NBA 30 Teams/30 Days Preview: Can Westbrook lead the Thunder in Durant's absence?
Editor's note: This is the 27th of Sam Amico's 30 NBA team previews entering the 2014-15 season.
C Kendrick Perkins; PF Serge Ibaka; SF Kevin Durant (when healthy); SG Reggie Jackson; PG Russell Westbrook.
C Steven Adams; SG Jeremy Lamb; PF Nick Collison; G-F Anthony Morrow; F Perry Jones; G-F Andre Roberson; C-PF Mitch McGary; PG Sebastian Telfair; SF Lance Thomas.
Scott Brooks, eighth year (all with Thunder). Brooks is never the problem, but he sometimes takes the blame. Truth is, it's hard to envision Durant, Westbrook and several of the others playing for anyone else. Brooks is as almost as secure here as Jerry Sloan once was in Utah, as Brooks' two biggest stars believe in and trust him. Is Brooks a genius with X's and O's? Maybe, maybe not. But that doesn't matter at this level. What matters is getting through to your players, keeping the locker room happy and healthy. As long as those things happen in OKC, Brooks will be the coach.
Kevin Durant is the baddest man in the West, the best scorer in the league, and an excellent teammate. He is driven, a winner and improving in all areas. ... Westbrook probably isn't as good as he thinks, but that's OK. He thinks he's the best point guard in the NBA. He's probably more like fourth or fifth, and when it comes to scoring ability, he may be at the top. No matter what, he plays with a great deal of confidence and it's almost always a good thing for this team. ... Ibaka just shuts up and plays defense and makes the most of his shot attempts. While he doesn't get the respect he deserves, the Thunder truly do have a Big Three because of him. ... Jackson adds scoring and plays with moxie. He was quite a find. ... Adams is probably better than Perkins already. So watch out for Adams. He's a rising center.
It's hard to tell what's going on shooting guard. Is Jackson really a starter there? Do you go with Morrow or Lamb or someone else? It's been an issue for the Thunder during the entire Durant era. ... Perry Jones needs to come to life this season. He was highly thought of coming out of college, but his game does nothing to excite so far. ... Same goes with Lamb to a lesser extent. ... A big part of the problem in the playoffs is the role players not doing their thing consistently, particularly on the road.
With Durant out with a broken foot for a bit, the Thunder could start fairly slowly. That could cost them toward the end of the season, particularly when it comes to home-court advantage in the playoffs. But that's a long ways away, and the secondary guys still have time to develop and come together. If everyone else can fill in around (and for) Durant and Westbrook, and even Ibaka, there's enough star power here to reach the Finals.
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