Five Thoughts 10-31-17 (Thunder 110, Bucs 91)

1. Not sure if it’s appropriate to throw around the word “perfect,” but what we saw from the Thunder last night was pretty darn close. At the very least their performance was an outline of what you’d imagine the vision was when this team was formed this off-season. Milwaukee isn’t a great team by any means, but they aren’t bad either. They are generally efficient and well coached. They have a fantastic star and while the rest of the roster is somewhat “meh,” they are a fairly tough team, especially at home. But tonight we reduced them to rubble. Made them look like total amateurs. What you saw was a pretty decent NBA team that absolutely no answer for what we threw at them. During the game Jason Kidd didn’t appear to mad or frustrated with his team and in post game he more or less conceded that they didn’t have the horses to keep up. Seven games in and the Thunder delivered their first “ah, so THIS is what it looks like” performance.

2. Kidd praised Russ after the game. Called him the best in the game ( point guard I assume) and compared his attacking style to Mike Tyson. Essentially, Kidd said Russ was unstoppable. And that’s the thing I’ve noticed so far this year above all else: Russ is BETTER. And that’s scary. Now, maybe HE actually isn’t “better” per se but with the surrounding additions he is even more effective for the Thunder and more deadly for the opposition. It is incredible how much easier everything looks for RW right now. He isn’t forcing anything– largely because he doesn’t have to. Last year could wind up being such a blessing for RW. He had the freedom to explore the game on an individual level more aggressively than perhaps any player of all time. And he delivered the most scintillating individual season we have ever seen. But the team success only went as far as his individual success would carry them– it was a fight every night for a W and the Thunder struggled against the NBA elite when teams were able to slowly wear RW down. It seems to me that RW is playing like a man that got something out of his system and is now ready for the next challenge. He is leading the team beautifully and seems to be picking his own spots just fine. His scoring and rebounding will go down this year– perhaps significantly. But make no mistake, through 7 games he is absolutely still performing at an MVP level.

3. Perhaps no one suffered more from the KD decision last year more so than Steven Adams. With no real viable offensive options outside of RW, teams were able to focus on our pick and roll offense and clog the lane. RW was often good enough to bust through the brick wall and succeed anyway, but there was very little space for Adams to operate. He isn’t a skilled offensive player. He isn’t a post up threat and he isn’t a jump shooter. However, he is an absolute ferocious beast in terms of fighting in the lane, he is quite athletic, and he is an excellent finisher at the rim. When he gets the ball within 3-4 feet of the basket whether off a pass or rebound, he knows how to finish. Tonight, he completely abused poor Thon Maker. With more and more teams like Milwaukee going small in the middle, the Thunder must make teams pay by unleashing Adams on smaller/weaker opposition. They did just that tonight. Adams has been scoring at an obscene level of efficiency thus far and tonight was a great illustration of how he is doing it. Teams are being forced to pick their poison. Including himself, RW now has a plethora of options running the offense and if teams give Adams a sliver of space, it’s going to wind up in a pink and roll alley-oop slam. If teams start to sag back they risk getting torched by Russ. Right now, the Russ/Adams duo looks unstoppable. The one thing I’d watch is Adams’ health. I think he played hurt last year and he subjects his body to a ton of pounding throughout the year. I’d like to see Donovan get him every bit of extra rest whenever possible.

4. Andre. No player on the team is more polarizing. Heck, I’ll admit to being a little confused by him as well. If you are looking for an example of how he contributes positively, look no further than the first half of this game. The Greek Freak IS the Bucks offense. It all runs through him and he more or less calls the shots. He creates and finishes. They are generally an efficient team that hurts you with their athleticism and with the Freak overwhelming defenders. Well, Andre more or less shut down the entire Bucks offense tonight by harassing him. The fact that Andre can guard someone like Harden and then climb the ladder and defend bigger players like KD or Freak is highly impressive. Another thing that comes to light for me is that Andre is most valuable against good teams that have a star wing player. When he can hone in on a star player he generally contributes so much on defense that the Thunder can live with his offensive liabilities. When they play teams that aren’t as good or don’t have dominant wings, then he is far less effective. In those situations the Thunder are possibly better off just having someone who spreads the floor more. This year Donovan has more options and I think we will see him mix the minutes more for Andre based on match-ups, which is exactly how he should be used.

5. Good bounce back from the Wolves loss on Friday. The wins in Chicago and Milwaukee were both as easy as it gets in the NBA. They don’t play again until Friday when they host the Celtics so they have essentially given themselves a full week of low stress physically. The one thing the Thunder weren’t able to do last year was build any sort of real winning streak. Every night was a dogfight and winning more than two or three in a row was a tough task. By destroying teams like they did the last two games it keeps the team fresh and builds more margin for error. I’d like to see them get rolling now.

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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