Blogtable: Are Thunder a great team?

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


BLOGTABLE: Are Thunder a great team? | Deciphering LeBron’s cryptic messages? |
More dangerous sleeper playoff team — Hornets or Blazers?



VIDEOInside the NBA’s experts dissect the Thunder

> After a loss last week, Kevin Durant said the Thunder want to be a great team, but they’re fooling themselves. My question for you: Are the Thunder a great team, or are they fooling themselves?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: You can’t be a great team with a middling defense (19th in points allowed, 13th in Defensive Rating). Nor can you be great when you’re 0-3 against the Warriors. Now, with two Alpha Males like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on your squad, you are always close to great. But until and unless the Thunder figures out how to incorporate everyone on offense on a consistent basis, I see the same ending coming in May. Of late, it looks like OKC is making a more concerted effort to get Serge Ibaka, for example, more shots (double figure attempts in his last 10 games). That’s a step in the right direction.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWe throw around the word “great” way too easily. No, this OKC team isn’t “great.” There are two “great” teams this season, which is one or two more than most seasons, and one of them – San Antonio – could slip from that perch if a priority on resting players for the postseason chews up the final week or two of the regular season. If the Spurs were to knock off the Warriors, they still might wrest the “great team” title away from Golden State. But if the Thunder ends up winning the title, they’ll be known as the surprisingly good upstart team that upset the two powerhouses in the West.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The Thunder have been fooling themselves for a while. They are an incomplete team with two great players and even with the splendid individual talent of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that’s a recipe not likely to win a championship in the age of the Warriors and Spurs. For an “elite team” they cough up fourth-quarter leads because their offense relies almost exclusively on Durant and Westbrook to make big shots late. Too many other players around them with limited skills at one end of the court or the other. That’s quite dangerous on any given night, but that formula just doesn’t add up to 16 wins through the playoffs.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com Neither. They are not a great team. But they could become very good in time for the playoffs, where greatness is truly established. That’s the potential, not where they are now. The Thunder are definitely not fooling themselves, though. Durant and coach Billy Donovan, two of the critical voices in the locker room, have not hidden from the reality that OKC has been inconsistent much of the season, even when piling up wins the first half of the season, and that it has been getting exposed since the schedule turned tough. This team is struggling in some ways, but the ability to live in reality is not one of them.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: We must first define greatness before giving an answer. Is greatness the 1986 Boston Celtics? How about this season’s Warriors and Spurs, are they the benchmark for greatness? Then no, compared to the teams above in the West, OKC is merely very good at the moment and therefore fooling itself. But the Thunder have the potential to be in that class and anyone who doesn’t think so is fooling themselves. It comes down to whether OKC can play some D when it counts, and if Billy Donovan can convince his stars to occasionally chill with the one-on-one and play team ball in the crunch and be less predictable. Two very big ifs.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey’re a very good team, but they’re a clear step below the Warriors and Spurs. Their offense gets too Russ-and-KD heavy, with little ability to adapt, down the stretch of close games. But defense, especially when they go to their bench, is their real problem. They rank 14th on that end and 25th since late January. They have matched up well with the Spurs over the last several years, so Saturday’s game in San Antonio will be telling. But I’d believe in them more if they could play their starting lineup, which has been the best high-usage lineup in the league, 48 minutes a game.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Great team? Not exactly. Very good team? Absolutely. And I agree with KD: they are fooling themselves if they think playing the way they have, particularly against the other very good and great teams, is going to get it done. The Thunder’s flaws get exposed far too often for me to believe they are title ready. And I still need to see them involve some of their role players at critical moments. It’s always on KD and Russell Westbrook to rescue the Thunder when things get tight. Leaning that hard on your superstars will get you to a certain point, but you need to have other guys to fill in the gaps and make plays, on both ends, in order to take that next step.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: They have great talent. Are they a great team? That’s one of those questions to be answered in hindsight only. Just because they have the talent and the potential doesn’t make them comparable to the Warriors or Spurs — the only way for OKC to be great is to prove it.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThey are, obviously, a pretty good team. While their numbers are good, particularly offensively, to me the Thunder are a great example of the value of the eye test — despite a new coach and new philosophies, they seem to still end up going one-on-one and taking questionable shots at the end of games. (Unrelated but related: I don’t understand how a guy as big and athletic as Serge Ibaka is averaging fewer rebounds per game than Russell Westbrook.) I like the addition of Randy Foye, but I don’t think this team can get to that next level without major philosophical changes.

9 Comments

  1. dave says:

    the thunder are missing that third spoke to the wheel…and that guy plays in houston now…. what they weren’t willing to do back then,,, they did this year paying canter and the lux tax…. once they let that guy go to houston the window opened up again for my boyz (SPURS)… WAR SPURS. 2 THINGS: 2 VS 5 ALWAYS LOSES…. AND YOU CANT PLAY TEAM DEFENSE IF YOUR TEAM IS NOT COMPLETE….

  2. walter says:

    To improve their defense , the Thunder should start telling Westbrook that stats aren’t the most important thing out there. Don’t get me wrong Westbrook is great, however his quest for stat stuffing is really hurting their defense. You can constantly find him below the basket on defense to grab the rebound. Newsflash: The thunder have better rebounders and better interior defenders.

  3. Great team…but cant beat the warriors lol

  4. taekayo says:

    OKC started years ago with phenomenal growth among its core (KD, Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden, Green), then Green and Harden have to move forward. KD and Westbrook have gotten way better individually since. However, the team was also plagued by injuries, on both KD and Westbrook. Then there was also a change in coaching. The past years since their 1st finals appearance was just a roller coaster I guess to build that real identity instead of just having a KD-Westbrook team. The new guys can’t contribute on a consistent basis, and even Ibaka’s role as third man somewhat has gone limbo. We can’t blame everyone for putting too much pressure for this young team to be among the elite, because of the talent of those two. I just guess they just need to have another injury-free season, so they can establish their identity, and have everyone on board regarding their roles both on offense and defense.

  5. I am not as much a Thunder fan, as I am a Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook fan. I know everyone is saying that these 2 guys are carrying the team, but what about Serge Ibaka? It used to be the 3 of them. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t get at least 10 rebounds and 10 points per night. Sometimes, he gets little rebounds and no points at all. I think this team should be dismantled, I hate to say that, but they just don’t play very well together anymore.

  6. Seattlesonicfan45 says:

    Most of these writers are right. Westbrook and Durant are some of the best players in the league but okc replies too heavily on them. You need all 5 players on the floor clicking to be successful. Why else couldn’t they win against GS this year? They lead most of the games but gs still came on top. Even though they have curry and thompson they still have a deep roster to depend on. Keep your heads up okc fans your time will come!

  7. Edward Diener says:

    You can’t win championships playing 2 on 5 basketball in the NBA. Nobody ever has and probably no one ever will. Other teams just load up on Durant and Westbrook in the clutch and the other three players on the floor, other then setting picks, might as well be picking daisies for all the good it does them when crunch time comes.

    I put this on the coach rather than on Durant and Westbrook themselves. Oklahoma needs a coach like Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich or Doc Rivers or Pat Riley or Steve Kerr or whoever is given authority to lay down the law of how championships are won. They’ve all had some pretty talented and headstrong players and they have all won championships because they’ve been able to convince those players that the NBA championship trophy is more important than individual stats. Unless Billy Donovan can convince Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, arguably the most physically talented players in the NBA at their respective positions, that sacrificing their numbers for the good of the team and possibly winning an NBA championship is more important than their own individual glory, OKC will never win it all. Especially in the west where there are 3 other very good teams, with one of them clearly being one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

  8. He's wrong says:

    Barkley spoke about the Clippers a little too early in this video. If CP3 is as great of a leader as Barkley said, he would’ve seen this video and avoid the 17pts deficit in a game a few days later. Is Barkley off the clippers wagon now?

  9. Amitpal says:

    The thunder don’t have enough two way players to play like a team. Most guys are either good on one end or the other. Warriors and San Antonio are loaded with two way players.