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3-on-3 – How Do The Thunder Look Now?

AP / SA

Took some bloggers and discussed on how, after 12 games, the Thunder look.

Thunder, meeting expectations or underachieving?

Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed.com: I think they’re just on par for what I would expect. Oklahoma City has played a decent schedule and won the games they should have. However, lost a game that they shouldn’t have (Dallas) lost. Great team chemistry with or without the Westbrook-Durant debacle, or lack there of.

Ed Kleese, Fan Blog: Not sure how anyone can say a team is underachieving while they are winning at an 80% clip. As a matter of fact,

I’d say that through ten games the Thunder are actually mildly EXCEEDING expectations. Their performance in the back to back to back games was stellar. On the third night, they came close to playing a perfect basketball game and just totally ran the Spurs off the floor. In addition to the obvious talent, the Thunder look like a poised and focused team. It doesn’t appear the raised expectations have done anything other than possibly elevate their level of play.

Jason Hines, ThunderObsessed.com: The Thunder had some high expectations coming into the season. Almost all the analysts picked them the win the Northwest division, many picked them to win the Western conference, and some even picked them to win the whole darn thing. Because of these astronomically high expectations, I would say the Thunder is meeting those expectations, which means the team is playing very well. The team has been playing with a high amount of confidence, which has translated to great success so far this season. If you remember at this point last season, the Thunder came out of the gate playing poor defense which caused them to lose several games early that it should have won. That is not the case this season. Defensive breakdowns are still happening too frequently, but the Thunder has stepped up the defensive intensity on a nightly basis and it has lead to more victories.

Biggest surprise outside of the Maynor injury

Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed.com: Thabo Sefolosha. He’s improved so much offensively. He’s not going to score 20, 30 points a game, but he can really score some points. However, He’s done so well. He’s shooting 53.6%. He has the third highest adjusted field goal percentage on the team at 57%.

Ed Kleese, Fan Blog: James Harden. Forget the all star team- he is a lock for that at this rate. If Harden continues to play at this level, he will garner some all-NBA consideration- and rightfully so. He is the leader of a bench mob that is flat killing opponents this year. His efficiency is astounding. He has the fastest slow-looking move off the dribble I’ve ever seen: it looks as if he is plodding along and then boom- he is dropping in a layup or dunk. James Harden playing at this level is a complete game changer for OKC.

Jason Hines, ThunderObsessed.com: The biggest surprise for me this season has been Kevin Durant’s improved play-making ability. Everyone in this league will admit that Durant is an elite scorer; he is the back-to-back scoring champion, you know. However, to elevate your game to an MVP level, a player must not only be able to carry his team on his back, but he must also make his teammates better. Durant has increased his assist average from 2.7 to 3.6 assist per game. Just by watching the games you can tell that Durant is putting an increased emphasis on getting his teammates involved. At the beginning of the season, I picked Lebron James to win the MVP because I felt James had the best all-around skills in the NBA. However, if KD continues this play-making, I think he is going to prove me wrong (please prove me wrong, KD!) I have no idea why Durant didn’t start this sooner. He has proven to be an incredible passer. Some of the passes he threads into teammates are simply stunning. I am looking forward to the development of this trend. I can only imagine he will get better as the season continues.

Most intriguing storyline going forward?

Chuck Chaney, ThunderObsessed.com: Defensive rebounding. It’s horrible. Oklahoma City ranks 27th in the NBA in allowing offensive rebounds. If they’re really going to become a real contender for the NBA title, they’ll have to learn to block out, grab rebounds. If they don’t, the real contenders, the Miami’s, the Lakers, the Bulls, etc., will bring the Thunder back down to earth. They can do it if they focuse.

Ed Kleese, Fan Blog: Anyone who doesn’t give the following answer either isn’t paying attention or they are fooling themselves: The Russell Westrook situation is by far the most intruiging storyline. I am hardly a salary cap guru, but I am smart enough to listen to people who are, and something is going to have to give. As a Westbrook fan, I hope everyday to hear the announcement that he has signed an extension, but the realist inside me knows that becomes less likely by the day. If it was simply about money, I’d have some confidence that the braintrust would find a way to make it all work, but there continue to be lingering concerns about how Westbrook fits the longterm plan on th court as well. The fact that he hasn’t played particularly well thus far while Harden has been unreal doesn’t help to squash the rumors and speculation. How Presti ultimately handles the Westbrook situation will most likely be the most important decision the franchise makes in the next ten years. Get it right (whatever “right” is) and you may be talking multiple titles. Get it wrong….

Jason Hines, ThunderObsessed.com: I totally agree with Ed about the Russell Westbrook storyline. His contract situation is mega important. I trust Presti to make the “right” decision, but it makes me nervous regardless. However, for the sake of not duplicating opinions, the biggest storyline going forward for me is how Reggie Jackson will fair as the new back-up point guard for the Thunder. Presti drafted Jackson knowing that the team could lose Maynor at some point because his contract would be up for an extension in the same year as Harden and Ibaka. If the Thunder did lose Maynor to free agency, it would have Jackson ready to step in after two years of tutelage. Well, surprise, Mr. Jackson! You do not get two years of development. You must be the back-up point guard for a championship-caliber team immediately. That is a lot of responsibility to place on a rookie. Harden is playing at an elite level in his third season, but do you remember how Harden played in the Lakers playoff series his rookie season? He wilted under the pressure in a majority of the games – especially on the road. Does Presti go out and get a veteran point guard at the deadline for a title run? Or does he place his trust in the rookie and hope Royal Ivey can step up if needed? My money is on the latter simply because that fits the “Thunder way” much more than the former. However, it does warrant consideration.

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