Jan 16, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti watches college basketball between the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Oklahoma Sooners at Lloyd Noble Center. Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered a soul-crushing loss last night to the Chicago Bulls. One has to question if this is the end of Oklahoma City’s playoff hopes.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have kicked off their three-game home stand with a devastating loss to the Bulls. Russell Westbrook and company never found any offensive rhythm and Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler did. Shooting 11-of-17 from the floor, Butler tallied 28 points, four rebounds, and five assists last night.
Oklahoma City failed to reach 30 points in each quarter of play last night. In fact, the Thunder have scored just one 30 point quarter in their last 11 quarters. Many fans will blame this entirely on Enes Kanter for fracturing his forearm against Dallas. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise based on this team’s construction.
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This team’s biggest mistake this season was trading Ersan Ilyasova. In Philly, Ilyasova has been exceptional averaging 15 points a game on 45% shooting. Ilyasova was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jerami Grant and a trade exception on November 1st. The Oklahoma City Thunder could really use Ilyasova’s shooting right now.
Victor Oladipo is also struggling. Against Chicago, he shot 5-of-14 from the floor and 1-of-6 from three. The Thunder’s offensive confidence is at an all-time low. The ball simply isn’t moving. This team compiled 17 total assists last night on 38 made shots from the floor against Chicago.
So, if you take all that in, and realize this team is being put in a chokehold due to Kanter’s absence, who’s to blame? Clearly, the Oladipo experiment hasn’t panned out the way the Thunder had hoped. Westbrook is working hard, trying to will this team to a victory. However, it’s simply not enough.
The blame for the Thunder’s struggles should be divided between Sam Presti and Billy Donovan. For one, you don’t bring an overly analytical coach in before your superstar’s contract year. Secondly, playing guys in a standard rotation would also help. For example, during the Cleveland Cavs game, there were times Kyrie Irving was on the floor against Cameron Payne. Why?
I’m not 100% on Donovan as a head coach in the NBA. He substitutes the bench and the starting lineups like a college coach. Westbrook ranks 19th in the NBA in minutes per game. That’s a paddling, Westbrook playing extended minutes on the floor is key for the Thunders success.
Oklahoma City’s problems are leading back to the decision making of Presti. So, the next question is, should Presti be let go after this season? As of now, I would say no. Although, this upcoming offseason is a make-or-break situation for him.
Presti’s ability to convince a superstar to join OKC will be in question this offseason. OKC needs a pure scoring player to play alongside Westbrook. Presti will have to be luring and charming to get players to join the cause.
If anything, I think Donovan should be on the hot seat more than Presti. Donovan continues to play five on four with Andre Roberson on the floor. Roberson is shooting 34-of-136 from three this season; that translates to 25% on the year.
Oklahoma City is not going to be able to make a trade this season. They only have two players that offer any value. Those players being Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams. I suspect teams would be unlikely to call the Thunder about Kyle Singler or Cameron Payne.
However, with the Thunder in a freefall and the player’s confidence at an all time low, this team has to find itself this season. It looks as if they are on their own until either a move is made or the end of the season.
Again, I don’t think it’s time to send Sam Presti packing. If anything, you give him this offseason to retool and regroup. His task of recruiting a superstar to play with Westbrook will ultimately decide is legacy and fate.