Is Durant Right? Are the Thunder a Contender?
*Photo via CBS
Several weeks ago in now classic Kevin Durant fashion, Durant blamed the media yet again. Blamed the media for what you may ask? Durant blamed the media for why people around the league don’t consider the Oklahoma City Thunder title contenders. Clearly it was purely frustration, as anyone can see, the media is not the culprit. However, are we overlooking the Thunder? Is this team led by the two-headed dragon of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, a team with the same nucleus for the last several years worthy of being in the discussion with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers?
The Thunder currently own the third seed in the Western Conference at 37-13. Since Durant’s return from injury, the Thunder have been rolling on all cylinders. During this stretch starting on November 23rd, Durant has had 35 straight games of 20 or more points. You read that right, and along this tear the Thunder have been 29-6. This doesn’t take into account the ridiculous numbers being put up alongside of him by Westbrook. Russell already has seven triple-doubles this season, which is only second to Draymond Green. Furthermore, Westbrook is averaging nearly a triple-double on a nightly basis. Strengthening their case, as a team the Thunder rank in the top five in points per game, point differential and overall field goal percentage.
*Photo via Getty Images
These are title contender-like numbers, no? Too bad it’s simply not that black and white. I’m sorry, Thunder fans, you are on the outside looking in on this one. From a statistical standpoint the Thunder may seem like they have been overlooked. Unfortunately, if you watch the Thunder play and you comprehend the game of basketball, you see the huge issues with this team. Of course Durant and Westbrook light it up, and are two of the most electrifying players in the league to watch. That’s the main issue right there, from their last Finals appearance against the Miami Heat to now the offense hasn’t changed. They play with a high, steady dosage of Isolation basketball. A prime example I witnessed when the Washington Wizards visited Oklahoma City the other night. On five straight possessions, between Westbrook, Durant and Dion Waiters; whoever grabbed the rebound carried the ball up the court and without passing took a shot. Yes, three out of five of those shots ended with a bucket. However, against a title contender, in a seven game series? Forget it, that kind of offense will not translate to victories. The Thunder until they better utilize the roles players around them, and play a more team oriented style of basketball. The Thunder will remain just outside the realm of title contenders.