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In the first edition of the Thunder Grades, we’re going to break down what we think went well and went poorly for players and coaches. We’re going to avoid players who barely play. So, Nick Collison, Kyle Singler, Daniel Hamilton and PJ Dozier won’t be graded.

We’ll do it in there ways: The Good, the bad and the conclusion. We’ll release two a day, hopefully flying through all of these.

First up: Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan

This man here. For the most part, there isn’t really a middle ground on Donovan. You either think Donovan should be fired or you think he’s the right man for the job. However, in reality, it’s in the middle. Oklahoma City’s head man was dealt a weird hand. It started with a bunch of new players and then the loss of Andre Roberson forced him to pivot. He didn’t do that particularly well but many forget how well Oklahoma City was playing when Dre hit the court.

The Good

Donovan had to integrate Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Sure, Anthony said some choice words at his exit interview. However, let’s give both Donovan and Anthony credit, both did their parts in trying their best. It just wasn’t the right fit.

“Every year as a coach you’re always trying to evaluate areas where your team can get better and improve,” Donovan said. “I feel a strong sense of always wanting to improve and get better individually.”

The offense struggled for the first 20 games of the year and that goes on more of Russell Westbrook not doing Westbrook-like things than on Donovan. The defense remained on point until the loss of Roberson.

“We have a great group of guys that want to be successful that want to win and want to do the right things,” Westbrook said. “The biggest thing for us is being more and more consistent throughout the season. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”

Like Anthony trying to play the four and not complaining throughout the season, that’s a credit of two things: Donovan trying to appease his players and providing a good locker room chemistry that no one was publicly complaining.

The Bad

Many want to bash the offense but as we’ve covered it wasn’t that bad. The real negative was his rotations. Questionable decisions on keeping Anthony on the court when Jerami Grant was obviously the better choice. We saw him change that up. We did see Anthony baby his way back into the Game 5 where Oklahoma City fought back from down a billion.

There are other times with many thinking Westbrook played too few minutes. When in fact he played the most minutes of his career by almost a full minute more a game. His decision making to maybe let Westbrook sit in certain situation when games may have gotten away from the Thunder is a question mark.

“From start to finish they were constantly trying to work on things to help us be a better team,” Donovan said.

While the Thunder got better as the season progressed, it really was the loss of Roberson who sealed Oklahoma City’s fate. George wasn’t as good. Neither was Anthony. Oklahoma City’s stats slipped considerably across the board. Donovan failed to adjust the identity of this team after that point. It resembled last season’s “let Westbrook, be Westbrook” season. Which is all fine and dandy but with two other really solid offensive players, there could’ve been more variety at times, but it was a revert to bad habits.

The Conclusion

Donovan gets a  

He wasn’t overtly spectacular this season and he didn’t deserve to be fired. I also didn’t think Scott Brooks deserved to be fired. There is a growing sentiment General Manager Sam Presti has his hand in the cookie jar more than the franchise will lead you to believe.

The constant roster changing and injuries are tough. He’s still a growing coach learning from his mistakes. In a state where football is still king and a single loss could be the end of everything, Thunder fans still hold the coach to this weird pedestal.

“I thought Billy did an excellent job,” Presti said.

For the record, Donovan still has two years, $12 million left on his contract.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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