How to watch
When: Wednesday, November 22 @ 5:00 p.m.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
WATCH: CSBA, ESPN
RADIO: 95.7 The Game
Injury Update: Kevin Durant (probable, left sprained ankle)
The enemy’s blog: Welcome to Loud City
The Thunder ain’t booming
We have yet to reach the quarter mark in the young NBA season and the Oklahoma City Thunder have just seven wins. Only one of their seven wins has come against a potential playoff team in the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Thunder’s nine losses have been against potential playoff teams: Minnesota (2), Denver, Portland, San Antonio, Boston and New Orleans. On Wednesday night in primetime, the Warriors have no excuses against the Thunder. Yes, Russell Westbrook is more wolverine than human and a badass dude — but despite his incredible individual accolades, it’s difficult to call him a "winner."
The Westbrook Effect
Don’t get me wrong, Westbrook is an incredible, top 10 player in league. But it’s hard to tell if he makes his teammates better — the opposite of Stephen Curry. Take a look at the players who played on the Thunder last year but are now on other squads.
OKC 2016: 15.9 points per game, 3pt%: .361, 0.4 VORP
IND 2017: 22.9 points per game, 3pt%: .447, 0.6 VORP (SO FAR)
OKC 2016: 5.9 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, eFG%: .452, VORP: -1.2
IND 2017: 12.7 pointts per game, 9.2 rebounds, eFG%: 604, VORP: 0.4
OKC 2016: 6.6 pointts per game, 3pt%: .362, VORP: -0.3
NYK 2017: 8.4 pts per game, 3pt%: .449, VORP: .2
OKC 2016: 14.3 pts per game, 6.7 rebounds, eFG%: .549, VORP: 0.3
NYK 2017: 13.8 pts per game, 10.6 rebounds, eFG%: .640, VORP: 0.6
Each of the jettisoned Thunder players is substantially better this year than last year’s Westbrook-“pad the stats”-MVP season. Their performances transcend their point production. Oladipo and company are finding more open looks, hitting more shots, rebounding the ball at higher rates and adding value to their new teams.
It’s more difficult to add value to a Westbrook team because he tries to do everything. The best players in the league should make other players better. It sounds damning, but there’s minimal evidence that Westbrook makes his teammates better. He alone makes his team good, but it ends there.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony are on the Thunder and now they have a big three. It’s taking a long time for OKC to find their mojo. Luckily, they have more than enough time to figure it out.
Who will step up for the Thunder?
When the Thunder signed Carmelo Anthony after trading for Paul George, we all decided they had a Big 3. Anthony scores, but other than getting buckets, he doesn’t do much. He is a defensive liability and is chucking up nearly seven threes a game. If the Thunder are going to beat the Warriors, they'll need a big game from another player outside of Westbrook, George and Anthony. If Golden State’s wings can keep Anthony off the three-point line, Steven Adams or someone else will need to step up big time.
Curry versus Westbrook: The best versus the second best
Last Thursday, Curry, the best point guard in the league, faced Kyrie Irving, the third-best point guard in the league. Curry had one of his worst games of the season and the Warriors lost. Since then, he’s been on a tear. In the two games after Boston, he’s averaged 37 points per game.
Westbrook is one of the hardest working players in the NBA and understands that this is an opportunity to beat the Warriors and his old teammate, Kevin Durant. Look for both Curry and Westbrook to play starring roles in this one.
Don’t forget about Kevin Durant
ESPN won’t let us forget about Durant’s previous life in Oklahoma City, and I guess we shouldn’t. He has a sprained ankle, but he’ll likely play. It’s the night before Thanksgiving on ESPN and our collective eyes will be on him and Westbrook. Will they shake hands? Do they man hug? Ignore each other? The drama is too much!
This is the
second fifth matchup between the two in Oklahoma City since Durant left for greener pastures. Like Curry, Durant has motivation to put the Thunder and Westbrook to bed. This should be a fun one.