The Thunder have undoubtedly been the most surprising team of the season, and with that surprise comes some unreasonable perceptions. For starters, the notion that the Thunder are a good offensive team because they have Kevin Durant, one of the best scorers in the league, is laughably false. Similarly, because the Durantula is, as mentioned, an offensive superweapon, it’s assumed that he’s able to get off a shot in the clutch. Also untrue.
In fact, Oklahoma City has been routinely horrible in late-game situations this season. Some of the responsibility for that trend goes to the players themselves, who don’t seem to execute all that well with an entire game boiled down to one do-or-die possession. However, equally (if not more) responsible are Scotty Brooks and the Thunder coaching staff, who routinely draw up bland, uninspired plays that rarely end well.
The story was hardly the same last night against the Boston Celtics, as the Thunder utilized the same play two possessions in a row to give open three-point looks to Jeff Green. He connected on both, despite the fact that Kevin Garnett seemed to recognize the set as it was being run. Fool KG once, shame on him. Fool KG twice, the Celtics lose and he complains about the officiating.
Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook broke down the play in question, and you can see how a cleverly drawn set can empower a team like the Thunder. It’s not that they don’t have offensive weapons in OKC, but sequences like this one hint at the fact that the Thunder’s biggest problem may be talent utilization. That and the fact that players like Durant, Green, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden make up an incredibly young offensive core. And that Scotty Brooks is an incredibly young head coach. The team — coach and all — is growing up together, and moments like these are evidence of that process.
Patrick Beverley is going to have a key role with the Rockets — he is their best defending guard. And it’s not close. He can help space the floor as a three-point shooter, he can work off the ball on offense and serve as a backup playmaker, but mostly what he brings is fearless, physical defense.
Except he’s not going to bring it for a while.
Following rumors he might knee surgery comes this from Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he expects guard Pat Beverley to miss at least 20 games with a left knee injury. His absence “complicates” some roster spots.
The Rockets are going to have one of the best offenses in the NBA but whether they finish fourth or seventh or out of the playoffs completely in the West will come down to a combination of health and how well they defend. This is a setback on both counts.
Expect to see more Eric Gordon, Tyler Ennis, and P.J. Hairston. Gordon has a real chance here. This is going to be an interesting year in Houston.
The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.
But the drama isn’t gone yet.
On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.
“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.
“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’
Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.
What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.
Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.
The Spurs are counting on Danny Green to regain his top-flight “3&D” form this season and give them another defender and weapon when they go up against that potential juggernaut out West. And the Clippers, too.
But that comeback is getting off to a slow start, the team announced Friday.
This likely means a little more run for Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin to start the season, plus some funky lineups from Gregg Popovich.
Green played great defense last season but struggled from three (where 60 percent of his attempts are taken). Green shot 33.2 percent from deep on the season, which is well below his career average of 40.3 percent (and last year’s down numbers were buoyed by a red-hot January, he was much worse the rest of the season).
It’s something for Spurs fans to monitor, they need to get his legs right before his shot can return.
The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.
Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.
In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.