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NBA Saturday: Blatt is Right Hire for Cavaliers

The Cavaliers went the unconventional route to hire their next head coach, European icon David Blatt. Was it the right move?

Alex Kennedy

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Blatt is Right Hire for Cavaliers

Nine-year NBA veteran Anthony Parker wanted to make something clear before we started our conversation about David Blatt, the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two men go way back, since Blatt was the assistant coach who recruited Parker to Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2000 and coached him during some of the most successful years of his professional basketball career.

“I’m one of his biggest fans, so you’re not going to hear me say anything negative about him,” Parker said with a laugh. “If you’re looking for a balanced view of David Blatt, I’m the wrong guy to talk to.”

It’s understandable that Parker would sing Blatt’s praises and fully support his former coach. But after spending the last 24 hours talking to individuals familiar with Blatt – including those who have played for him, competed against him, worked alongside him or evaluated him from a distance – it turns out that Parker’s sentiment is the general consensus around the basketball world. Every single review of Blatt was glowing and finding someone who is willing to say something negative about the 55-year-old is nearly impossible since he is one of the most respected coaches on the planet.

Cleveland hired Blatt to become their new head coach on Friday, inking him to a four-year contract with an annual base salary of $3.33 million and incentives that could increase his yearly pay to $5 million. Some fans were confused by the decision to hire Blatt, as they had never heard of the international coach since he hasn’t played or coached in the NBA. However, the reaction from those in the know was overwhelmingly positive.

Over the last two decades, Blatt has established himself as one of the game’s best overseas coaches and he has a trophy case packed with international championships, Olympic medals and Coach of the Year awards to prove it. He turned around Russia’s national team, winning the 2007 Eurobasket championship and taking home a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. The word “genius” often gets thrown around when Blatt is being described, as he has a reputation for being an offensive mastermind and one of the best coaches in the world when it comes to game-planning and making adjustments.

Now, he’ll have the opportunity to coach on basketball’s biggest stage, leading a talented Cavaliers team that seems poised for success at some point in the very near future. Blatt explained his decision to coach in the NBA now as saying that it’s “the only challenge I have left.”

Parker, who played for the Cavaliers from 2009 to 2012 several years after leaving Maccabi Tel Aviv, is confident that Blatt will be able to duplicate his success in the NBA.

“I’ve gone on record as saying that he’s the best coach that I’ve played for,” Parker said of Blatt. “I also played for Larry Brown and Doc Rivers, but I don’t really count them in that just because I was on the bench and in street clothes for most of my time with them (laughs) so I never really got to play and experience that. But as far as everybody else, I’ve had great experiences with David. He has a great basketball mind and he’s very creative. I think one of the things that is special with David is his adaptability. You hear about coaches that have a specific style, where they go out and they need certain players to fit their style, but David is really able to adapt to his roster and kind of adjust and tailor the philosophies and strategies to the types of players that he has on the team. He’s had success with the Russian national team, with the teams in Israel, Russia and Italy and with the Olympics. He’s dealt with all kinds of different environments and competitions and rosters and cultures and stuff, but he’s successful. It’s because of how he’s able to adapt and create relationships and get players to buy in to his vision of the team. He’s done well.

“Some coaches have the ability to do the X’s and O’s, the strategies and the philosophies and they have that all ironed out, but they can’t really relate with the players, they can’t really communicate with the players and get them to buy in. Then, there are other coaches that are player coaches who can get players to buy in and have great relationships, but kind of fall short on the X’s and O’s side of things. What makes David unique, and what he has in common with a lot of the great basketball coaches in the world, is that he can do both. If you look at a lot of the coaches who have had long-term success, that’s something that they’re able to do. I think that’s his strength, that he’s able to do both of those things.”

In recent days, Cleveland had narrowed their coaching search to Blatt and former NBA player Tyronn Lue, who has spent the last four years as an assistant coach under Doc Rivers on the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers. A number of teams were trying to hire Blatt as an assistant coach, including the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves, but he wanted to take the reins of his own team. When Cavaliers general manager David Griffin approached Blatt about the head coaching vacancy, he was determined to land the job.

“I feel strongly about my fit for the job and this team’s potential,” Blatt said in a statement. “This is an opportune time to join the Cleveland Cavaliers. We are going to work extremely hard to achieve the kind of results we all expect and know are possible.”

As Blatt pointed out, this was perfect timing for his transition to the NBA, since he’s coming off of an outstanding year. Blatt and Maccabi Tel Aviv completed the triple crown this year (winning the Euroleague, Israeli-League and State Cup), and he was named Coach of the Year as a result.

Former Florida Gators star Alex Tyus played for Blatt and Maccabi Tel Aviv last season. The 26-year-old, who was the MVP of Euroleague for the month of April and made the Israeli League’s All-First Team, wasn’t shocked that Blatt was able to use his success as a springboard for an NBA job.

“We had one of the best seasons in European history,” Tyus said. “We won the triple crown – we won the Israeli Cup, the Israeli League Championship and the Euroleague – which was an amazing experience. It was not a bad year at all (laughs). We won everything.

“I wasn’t surprised to see him become an NBA coach. I’ve never had a coach like him before; he’s just different in terms of how he is off the court and as a player’s coach. He has a totally different approach and it makes you comfortable as a player. I know a lot of guys struggle overseas with different coaches and the European mentality, but he’s definitely different. Even when I look back to high school and college, I think he probably relates to players better than any other coach I’ve ever had. I’m not surprised [he’s getting this opportunity]. I could really see him doing well in the NBA. I’ve always thought of him as an NBA coach.If you’re all in and you’re willing to do anything to help the team win, you’re one of the guys that he really likes and he’s the best coach. He garners a lot of respect from players, and from everyone in Europe. He’s won at a high level in Europe for a long time, and he connects very well with players. He understands our mindset. He can relate to players, and I also think he’s a great guy. He cares about his players and if you’re one of his guys, he’ll really go to bat for you and help you out a lot.”

Around the NBA, many executives applauded Cleveland’s hire and felt that bringing in Blatt is a dare-to-be-great move that could really pay off for them in the long run.

“Cleveland deserves a lot of credit for hiring a guy that a lot of other teams have always liked, but have been afraid to take the plunge on,” said a Western Conference executive. “It’s also a smart move because if Blatt had become an assistant coach with the Warriors, after one or two years he could have become a guy who would have his pick of jobs. He is a brilliant and competitive coach who will definitely be an improvement over Mike Brown. But, of course, there will be challenges as part of the transition process. For example, he is maybe the best game-planner in the world, but now he has a lot more games to worry about and much less time to plan for them. There is a lot of work to do in Cleveland, to fix the culture, which would be a challenge for anyone. The upside though is that if they become a playoff team, Blatt has proven to be the rare coach that can outcoach his opponent when he has time to prepare. In the NBA, this could make him a coach that can steal a playoff series.”

Although hesitant to make the following comparison because he didn’t want to put too much pressure on his former coach, Parker feels that Blatt is very similar to San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

“I think the best comparison is Popovich,” Parker said. “I hate to say that because of the timing of it after the kind of year that the Spurs had and what they’ve done for almost two decades now. But in terms of the coaching style, I mean his teams move the ball, they pass, there’s spacing, they keep it open and, like I said, David tailors his offense based on his roster, similar to what the Spurs have done and the evolution that they’ve kind of undergone since Tim Duncan has been in the league. You see him kind of getting on guys and holding guys accountable, but you won’t ever hear those players saying anything bad about Pop. I think that David is able to walk that line as well. I just hesitate to say Popovich just because of everything that comes along with saying that name and comparing the two. It’s almost like when people are comparing players and say, ‘Oh, he’s the next Michael Jordan.’”

Like Popovich, opposing players dreaded having to face Blatt’s teams.

“I never played for him, but I played a lot against him and I think he has all the abilities to be successful in the NBA,” Dallas Mavericks guard Gal Mekel said of Blatt. “He won every title possible in Europe, he has a great basketball IQ and he always gets the most out of his players.”

“He’s a great dude, he’s literally a genius and he has a lot of ambition,” CSKA Moscow guard Aaron Jackson said. “He is on top of the world – deep young team with the number one draft pick and Kyrie Irving.”

Blatt will inherit a Cavaliers squad that won just 33 games last season, missing the playoffs in the depleted Eastern Conference. However, the roster features young talent such as Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev (who played for Blatt on Russia’s national team) and whoever the team selects with the No. 1 overall pick in next week’s draft.

“If anyone can [maximize Cleveland’s potential], it’s him,” Parker said. “I think one of the key things with David is he’s able to relate to players and get them to buy in. With the Cavaliers, I think there’s definitely talent on the roster, but getting players to buy in, believe in the vision, come together and play as a team is the key, as it is anywhere. But I think it’s a good situation for him because he definitely has talent to work with there. It’s not a situation where he has to wait for two or three years to get players to be able to do anything with. I think that he’ll hit the ground running there and they have the ability to make some noise, so we’ll see.”

“I think he’ll do a great job regardless of who’s there,” Tyus said. “He does well with what he has to work with. He’s the type of coach, especially playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, where management always had a lot of say on the players that they brought in, so he always had to work with guys that he maybe didn’t necessarily want. That’s a whole European thing; I don’t know if NBA teams work like that too. But he’s always done a good job of having good teams and getting the best out of his players, regardless of who they are and I think that that’s something that’s going to help him out a lot right away playing with Cleveland. He does a great job of adjusting. We played a lot of four-out, one-in [last season], and I know in the NBA that’s something that works sometimes. But I think he’s really good at adjusting to whoever his personnel is, so I think he’ll do well.”

While Blatt has drawn praise for his offensive strategies, Parker and Tyus feel that he’s a well-rounded coach who is equally effective on both ends.

“I think most people, maybe from the outside looking in, would say that his strength is on the offensive end of the ball,” Parker said. “I think that he gets a lot of credit for a lot of the innovative things that he has done offensively and some of the offensive sets that he’s put in that have worked out. Those get a lot of the attention, but he’s a defensive coach as well. I think he’s balanced. I don’t think that he’s light on either end.”

“You just have to be able to make an impact on the game in different ways; that’s something that Blatt really looks for,” Tyus said. “I would say that he’s really good at both offense and defense. He has a good balance. Defensively, he definitely wants his players to be able to guard their man and make plays because those are obviously the most important things defensive wise. And then on offense, he has a lot of good strategies and can use players to their strengths.”

The Cavaliers decided to think outside the box by hiring Blatt, making him the first NBA head coach to come straight from Europe. Only time will tell if Blatt can duplicate his success in the NBA, but the move certainly seems promising today.

Bulls Pursuing Magic’s Arron Afflalo

One name to keep an eye on this summer is Orlando Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who may be traded before the start of the 2014-15 season.

The Charlotte Hornets had previously been mentioned as a potential suitor for Afflalo and now the Chicago Bulls are pursuing the veteran shooting guard as well, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

Orlando is clearly rebuilding, which is why the 28-year-old is “very available.”

The Magic had a number of conversations about Afflalo prior to last year’s trade deadline, but ultimately held onto their swingman.

The Magic have the No. 4 and No. 12 picks in the 2014 NBA Draft, but they could be open to acquiring additional picks or young assets.

Chicago has the No. 16 and No. 19 picks in the draft, which could make them an intriguing trading partner for the Magic.

Last season, Afflalo had a career-year in Orlando, averaging 18.2 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting, which is why his trade value is at an all-time high.

His contract is also very attractive to teams, as he’ll make just $7.5 million in the 2014-15 season and then has an early termination option the following year or can opt in to another $7.5 million salary.

Chicago really struggled to score and shoot the ball last year, so their interest in Afflalo makes a lot of sense.

 

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Tyus Jones Thriving in Bigger Role

Minnesota’s Tyus Jones speaks to David Yapkowitz about his growing role with the Wolves.

David Yapkowitz

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It was the last game of the 2016-17 NBA season. The Minnesota Timberwolves had been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention for quite some time. Their opponent that night, the Houston Rockets, had an impressive year and were on their way to the postseason.

Although the Wolves would go on to lose that game, 123-118, Tyus Jones came off the bench to have to his best game of the year. He would finish with 17 points on 66.7 percent shooting from the field, 75 percent from the three-point line, seven assists, four rebounds, two steals, and a blocked shot.

Jones had just finished up his second year in the NBA, which had gone a little bit just like his first; a few games played here and there followed by some DNP-CD’s. Rookie Kris Dunn was ahead of him on the depth chart at backup point guard for the majority of the year. That stat line he put up on the last night of the season, however, should have been a sign of things to come.

Now in his third year, and second playing under Tom Thibodeau, Jones has firmly seized the backup point guard spot. Thibodeau is notorious for playing short rotations, and along with Jamal Crawford and Gorgui Dieng, Jones has solidified himself as one of Minnesota’s most dependable reserves.

“It’s been good, I’m just trying to contribute to the team as much as possible,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I want to do whatever I need to do to help this team win more games.”

The Timberwolves have done just that so far. They won 31 games all of last season. This year, they already have 16 wins. They didn’t break that mark last season until mid-January. Jones’ impact on the Wolves this year has been a big reason for that.

His stats may not jump off the page; he’s averaging 3.9 points per game on 42.5 percent shooting, and 2.8 assists in about 17 minutes of play. But he’s become a reliable floor leader who is able to anchor the Wolves second unit. He’s also one of their best floor spacers at 38.2 percent from the three-point line, and he’s an improved defensive player.

“For me, having a little bit bigger role this year, it’s what I wanted,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “I’m just trying to make the most of it and take advantage of it.”

Jones has definitely taken advantage of his new role. Starting point guard Jeff Teague missed four games last month due to a sore right Achilles tendon. Aaron Brooks started in place of Teague for the first game he missed, but Jones was the starter for the next three.

In his first ever career start on Nov. 26 in a win over the Phoenix Suns, Jones had nine points on 50 percent shooting, four rebounds, seven assists, seven steals, and two blocks. The following game, albeit in a loss to the Washington Wizards, he finished with 12 points, four rebounds, and seven assists. In his final start before Teague returned, a win over the New Orleans Pelicans, he had his best game of the season with 16 points on 66.7 percent shooting, four rebounds, six assists, and four steals.

“It was a dream, I’m just trying to make the most of it,” Jones told Basketball Insiders about being a starter. “Once again, take advantage of the opportunity and just do my role.”

Although Jones only spent one season playing college basketball before entering the NBA draft, it was the program he attended that’s allowed him to make a seamless transition. He played at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski during the 2014-15 season, winning a national championship alongside fellow NBA players Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Quinn Cook.

“It’s the best program in the country. Coach K is the best coach, arguably ever, to coach the game,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “There’s nothing comparable on the college level, playing at Duke. They’re the brightest lights, so that helps prepare you for the next level.”

The Wolves are a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in over a decade. It was the 2003-04 season, to be exact. This year, however, they are hoping to change that. They currently sit in fourth place in the Western Conference, fighting for the right to host a playoff series in the first round.

“We’re trying to make the playoffs, that’s our goal right now,” Jones told Basketball Insiders. “Each year, we’re trying to get better. We’re still trying to take that next step. This organization hasn’t been to the playoffs in a number of years.”

With Jones playing a pivotal role, the Wolves’ playoff drought looks like it will be coming to an end very shortly.

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NBA Most Valuable Player Watch — 12/12/17

Dennis Chambers updates the latest MVP watch rankings.

Dennis Chambers

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The NBA season is coming in hot on Christmas Day games, and before we know it the new year will arrive as well. As the second half of the season starts to come into sight, more stability among the league’s MVP candidates will prevail.

By now, most of the frontrunners for the award have staked their claim of consistent dominance over the last eight weeks of the NBA season.

For our list here at Basketball Insiders, the same names make up our ladder from the last MVP race installment. A slight juggling of the order is the only new wrinkle. Thus far, these individuals have put themselves ahead of the pack.

A full season in the NBA is a long race, but through the first few laps, these are the MVP leaders.

stockdown456. Steph Curry (Last Week: 3)

Coming in at No. 3 on the last list, Steph Curry sees a bit of a tumble in the standings. Unfortunately for Curry, he’s suffering from a sprained ankle that is going to cause him to miss some time. Fortunately for the Golden State Warriors, they’ve won three straight games without their star point guard.

This doesn’t discredit the type of season Curry is having, or his brilliance on the court when he’s healthy, but the fact that the Warriors have enough firepower to sustain his absence damages his claim to the most “valuable” player throne.

Nevertheless, for the Warriors to truly fulfill their championship potential, Curry needs to be healthy and playing. Otherwise, the Warriors aren’t as lethal as they could be.

Barring a complete meltdown from his ball club, Curry’s spot will likely continue to drop slightly as he sits on the bench watching his team win games without him.

stockup455. Joel Embiid (Last Week: 6)

Almost the exact opposite of Curry, the Philadelphia 76ers don’t seem to have a prayer at winning basketball games that Joel Embiid sits out of. Luckily for the city of Philadelphia, though, that hasn’t been nearly frequent of an occurrence as past seasons.

The on/off numbers for Embiid are staggering. On both ends of the court, no less. Without their big man, the Sixers’ offensive rating drops off by more than five points and their defensive rating sees a 10-point spike in favor of their opponents.

In short, it’s worse for the Sixers when Embiid is tweeting rather than playing.

After missing back-to-back games over the weekend, Embiid’s value became more apparent to the Sixers. Among a myriad of injuries, Embiid’s was felt the heaviest as his team posted a defensive rating of 111.6 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and then a 130.2 the next night to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Both figures are a far cry from the 102.9 rating the team records with Embiid on the floor.

Much like Curry, the Sixers will need Embiid on the court moving forward to live their best life. So long as he is resting on back-to-backs, or sitting with back soreness, the Sixers won’t be as fortunate as the Warriors to pull out wins.

stockup454. Kyrie Irving (Last Week: 5)

Masked Kyrie joined Untucked Kyrie this season as another alter ego capable of taking the NBA and Twitter by storm on a nightly basis.

Irving, despite suffering an injury to his face that forced him to wear a protective mask a la Rip Hamilton, still has the Boston Celtics atop the league standings with his MVP campaign so far this season. Over Irving’s last 10 games, he’s averaging 25.8 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. Over the course of that same span, the Celtics are 7-3.

Just to strengthen his already solid MVP claim, the Celtics went into Chicago Monday night to play the Bulls without Irving, as he sat out of the game with a quad contusion. All the league’s best team preceded to do was lose 108-85 to the league’s worst team.

At this point in the season, MVP candidates have their statistics in place. As viewers and fans, we really get to see the difference they make on their teams during the games that they aren’t playing, and Monday night for the Celtics was a microcosm of Irving’s season-long importance to the success of their team.

stockup453. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Last Week: 4)

The Greek Freak is still putting up absurd numbers, keeping him right in the conversation for Most Valuable Player. On top of his gaudy production, the Milwaukee Bucks are starting to pile up some wins as well.

Winning six of their last seven games — the only loss coming to the Celtics where Antetokounmpo put up 40 points, nine rebounds, and four assists — the Bucks currently hold a 15-10 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s been well-documented up to this point how effective Antetokounmpo is for Milwaukee from a numbers standpoint. If he can really start translating those performances into wins over good teams, the narrative of him winning the award may begin to revert back the dominance it held over the first few weeks of the season.

As it currently stands, though, Antetokounmpo is ahead of the rest of the pack before a pretty sizeable gap at the two spots above him.

stocknochanges452. LeBron James (Last Week: 2)

After having his Cavaliers’ 13-game win streak snapped by an unconscious Victor Oladipo, LeBron James returned to business as usual by defeating the shorthanded Sixers without Kevin Love by his side. He did so in typical Year 15 fashion, posting 30 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, and three steals.

No big deal.

That’s the mantra for James’ 15th year in the NBA: Do it all, and do it well. He doesn’t have the supporting cast that many projected coming into this season, and Irving is out doing his thing in Boston. But for the King of the NBA, after a month of rough basketball, he seems to be figuring it all out for his club and putting them in the positions they need to be in to be successful.

Since the start of Cleveland’s winning streak up until the game against Philadelphia, James is averaging 27.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, 55 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

His team is 14-1, Irving is in Boston, and Isaiah Thomas is on the bench.

Year 15 may very well end with James getting MVP number five.

stocknochanges451. James Harden (Last Week: 1)

The only man standing between James and his fifth MVP is the man who’s setting the league on fire trying to get his first.

James Harden is recreating his stellar season from a year ag but improving it, somehow. Harden’s averages are incredible: 32 points, 9.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 40 percent from downtown, and a 31.6 player efficiency rating.

Not to mention he’s led the Houston Rockets to a 21-4 record, and looks to be a real threat at knocking off the Golden State Warriors.

What Harden is doing on the defensive end is what is brining his game, and his MVP case, to the next level. Harden is posting his lowest defensive rating is four years and coming up big on D in crunch time situations.

On Monday night against the Pelicans, Harden came up with a clutch steal with under a minute to go (his sixth of the night) to extinguish a New Orleans rally and put the icing on his 26-point, 17-assist performance.

LeBron may be having an MVP season, even by his standards, but Harden’s performance this year thus far is keeping the King at arms length of the MVP crown.

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NBA DAILY: What Is Really Wrong With The Thunder?

The Thunder continue to struggle to string together wins. What’s the problem in OKC?

Steve Kyler

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At Some Point It Just Doesn’t Work

The Oklahoma City Thunder continue to be middling, despite having the star level talent it takes in the NBA to be exceptional. With the clock ticking in the wrong direction, is it more likely that this combination of players won’t work, or is there something bigger at play worth considering?

Before we dive too far into this, keep in mind the Thunder have played their 26th game, and are just a half a game out of the eighth spot in the West. Equally, they are also three and a half games behind the fourth-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves, so the sky is far from falling. In fact, they have won four of their last six games, including wins over the Spurs and Timberwolves, which only makes the Jekyll and Hyde of all of this even more frustrating.

All of that said, what’s really wrong with the Thunder? Here are some thoughts:

Not Enough Touches

The Oklahoma City Thunder are dead last in the NBA in touches per game as a team at 384. To contrast that number, the Philadelphia 76ers lead the league in touches at 480.9 touches per game.

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook accounts for 94.4 touches per game, while forward Carmelo Anthony accounts for 61.3 touches with swingman Paul George bringing in 56.0 touched per game. Those three players account for 211.7 of the Thunders 384 touches per game.

That’s not as bad as you would think watching the Thunder play, but what it does illustrate is that neither Anthony or Paul are getting the volume of touches both are used to getting before joining the Thunder. It’s also why neither seems to be able to get into a rhythm on a game to game bases. They have had their moments individually, but it been far from consistent.

It’s more than fair to say that the Thunder offense isn’t generating enough touches to maximize what George and Anthony bring to the table. When the Miami HEAT brought their “Big Three” together, one of the biggest challenges they faced was how to generate the touches to get all their guys in a rhythm and rolling.

That seems to be the biggest part of the problem with the Thunder.

Russ Has To Be Russ

When you look at the Thunder’s “convincing wins” those wins in which they look like an elite team in the NBA, Russell Westbrook plays like last year’s MVP.

The problem for the Thunder is it seems Russell is trying to get other players, specifically Anthony, often to the detriment of his team and his own game. When Westbrook puts his head down and plays his game, the Thunder tend to come out on top.

Westbrook never seemed to have this problem playing with Kevin Durant, and maybe that’s why Durant opted to leave, but Westbrook seems to be trying too hard to get others going.

Where’d Offense Go?

The Thunder continue to talk about how good they are defensively, and that’s a real thing. They are currently the ranked second in the NBA’s defensive rating category. They rank second in point allowed per 100 possessions at 103, just behind league leader Boston at 101.6 points per 100 possessions.

There is no doubt their defense is keeping them in games, but what’s killing them is the long stretches of sub-par offense, many times in the fourth quarter where their offense comes to a grinding halt.

Some have suggested that head coach Billy Donovan simply isn’t creative enough for the construct of this roster. Looking at the stats this far into the season, there may be something to the idea that the Thunder, offensively, just are not creative enough to maximize the potential of their star players.

It’s Not A Selfish Problem

The easy answer on the Thunder is to say they are simply selfish players. There is enough historical evidence on Anthony and Westbrook to support the idea, however, if you really look at the Thunders’ games, it’s actually the opposite. Westbrook likely isn’t selfish enough; it’s likely why he’s struggling from the field on the season.

Part of the offensive problem may be Westbrook’s shooting. His averages this season is markedly down from a year ago—39.6 percent this season from the field versus 42.5 percent last season. Westbrook is also 31.1 percent from three this year versus 34.3 percent from three last season.

But Westbrook is not alone, George is tying his second worst season from the field at 41.8 percent shooting. Anthony is having his worst year as a pro from the field at 40.4 percent.

All three are producing some of their lowest efficiency ratings of their careers, so it’s not just one guy doing so much more than the other. None of them are playing particularly well together.

It’s easy to look at the Thunder and label them one thing or the other; there are enough polarizing personalities on the roster to draw the labels. The truth of the matter is the Thunder just are not very good or efficient offensively, and until they find a way to make that part work, they will likely continue to be middling.

That’s going to make things fairly tough on the Thunder front office, because come the February 9th NBA Trade Deadline, the Thunder may have to cut bait on some players before they potentially lose them in free agency for nothing. The trade deadline is only about 60 days away, believe it or not.

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