Thank You, Thunder
Over the past few weeks, I’ve ridden the Oklahoma City Thunder. Why? Well, this team might be one of the best kept secrets in the NBA. The Thunder are 37-23 against the spread and have covered five of their last six contests. Heck, in their last four contests, they didn’t even have Durant and they still won three of them outright. Remember, this team was dogged by seven points at Memphis only to win 99-92 on the road and then was dogged by six points to the Mavs at home without Durant or Green. Despite injuries to two of their key players the Thunder had relatively no problem as they defeated the Mavs 96 and buried 70 percent of the public in the process.
What makes the Thunder so good? Well, it starts from Coach Scott Brooks who replaced P.J. Carlesimo. For starters, Brooks has a championship ring with the 1994 Houston Rockets team and in his ten-year NBA Career from 1988 to 1998 he played for the 76ers, Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks, Knicks and Cavaliers. In short, Brooks has seen a lot of things during his travel and has played/worked underneath a lot of systems. It is obvious the players are responding to him and he has their respect. Who knows, his interim gig might even turn into a full time gig at the end of this season. After all, when Carlesimo left, the Thunder were a leagues-worst 1-12 (.083) overall. Now, this team is 15-45 (.200). Of course, you do have to note that Brooks needed some time to instill his style of play and the Thunder have shown some clear improvement of late.
Just take a look at the last ten games for the Thunder. They defeated the Mavs and Grizzlies without Kevin Durant. They nearly defeated Dallas on the road and lost in OT by a bucket, they lost to the Hornets by a bucket at home, the Lakers by 7 on the road and beat the Kings at home as well. Then the Hornets in a rematch creamed them but then put a 15-point win on the board as home dogs to the 76ers.
The Thunder have the likely Rookie of the Year in my opinion in Russell Westbrook who had a triple-double against Dallas scoring 17 points, crashing for 10 boards and dishing out 10 assists. They have found great depth in ex-Bull Thabo Sefolosha who scored 15 points against the Mavs and even reeled in seven rebounds. Tack on the fact Nenad Krstic is emerging by scoring 26 points and even Kyle Weaver stepped up with 18 points against Dallas, and you have a team that can be quite dynamic when healthy.
In short, the Thunder can play. When Durant and Green come back healthy, this team will be even deeper as they will have Thabo, Westbrook, Collison, Krstic and Weaver to lean on. Don’t forget, Oklahoma City does the basics extremely well as they shoot 78 percent from the free throw line and are third in the league in rebounds per game crashing for over 43 boards a game. In short, do not assume that because the Thunder are 15-45 that they are chumps. After all, in the only stat that truly matters, this team is 37-23 (61.7 percent).