six straight times) anyway.

Sekou Smith: They were not my pick to win a title with a healthy Westbrook, so there was nothing to kill, so to speak. It’s hard to imagine the Thunder running through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference playoff race and then facing off with the Miami Heat (or whoever comes out of the East) and winning it all without Westbrook. They couldn’t get past the Heat with Kevin Durant, Westbrook and James Harden last year. This notion that Durant will be able to get back to that point and beyond this season without the other two seems a bit far-fetched to me. That’s too much heavy lifting for a lone superstar in this day and age.

Lang Whitaker: To channel Lloyd Christmas, So you’re telling me there’s a chance? Sure the Thunder have a chance to return to The Finals without Russell Westbrook, but there’s obviously a much slimmer margin of error. And as awesome as Kevin Durant can be, when defenses load up and send everyone after him, at some point guys like Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher are going to have to start knocking down the mid- and long-range jumpers they were missing against Houston in Game 4.


  1. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I apologize if I’m commenting too much (I’m not even sure how many of my posts get past moderation), but I’d like to make one more point.

    OKC is capable of defeating Miami in a 7-game series.

    Last sason, the Clippers defeated the Grizzlies. This year, the Grizzlies defeated the Clippers (even without Rudy Gay). Last year, Miami defeated OKC. This year, the Thunder could defeat the Heat in a possible Finals rematch (even without Russell Westbrook).

    Interesting dynamic, yes???

  2. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    You know, there’s a lot of people that don’t think the Thunder are going to go very far without the almighty Russell Westbrook, but guess what????

    It’s hard to imagine Memphis, San Antonio, or Golden State defeating a Thunder team that has Kevin Durant. Yes, the Thunder aren’t “as good” without Westbrook, but I just don’t see those other 3 teams defeating the Thunder in a 7-game series. I just can’t see it happening. I don’t see it.

    Maybe people like Charles Barkley predict Memphis will defeat the Thunder in a series. But let’s face it. Yes, Memphis is a great team, but without the likes of Rudy Gay, they are quite a bit predictable. Yes, Conley was awesome in game 2, but good luck getting a triple-double again.

    Yes, Memphis won the season-series against OKC 2-1. But one of those regular season games was hugely because Rudy Gay (before they traded him) got hot offensively. Well, the almighty Rudy Gay isn’t there anymore.

    Memphis doesn’t have enough firepower to match OKC, overall. If they still had Gay, they would be a lot scarier. But expect OKC to win this series. It may be a long series, but OKC has this one in the bag.

    Despite critics, OKC will reach the 2013 NBA Finals. It’s extremely hard to imagine the Kevin Durant-led Thunder NOT returning to the Finals.

  3. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I must say in the West … the most exciting West Conf. Finals would have the Golden State Warriors vs. the OKC Thunder.

    Memphis and the Spurs are great teams … but let’s face it … the Thunder and Warriors are funner to watch. The Thunder and Warriors are more explosive, offensively. Without Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies are a little predictable. The Spurs have a lot of knock-down shooters, but their offense just isn’t at the same level as the Warriors.

  4. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    You can’t judge the SAS very well after receiving that GIFT (the subpar LA Lakers in the first round).

    Now, they face a true challenge in the Warriors.

    The LA LAKERS never should’ve been in the playoffs, to begin with.

    Warriors, Grizzlies, and Thunder all were truly tested in the first round.

    Miami and the Spurs had long layoffs and the Spurs weren’t really tested.

    Roll that red carpet out for the THUNDER!!

  5. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    The interesting positive that could come out of this … Westbrook sometimes gets criticized for taking too many shots.

    Well, now we definitely don’t have to worry about that sort of thing. Westbrook is awesome, but now Durant can take as many shots as needed. Meanwhile, other Thunder players have stepped up as well to fill the void.

    Durant is averaging close to 35 PPG, getting more rebounds, and stepping it up defensively.

    Durant will lead the Thunder back to the Finals.

    ANYONE who thinks differently … may need to seriously reconsider. Durant is the best scorer we’ve seen since Michael Jordan.

  6. Katerina says:

    Just wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity on your submit is simply cool and that i can suppose you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Well together with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep up to date with drawing close post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  7. The Thunder’s ceiling prior to the Westbrook injury was a trip to the finals and a consecutive finals loss to the Heat. Now a good showing would be losing in 7 games in the 2nd round … That is of course if the get past the Rockets who are looking to be the first team in NBA history to come back from 0-3 to win a 7 game playoff series

  8. DonJulio says:

    OKC is done. It is quite a shame considering their accomplishments from the year. Primarily, they suffer from three major deficiencies (outside of the Westbrook injury).

    1. Kendrick Perkins is a joke. Owner of an absurd contract that was given before he showed his true colors. Honestly, Jeff Green’s offense would be much more productive to Perkin’s “defense and intensity”. It was a horrible trade and Green even had major medical issues. Perkins has unfortunately wasted his life. Somebody lied to him and told him he could play basketball. Leadership in the locker room in the coach’s job. Just because he was part of a Celtic’s team that had Pierce, Garnett, and Allen does not make him a champion. It just makes him lucky. He may be the worst NBA player I have ever seen. If I had the chance to play him 1 on 1, I would, and I would wager his entire career earnings against mine. He would lose 21-4. And I would consult him later on other career opportunities. He is poop.

    2. Derek Fisher needs to retire. How he is on the OKC roster is beyond belief. He is older than some coaches.

    3. Kevin Martin. How do you go from a number one option to forgetting how to play basketball? He is a lump that needs to be checked out. No aggression, no defense. What a douche.

    Here’s how you fix it. First, bench everyone of note (Durant, Ibaka, Collison, Jackson, etc). Lose the first series to the Rockets. It wasnt like you were going to win the Finals anyways. Plus you have the Westbrook excuse. Tell Perkins to drive a car into a wall. If he is paralyzed, he might be a better defender. Second, fire Scott Brooks. He might be the worst head coach in the game. Third, please please amnesty Kendrick Brickens and draft a big man. Yes, I know the draft is weak. But Perkins is weak too. A Len, Plumlee, Zeller would be just what the doc ordered for this team for 2014 and beyond.

    • aktriple says:

      so im guessing that your an angry lakers fan or something?
      stop telling everyone what a great player perkins is and what a great coach you think scott brooks is.
      you don’t have to put up stats in order to be effective, scott brooks is the best coach in the league behind george karl and pop, martin is an offensive player hes not a defender, and fisher is clutch shooting veteran presence and leadership
      oh and i would smash you 1v1

      so please have a nice day and dig a hole- aktriple

  9. SPURSCOYOTE says:

    Everyone is forgetting the only reason OKC got to where they were is because their management team came from the SPURS front office.. They applied the same principle the SPURS organization have been applying for a long time. A lot of managers that are now in the NBA came from the SPURS organization and have moved on and became successful. Everyone talks about the LAKERS, OKC, MIAMI, MEMPHIS about how they’re going to beat Miami. It’s all non-sense. The sports media never talk about the SPURS team who’s been consistent all year long. Coach POP I think is one of the premier coach in the league. Having said that, the SPURS will come out winning the WCF and will move on to beat MIAMI. Even tho TImmy is old He’s shown a remarkable reslience together with Tony and Manu. So I think this year they’re going to add the 5th title to their belt.. END OF STORY…..

  10. Kimmy says:

    Leave OKC alone! They are a winning team who has lost a key player to injury. This can happen to any team. Nobody can get past the Heat this year. So OKC is not alone. Maybe next year. Go Thunder!!!!

  11. zgillet says:

    I remember everyone blaming Westbrook for the Thunder’s losses last year.

    • amitpal says:

      Who blamed westbrook? The blame was on james harden and serge ibaka for not showing up in the finals. Westbrook was blamed for being a bit of a ballhog last year which he deserved. I think thid year hes done a much much bettet job at playing under control and not being a ballhog.

      • OKCKD35 says:

        everyone blamed westbrook, questioned him as a PG, his shot selection, his aggressiveness, it was one of the biggest stories in last years playoffs, in which RW proved them all wrong, before he was hurting the team, now we cant play without him? Which is it? These writers are more fairweather than Lakers fans who are now rooting for the clippers

  12. DesiOnTheLoose says:

    Grizzlies will Sweep the Spurs in the WCF, I guarantee it.

  13. Sansby says:

    What makes you think they will make it to the next round??? Rockets could win the rest of the games left.. REDNATION!!!!

  14. Gettiing better says:

    Okc is playing with the same group less WB,Harden,Cook,Mohamad. These guys contributed a lot last year! What is the point for recruiting new players and making changes.Okc did not give jeremy Lamb and other guys to develope. Look at the Miami Heat, compare to last year, they have a better group now. What is Okc team management been thinking??

    • OKCKD35 says:

      are you really questioning the management that brought this team from a laughing stock to a contender in 3 years? Really? I hope you aren’t an OKC fan. If you are, please switch teams, thank you. that is all (developing Lamb would mean sitting JAckson, aren’t you glad they played Jackson this year? if anything I wish we held onto Eric Maynor

      • bigwes95 says:

        yes he is, but all he said was they didn’t much of a chance to play, that’s it. don’t take it too seriously, man. they should have kept maynor, considering they only played him around 5 minutes, really giving his a chance to get back into shape after surgery, right? and look what Thibs did for Chicago the first year he got there, a 40 win something team to the best record and getting D rose to actually play defense. everyone makes mistake, Thibs played rose too much and OKC isn’t letting some younger payers play more.

  15. Patty says:


  16. MJfromOKC says:

    Last year in the Finals the drive and kick to the perimeter killed us. Miami only got better. The Rockets beat us with the same tactic using worse shooters. Id like to finish the Rockets and then move onto the next series before I even think about Miami but no we cant do it, with Westbrook we would have had a decent chance at beating them like 30-40%.

    I dont see San Antonio beating them and thats no disrespect to the Spurs I think the Heat will three peat until after the 2013-2014 season when they will have to restructure the roster.

  17. Ro says:

    Haha Lang. What was all that one in a million talk?!
    They probly wont even get past San Antonio. Memphi might even knock them off. Durant will probly go off, but no one else can score their own buckets on that team. They all need to be set up by somebody. Too much for KD to do he’s not quite the distributor LBJ is.

    • amitpal says:

      For all the people those said thunder had no chance of beating the heat in the final, most of you guys didnt have dallas winning it all eitjer a few years ago. My point is the heat arent the champions yet. I think the spurs memphis and possibly a healthy clipper team can beat the heat. I wouldnt count out okc either of makong the finals. If serge ibaka and thebo stwp up I think they can. They just need time to adjust.

      • BJ says:

        I agree amitpal, SAS, MEM and a healthy Clipper team can beat MIA. Everyone believes the story and hype that its Miami and the rest of the NBA. Miami stands out in the east. the westcoast is a completely different monster. and with Westbrook hurt, I expect to see SAS go all the way. MEM will give SAS a run for their money for sure. but I think SAS will come out on top.

    • OKCKD35 says:

      sick of the articles on how OKC has no chance, they have lost 1 GAME by a very slim margin on the road. Next round OKC will face either Memphis or the clippers. Memphis plays good D, however last time we faced Memphis in the playoffs they had a guy by the name of Shane Battier playing Defense on KD. Yes RW is a big part of the team, however the remaining core IMO is suited well enough to advance through the West. ONCE AGAIN FOR ALL OF YOU “PROFESSIONAL WRITERS” how about you give them a chance to actually have a practice and make a game plan without Westbrook, everything so far has had to be on the fly, after the 1st round they will have a moment to re-group and come up with a game plan. Its funny to me how there we no articles about OKC when RW was healthy and they were winning, yet there were 5,000 about Kobe Tweeting, now that there is some adversity everyone is quick to jump on the “lets slam OKC bandwagon” and yes sekou we know OKC was not your pick because you hate on them all year long, we all know you love the Grizzlies and think they will be in the finals, NOT GONNA HAPPEN!

      • Tayshaun Prince says:

        there was a guy named me that stop kobe in the 2004 finAls

      • bigwes95 says:

        They did make a plan, it was fouling Asik enough for him to get a rhythm and start making shots. Scott Brooks is kind of a overrated coach, he’s good, but not as good as people think, he doesn’t make substitutes at the right time or when to change strategy. and tony allen and Prince are really good defenders if you don’t know that. and about the “lets slam the OKC bandwagon” thing, just imagine what it was like for Miami after losing the finals and getting bashed a lot harder than OKC ever was/is. this is nothing compared to what Miami faced. and why can’t Memphis go to the finals? everyone was counting them out and now they lead the series, if I remember right. and the there was 2 about kobe tweeting, but 8 or 9 about him getting injured. their were no articles because they haven’t gotten any better from last year like Miami has, like the best record, 27 game winning streak, winning every team in the league, their bench is a lot better than last year’s, and they’re all shooting a higher FG%, Lebron at 57% and Wade at 51%, and the 3PT% is just off the charts. And if KD scores less than 30 points then they’re basically going to lose now, and they only lost because Durant choked in that game, not because Houston actually won. KD scored only around 7 points for the fourth even with the game in the balance, not including his 7 turnovers, which is the result of not having a good playmaker like RW. so it does make it a little bit of a big deal considering they’re facing the youngest team in the league with very little playoff success, except harden of course.