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Five Thoughts 10-25-17 (Thunder 114, Pacers 96)

1. Want to start by going back to the Wolves loss on Sunday. The NBA released their “last two minute report” for that game; while I appreciate the attempt at transparency by the league, I actually wish they’d scrap this practice. I think it’s unfair to the refs to be perfectly honest. They essentially watch the last two minutes in slow motion and dissect everything that happened on the floor, called or not. They then publicly release any missed calls. But here’s the deal– if you slow down any single possession in any NBA game you are likely to find SOMETHING that was missed. Chances are on every single possession of every single game, someone is technically committing a foul or violation. Someone tugs on a jersey or moves a little on a screen or takes a slight step before dribbling. Someone off the ball probably uses an arm bar or initiates too much contact. We obviously don’t want the refs calling EVERY single violation. It would destroy any flow from the game. In the Minnesota game, they ruled that the screen on PG13 should have been called a foul. But man, that is a tough spot to call an illegal screen– unless it is just egregious to the point of ridiculousness I’m OK letting most of those things play out. They should use the two minute report internally as a tool to try and improve. I really don’t see the benefit in making it public.

2. Tonight is a good opportunity to revisit and officially close the book on the “Oladipo era” in OKC. I certainly hold nothing against VO. His one year in OKC was disappointing, but it was a bad situation. They weren’t able to use him as they had intended. He wound up being very miscast as a number two option. The plan was to bring him in as a sixth man. If you believe the rumors, had KD stayed, it also means Al Horford would have signed in OKC. That would have made Victor the fourth offensive option and there wouldn’t have been much pressure on him– and he likely would have had better looks and more space. He wasn’t a great fit alongside Russ. VO is a chill type of guy who sometimes seemed a little disengaged. That just doesn’t work with Russ. By all accounts they were friends and got along so I think this was strictly a basketball-related mismatch. His physical transformation this year is pretty remarkable– he looks like a different guy. And he is off to a sizzling start. Kind of funny, but his game at The Peake tonight may have trumped any effort he had as a member of the Thunder. He shot the ball with confidence and looked spry off the dribble. It was also nice to see the post game reactions with both VO and Sabonis. Lots of hugs and smiles and laughing– certainly appeared as if those guys were well liked. It was a no brainer trade for the Thunder, absolutely zero regrets on that regardless of PG’s long term future. But I do think both VO and Sabonis will be solid pieces for Indiana. Good job by Presti once again, attaining assets that have value.

3. Russ looked a bit off the first two games. A little unsure and possibly a little conservative (if that’s possible) in terms of how he was running the offense. Starting around halftime of the Minnesota game though Russ has seemed to find his groove and has looked comfortable and aggressive. I also think Melo looks completely settled in already. He was brought here to do one thing and he seems to know it and Donovan seems to know it and Russ seems to know it. Melo needs to score. He needs to catch and shoot and he needs to have the offense go through him when he’s on the floor with the second unit. It is perfectly fine if he shoots a high volume of shots because that is his job here. I like the way he is being deployed and I see no need to tinker with it at all. PG13 on the other hand still looks very much unsettled. I don’t think he appears to comfortable. His role here is more complicated than Melo. The latter essentially has one job– score. The Thunder need PG to be a Swiss Army Knife. They need him to defend, they need him to attack, they need him to get to the free throw line, and they need him to hit open shots when Russ kicks it out to him. Right now, I think he is catching and shooting a little too much. I’d like to see us work him in deeper in the paint and see some more offensive creativity. This won’t be easy; of all the aspects of this team/season integrating PG will likely be the most difficult. I think this will be Donovan’s single greatest challenge moving forward.

4. Huestis is interesting. I never got much of a chance to complain about it, but I was going to make it a point to mention that I didn’t like playing Ferguson while sitting Huestis. I like TFerg’s upside and it’s always important to keep very young talent like that on the roster. But at 19 years old it seems incredibly unlikely he is going to make any real contributions to a team with title aspirations THIS year. Huestis is equally unproven, but he has been around for awhile now and he’s seemed to earn his chance by playing well in the D League and pre-season. He has proven himself to be too good to spend much more time in the minor leagues. And the only way to find out if a guy can transition is to give him an opportunity. With it being so early in the season the time is right to give him a real chance and see if he can earn a spot in the rotation permanently. The competition for those minutes is legit– Roberson, Abrines, Patterson, Grant, and Huestis are all sort of vying for a finite number of minutes who play roles/positions that crossover somewhat. By the time April rolls around, that rotation is likely to shrink and someone is likely to get left out. For now I like the idea of spreading it out and seeing who steps up. I think both Roberson and Abrines are in some danger of having their minutes cut if Huestis and Grant continue to impress.

5. Thunder looked fine tonight. VO had a big game for Indiana, but overall they were not efficient offensively and the OKC seemed to nag and bother them. Offensively, things looked pretty smooth and the ball moved quite a bit. The pick and roll game between Russ and Adams looks fantastic– this is no doubt bolstered by our additions and the fact that the defense now has to account for multiple weapons. You can’t guard them all and it is opening the lane for Adams. A perfectly solid win this evening against a far lesser team. Now the Thunder hit the road for a little three game trip. First stop is a rematch with the Wolves, who have inexplicably gotten destroyed since they beat the Thunder by the very Pacers we beat tonight and the Pistons. It will be a little bit of a measuring stick game as we can see what types of adjustments we make off of that loss to them last Sunday.

Ed Kleese is a long-time Thunder season ticket holder and a smart Thunder fan. You can read all his work on his own personal blog

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