Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thunder edged by Los Angeles 101-98

Oklahoma City pushed the Lakers to the brink, but came up short as the Lakers win in overtime 101-98.

If you enjoy defensive basketball, this game was your cup of tea. Neither side ever looked like it got in a rhythm but it was one of the most exciting Oklahoma City games to date.

While it might not look like it, Thabo Sefolosha gets the game ball tonight. 12 points, 4 steal,s 4 rebounds, and more pressure defense on Kobe Bryant than Kobe has ever experienced. Sefolosha frustrated Kobe from the opening tip to the final whistle. Sefolosha is why the Thunder were able to hang with the Lakers. No question. His defense and improved outside shooting has more than earned his recent contract extension.

After being down by as much as 13 points in the first half, the Thunder battled back to take the lead in the third. OKC lead by as many as 4, but could never put away from the defending champs.

There are a lot of positives to take away from this game, but there are negatives that cost OKC the game. On nine second half turnovers, the Thunder scored exactly zero points. If you want to make the step into "playoff team," you have to capitalize on your opponents mistakes. As much as Thunder fans don't want to admit it, Kevin Durant had a very sub-par second half. He didn't hit a shot in the fourth quarter, or in overtime. The shots he did take are the ones that players like Kobe Bryant make. This isn't to say that KD played terribly. He had 28 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. A solid game, but when super stars are called upon, he just fell short.

It's been said before, but Etan Thomas was the best pick up for OKC this summer. Again, Thomas was the best pick up this offseason. He brings something that Krstic simply cannot do, dominate down low. He pulls down rebounds with conviction, and changed shots the entire game. If he isn't a "dominant post presence," what is?

Moral victories are so "last season" for the Thunder. While taking the defending champs to Overtime is great, anything less than winning is a disappointment. The team must build off this close loss, and be able to close the game out next time it happens.

This Is Thunder Basketball

(Photo and stats from ESPN.com)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thunder Thoughts: Sacramento vs Oklahoma City

Live Blog:


Kind of disappointed that Weaver is in a suit tonight.

As mentioned earlier, Thabo got a contract extension. I'm really glad that we are keeping this guy around.

The scoreboard looks amazing on TV, I can't imagine what it's like in person.

Undefeated, let's keep it that way for a few games.

Glad to see Mason and the Thunder players meeting and talking before the game. I hope we can bring that guy back after he retires. He will be a great assistant coach.

First Quarter:

First points of this season: Jeff Green for THREEEE

The chemistry between Westbrook and Durant looks to have improved this offseason.

Great early rebounding by the Thunder.

Thabo has been working on his corner 3 all off season, and it shows.

Great job defensively on Martin early in the quarter.

Westbrook is making it a point to get the ball to Krstic.

Lot's of movement in the offense so far this season.

Thunder UP early 20 – 10 after the first 6 minutes of the game. The defensive principles from the preseason are really showing right now. Let's see if they can keep it up.

Full court press out of the time-out. We didn't see much (if any) of that last season.

If Krstic is spent from the Euroleague, it isn't showing. (Would still like for him to rebound a bit more)

One of Westbrook's criticisms is his lack of a decent jump shot, he is showing off a much improved jumper right now.

Seven assists for the Thunder at the 4:15 mark.

KD's shooting is a bit dry at the moment, but he is rebounding well. And man is this guy INTENSE.

Etan Thomas is in, let's see what he can do in his first real minutes as a member of the team.

Kevin Ollie in to relieve Westbrook for a bit.

Glad to see Collison back healthy, also James Harden is on the floor for the first time.

Thomas missed a dunk...come on man. He has opened some lanes, and played solid D right now, though.

First Thunder turnover at 1:06. I respectfully agree with this!

KD is so quick, and can absolutely slice through defenses.

Last season OKC's best quarter was 39, they got that in the first quarter of the first game this season. (Thank you broadcasters) 39 – 22 at the end of the First.

Second Quarter:

KD has 10 points, Krstic has 11 to start the 2nd

James Harden gets his first professional points off a Thomas screen. Nice lil' jumper.

Sacramento is getting vocal about the refs right now.

The Kings don't have an answer for Green.

The Thunder girls have chaps now...yup...

Westbrook jumper, yes!

The Kings...well...they seem to fall down a lot.

The Thunder are playing with so much energy right now.

Offensive rebound by Thomas. That's what we need.

Westbrook 6 – 4 – 4 right now. Good line, I must say. (7:08 left)

Just two turnovers for the Thunder at 6:37...3 now, after a poor pass from Westbrook

Westbrook to Durant, you will hear that a lot in the future

This team has a lot of hustle

After passing off the drive for much of the first half, Sacramento isn't looking for Westbrook to go all the way to the hoop.

Durant and Green have 15 with 1:51 left.

If Martin doesn't get to the line, then the Kings are down by 14 more points...

Speaking of the foul line, Krstic has gotten there quite a few times in the first half.

KD is so strong when he comes to the basket. He just powers by defenders. (17 points now)

68 - 51

Halftime Thoughts:

Four OKC players in double digits.

If this is any hint at what this season is going to be like, Oklahoma City is going to be a strong contender. They are playing with intensity, and competing on every possession. While other programs may not be impressed by that, OKC let games slip away because of inactivity.

Westbrook is showing that he has improved immensely this off season. Court vision, jump shot, game speed, everything seems to have improved.

The production value of the pregame videos, and television graphics have improved a TON. Yes, I realize that they only had a month to figure it out last season. But improvement, is improvement.

The Thunder UP video and song were fine the first few times I heard them...the first few times...

Third Quarter:

Wow! Green has such a great looking shot from three point land.

Not much more that Sefolosha can do against Martin. He has had a hand in his face the whole game.

Krstic with a little baby hook, did he have that move last season? Krstic has had a great game inside, only a couple of jump shots from the big man.

Westbrook with a double double already. 10 points 10 assists (and 4 rebounds) 9:30

Desmond Mason has his first points in purple at 8:58.

Jeff Green looks to have taken his game to a new level this season. The broadcast team can't stop talking about all the little things (screens, letting plays develop, and such) he is doing right.

Sefolosha from outside, I'm really liking his new offensive game. He's really earning that new contract. (OKC 81 Sac 58)

Mason almost took out the broadcast team, trying to get corral a ball. He almost got to the second row of media people. The replay is quite awkward.

Turnovers up to 9. But they are limiting points off of those turns.

Over three minutes since the Thunder last scored.

Westbrook scores over a seven footer...yes. Westbrook looks to have slight discomfort in his knee. He is all smiles, though, which is good.

We've yet to see Livingston. Wonder why Coach Brooks has played Ollie so much.

Green gets an elbow to the nose. Takes a bit for him to get up. At least he got the charge.

It's a pity when hustle plays become turnovers (Harden jumped out of bounds to keep a ball in play, but Ollie was called for a back court violation when he grabbed the ball)

5 turns this quarter for the Thunder, same as the entire first half.

Collison is such a quality player. He doesn't put up numbers, but he is solid and knows the game. Say what you might, I enjoy watching the guy.

Only Martin has double figures for Sacramento. Tyreke Evans leads the rest of their team with 8, and he is on the bench right now with four fouls.

OKC 89 SAC 68

Fourth Quarter:

Kevin Martin is on the bench with his jersey off. The ankle is probably still hurting him.

Harden with a big three. We need that from him. The Thunder didn't have any outside shooting last season. He is having a bit of trouble fouling and in transition right now. Sefolosha comes in with hopes of stopping a hot streak from Sacramento.

The Thunder have learned how to take charges this season. There have been at least 3 in the second half.

Nocioni just can't hang with Green. When he tries to, he fouls Uncle Jeff. Big match up problems.(92 - 75)

Apparently, Oklahoma City got a huge "Thunder Drum" bass drum. Very "Rumbley"...

Big collision on a potential alley-oop. (Note: OKC doesn't have an offensive rebound in the second half. Hopefully, that has something to do with the substantial lead) Everyone is ok, though.

Martin is back in the game, by the way. Guess he just didn't feel like wearing his jersey.

Thunder in a 2.5 minute dry spell.

I am SO impressed with Jeff Green, right now. A handful of threes today. Also, OKC has had great ball movement tonight.

97 - 78

Westbrook sets a career high with 13 assists.

100 points with 4:53 left. The scoring on this team has improved dramatically!

The Kings have played very good defense against KD tonight. And he is still sitting at 23 points, that is impressive for an "off night" of shooting.

ESPN says that Livingston has a steal, but their play by play chart doesn't have his name anywhere. Can you get a steal while not being in the game?

Surprisingly, no Serge Ibaka tonight. I was looking forward to seeing him play tonight. He probably won't see much time early in the season, the preseason was just a tease.

OKC is just trying to milk the clock right now. Not much offense going on for the Thunder.

18,203 in attendance tonight. Keep those numbers up Thunder Fans. Prove that we deserve this great young team.

Final: 102 - 89

Thunder Win!

Final Thoughts:

This game was very exciting for any Thunder fan. Four players scored in double figures, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both recorded double doubles, Jeff Green just took over the low post, Krstic showed that he can have a powerful presence beneath the basket, and the list goes on.

The Thunder lead by as many as 31 points before it was able to cost to the finish. There are a lot of great things to draw from this game. However, they struggled (at times) defending the outside shot. This will, surely, improve as they get more adjusted to the defense.

Player of the Game: Russell Westbrook 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 13 assists. His improvement over the Summer has been outstanding. I can't wait to keep watching this guy develop.

If you liked what you read, this can become a regular feature of the website. Leave a comment and let me know!

This Is Thunder Basketball

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Thabo Sefolosha signed to Multiyear Deal by Oklahoma City

According to an ESPN report, the Thunder have inked their defensive stopper, Thabo Sefolosha, to a multiyear deal.

After being traded to Oklahoma City from Chicago at the Trade Deadline last season, Sefolosha swiftly emerged as the main defensive force of the Thunder. He averaged 8.5 points and 5.2 rebounds with Oklahoma City.

As of now, Sefolosha is still the Thunders starting Shooting Guard. If he can up his offensive output to compliment his defensive abilities, he should be able to keep a hold of the starting spot this season.

This Is Thunder Basketball

(Photo from ESPN.com)

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Oklahoma City: Getting our bearings

The NBA season is less than 24 hours away, and the Thunder have their first game on Wednesday night. With everything that has gone on, let's get an idea of where we are, and where we are going.

Where we are:

We finished a dismal 23 - 59. Even with the end of the season 20 - 30 record, it doesn't look good. We were a top 10 rebounding team last season, but our Point Guard of the future committed the most turnovers of anyone in the league. The Thunder are lead by one of the league's best scorers in Kevin Durant, but we were in the bottom of the league in scoring.

This season, we are one of the youngest teams in the league. Oklahoma City has an average age of 25. If our young bench doesn't get better, don't expect much improvement this season.

Where we want to be:

Kevin Durant said that his goal is to make the playoffs. The media wants to believe that it is possible for this team to get the eight seed, they haven't come that far yet. In order to make it to the playoffs, we need a number of things.

1) Consistent production from the bench.
Last season, there were no players who were able to score at will against other team second units. Look for James Harden, DJ White, or Serge Ibaka to attempt to fill this role.

2) Production in the paint.
Offensively and defensively, the interior Thunder players need to fill the stat sheet. Nenad Krstic was a great pick up last season, but he needs to learn to rebound better. Etan Thomas was a great pick up for his rebounding and shot changing abilities, but he isn't a scorer. Nick Collison was the most productive center most of last season for the Thunder. Serge Ibaka and DJ White can make significant contributions, if given the time to develop. Problem is that will be difficult for both of these players to find enough time to grow as basketball players.

3) Turnovers.
Don't give the ball away. Durant is on the brink of Super Stardom, but he averaged three turns a game. The starting five for Oklahoma City has so much potential, but, on occasion, they do everything in their power to give games to their opponents. Literally.

4) Closing games.
Surprisingly, this preseason helped move the team closer to this goal. They were able to hold off opponents in situations instead of buckling under the pressure, like last season. This goal comes from experience, keeping intensity up until the final whistle. The team has enough heart that this goal is attainable this season.

This might seem like a lot of big things for the team to worry about this season, and it is. But if a team wants to reach the playoffs, they have to do all the little things well. Here's to a great season. Thunder UP! And Go Thunder Go!

This Is Thunder Basketball

(Photo from Yahoo! Sports)

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thunder Thoughts: Oklahoma City vs Miami Heat

Picture from Yahoo Sports!

First Quarter Thoughts:

  • Etan Thomas was a good pick up. He brings a different type of center that the team was lacking. He won't get 10 – 8 every night, but he will be a solid role-player.

  • Smart move by Ibaka at the end of the quarter committing an unnecessary foul.

  • I'm a Kyle Weaver fan, but he has been forgettable this pre-season.

Second Quarter Thoughts:

  • I don't see Mullens playing in OKC much this season.

  • Please let these turnovers be a pre-season thing...

  • I'd like to see Harden get a chance to be the offensive focus. He needs that kind of exposure to get back to what he was doing during the Summer Leagues.

  • Watching the team talk to Ibaka and help explain things to him is great. Uncle Jeff needs to be with this team for a long, long time.

  • That three second violation will be a common thing for Ibaka this season. That is just how it is for players like him.

  • Krstic is a great perimeter shooter. I still don't like my center taking jump shots, though.

  • Green's three-ball is a great asset.

  • Durant has four fouls in the first half. I never thought that would happen.

  • Mullens is a Krstic-esk center. Not sure that we need two.

  • Most brought up topic this season: Shaun Livingston's knee and how he is recovering. I'm already sick of it.

  • I'm going to echo the broadcasters, but Thabo is very basketball smart.

Halftime Thoughts:

  • Oklahoma City is playing very similar to the local weather.

  • It might just be the pre-season but I hope that the replacement refs learn to swallow their whistles for KD like they do for Kobe or LeBron.

  • I know our coaches are defensively minded, and I respect that, but we need to focus on offense. Outside of a couple of players, we look lazy. You can keep your opponent to 20 points, but if you can't score 15, you still lose.

  • With all the focus on Ibaka, I hope that this isn't just extended practice before he sits on the bench for the whole season.

  • Tre Kelley will be sitting at home when the season starts.

Third Quarter Thoughts:

  • Jeff Green is a future 6th Man of the Year when we can find a dominate Power Forward. He doesn't defend down low well enough (yet), to convince me that he will always be at the 4.

  • Having Durant have a lot off fast breaks is totally ok with me.

  • The team just isn't as motivated as it was in OKC Monday. It's the pre-season, but these games are meant to encourage a larger following in Tulsa. Play like you are at the Thunder Dome.

  • Will Collison improve our rebounding? He lead our team last season, but will he make the whole unit play better? One can hope.

  • Mullens is showing a lot of hustle tonight.

  • +/- KD is an amazing player. Whenever he has the ball, you expect good things.

  • When did KD score 20 points? His scoring has been so subtle this pre-season. He is getting his points consistently, but it hasn't been a big deal.

  • Um, I just heard my coined phrase! “Thunder Triumvirate!” I'm almost positive I was the first one to say that on one of my Bleacher Report articles. I first used it in January.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts:

  • The ThunderTV announces their “Thunder Play of the Game” “Thunder Player of the Game” and other awards way too soon.

  • This is Jeff Green's game tonight. His play has been more impressive for me than anyone else for OKC.

  • First Thunder lead at the 3:04 mark.

  • This has been a statement game for Thomas. He hasn't had a huge impact offensively, but he has changed the game in the paint defensively. This is an element that OKC needs.

  • Hearing the Tulsa Thunder fans cheer for DEFENSE with 2 minutes left is great.

  • Durant has been playing with 5 fouls for the majority of the second half. That is impressive.

  • Westbrook's development this summer has been phenomenal. He plays slower, he makes better decisions, I'm loving this new look Westbrook.

  • If anyone else took some of the shots KD takes, they would be yanked. Difference is that KD can make the shot.

  • I know I've said it a lot, but the physicality of Thomas is awesome. He makes other paint players, literally, fight for position. He is quick in transition, too. Getting back to get the rebound after Westbrook's miss with 11 seconds left is a great sign. And he had can shoot free throws when needed.

  • KD with the big rebound to ice the game. It's great to see the team so excited in a pre-season game. These guys seem to genuinely enjoy the game of basketball.

  • Final Score: 96 - 91

Final Thoughts:

  • Great showing in the fourth quarter to the Tulsa fans. KD 30 points on the game, Jeff Green had 24.

  • The new media darling, Serge Ibaka, didn't have a great game tonight, but that's ok. He won't always have spectacular nights. He is a young player, it takes time.

  • OKC was out rebounded 30 – 32.

  • Westbrook had another good showing, he tallied 7 assists but recorded 4 turnovers.

  • More importantly, the Thunder caused more turns than they committed.

  • This game was boring for the first three quarters. Coach Scott Brooks ramped up the intensity in the fourth and forced the Heat to put their starters back in. Great pre-season win.

This Is Thunder Basketball

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thoughts on Oklahoma City's Training Camp

It's been awhile Thunder fans, but here's hoping that I am permanently back.

Training camp is well under way, and what does that mean? Thoughts, musings, and questions about our team.

* Rookie Guard James Harden has suffered two minor injuries so far in two days of practice. Chris Silvia at NBA.com/Thunder has kept the situation documented. On Tuesday, Harden left practice early after being poked in the eye, and today he left with a mild ankle roll. What does this mean for the Number 3 pick? Hopefully, nothing. It seems that the team has been scrimmaging a fair bit, and accidents happen.

* Harden's teammates seem to be fond of him already. These early votes of confidence will do great things for a guy getting used to the game. Of particular note:
"James gives us a shooter,” said veteran Nick Collison. "We really missed a good, knock-down perimeter shooter. I think he can become that. And he can score, slash and do other things.”

Comments like that have me very excited to see this guy in action.

* Etan Thomas is making his presence known. Thomas, a Tulsa native, is trying to make his case for a major role in this team. As can be seen in this photo from Newsok.com. Thomas is a strong "banger" type of Center, something OKC lacked last season.

* Oklahoma City has invited Ryan Bowen, Tre Kelley, Michael Ruffin, and recently Mike Harris. These four players are fighting for the Thunder's last roster spot. Whether or not GM Sam Presti will reward any of them with that coveted last spot is still a ways off.

Coach Scott Brooks is preaching defense at every practice, hopefully it will show when the pre-season starts in a week.

This Is Thunder Basketball

(Image from Yahoo Sports, and Getty images)

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marcin Gortat to Oklahoma City?

The guys over at DailyThunder found a story in Croatia that claims Marcin Gortat talked to Nenad Krstic about the possibilities of playing with him. Here is a link to the story.

While the story has been crudely translated, at best, it brings up an intriguing possibility for Thunder fans. Gortat had a great showing during last year's playoffs, and there were rumors of him being traded to OKC.

Gortat is a solid player, and would be a great anchor for this Thunder team. His career numbers don't show much, he has been a backup for Dwight Howard his entire career, but he has the size and strength to be effective on both sides of the ball.

Do you think that Gortat will be traded to OKC? If so, when? If not, why?

This Is Thunder Basketball

(image from mtsmondo.com)

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So, I know that I have been slow with the updates recently, but I am adjusting to a new job and will hopefully be in the swing of things soon.

So, what would you, the reader, like to see on This Is Thunder Basketball?
Leave a comment, let me know!
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Monday, September 7, 2009

Slow Times

Thunder fans, news is slow right now, but it will pick up again.

Check back soon!

This Is Thunder Basketball

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Way Too Early: Possible 2010 Free Agents for Oklahoma City

If you have been paying attention to the NBA at all in the past year, you know that the Summer of 2010 will be a big one. Let's look at what the Summer might look like for Oklahoma City.

Team Free Agents:

Oklahoma City has three players who will become Free Agents after this season. Shaun Livingston, Kevin Ollie, Etan Thomas, and Thabo Sefolosha (Restricted). Barring any problems or moves this season, the Thunder will likely try to resign Livingston and/or Sefolosha. Both players have showed that they are valuable pieces to this team, and who stays will depend on what Oklahoma City can get in the draft. Thomas and Ollie were brought in to mentor the younger players, and should part ways with OKC next Summer.

That means that Oklahoma City will have 14 players on the roster, including two First Round Draft picks.

Free Agent Needs:

First of all, there are a lot of "ifs" that go into this conversation. If James Harden establishes himself at SG, and if Russell Westbrook continues to develop into the Thunder's great PG, then there will be two glaring problems that can be addressed via Free Agency.

Oklahoma City is small at Power Forward, because they have a Small Forward playing there right now. Jeff Green did a great job at PF last season, but the Thunder need more size at Four. This would also let Green come off the bench behind Kevin Durant, a role that would allow Green to score in droves against other second team SFs.

There are a few routes that the Thunder could go. The top PFs will be Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki seems to be too old to fit into the ownership group's vision of the team, Stoudemire is an unlikely fit due to the style of basketball he plays. So that leaves us with Bosh and Boozer. Rumors of Boozer to Oklahoma City were whispered this entire offseason, and are likely to stop as the Summer of 2010 approaches. It is a well known fact that Bosh wants to be on a contender, and if OKC challenges for a playoff spot this season, it could be enough to convince Bosh to consider coming to the Sooner State.

Final Verdict: Toss Up. Boozer and Bosh would be a great fit with the Thunder, but Bosh gets a slot nod due to being more of a shot blocking presence.

The other glaring area of need is the Center position. Baring a break out year with Byron Mullens, Oklahoma City will look to free agency to improve their interior defense. Sadly, there might not be much for Oklahoma City to choose from. Most of the Free Agent Centers are either too old (Shaq, Marcus Camby) , injury prone (Yao Ming, Tyson Chandler, Jermaine O'neal), or offer little improvement to what OKC already has (Mehmet Okur). So that leaves Oklahoma City with Brad Miller or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

As with Bosh and Boozer, Miller and Ilgauskas bring oddly similar arguments. Ilgauskas is the slightly better career scorer (14.3 to 12.1) but their rebounding numbers are almost identical (7.9 to 7.8). Where Ilgauskas is more of a scoring minded Center, Miller has averaged three assists per game during is career.

Final Verdict: Brad Miller. Brad Miller is a more team minded Center, and he takes better care of the basketball. While he wouldn't be a huge upgrade over what the Thunder already have, he would bring a stronger rebounding presence.

Next summer may be the biggest Free Agent Summer in a long time, and a few small acquisions could go a long way towards improving this Oklahoma City team.

(Stats from NBA.com, Photo from ESPN.com and Free Agent List from ESPN.com)

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where The Thunder Need To Be

ESPN has released its Western Conference rankings, and Oklahoma City is sitting at #11. Their rankings have OKC moving up spots and improving their win total by nine games.

Realistically, Oklahoma City can challenge for the nine spot, but it is possible they could be in playoff talks near the end of the season.

Based purely on these rankings, ESPN has too much faith in the Los Angeles Blake Griffins. While Griffin will improve that team, a 14 game leap just seems unreasonable considering the rest of the roster.

This moves the Thunder up to the #10 spot.

Houston took some steps to improve their team this season by adding Trevor Ariza and a handful of draft picks, but the loss of Yao Ming still looms over this team. Outside of Ming , the Rockets now have no players over seven feet tall. They will still be a quality team next season, just not as good as they were last season. They stay in the #9 spot.

ESPN's #8 team is the Phoenix Suns, a team that will have an entirely different look from last season. The loss of Shaq and the return of a health Amare Stoudemire will let the Suns get back to their "Seven Seconds or Less" play style. Whether or not they can still thrive in this play style will be the determining factor for the Suns.

So, what does all this mean for Oklahoma City?

They will make themselves known to the NBA this season, but in a good way this time. After the infamous 1 - 16 start last year, the Thunder weren't thought to be competitive last season. Now teams have seen Kevin Durant go off, and they know Russell Westbrook's speed. With the addition of James Harden at Shooting Guard, and the continued development of the Thunder's core, they will, likely, be in playoff talks for the majority of the season.

(Photo from PicApp.com and Standings from NBA.com)

This Is Thunder Basketball

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Not a "Barry" Good Idea

Yahoo has reported that Oklahoma City is a possible trade partner with Houston to land Brent Barry (G). Hopefully, this will remain a rumor.

The Thunder already have a log jam at Shooting Guard; with Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden, and Kyle Weaver all competing for minutes. Adding in a guard who has, recently, had incredibly low output at either end of the floor serves no purpose for Oklahoma City.

Barry has been on two Spurs Championship teams, but he saw his numbers drop considerably last season. The Thunder have one remaining roster spot, and there is little chance they will use it on yet another wing player.

(Image from NBA.com)

This Is Thunder Basketball

Monday, August 31, 2009

Inside the Thunder: Centers

The final installment of "Inside the Thunder" will look at Oklahoma City's weakest position, the Center.


Nenad Krstic, acquired midway through last season, will once again be charged with anchoring the Thunder. He brought the Thunder a much stronger presence in the paint. While he is not a great rebounder (5.7 per game) or blocker (.7 per game), he does have the ability to pull up and shoot the ball. Nick Collison will, likely, see a lot of minutes at Center again this season. Collison is a great rebounder (despite being a natural PF), and solid scorer. Etan Thomas, acquired by OKC from Minnesota, is a solid veteran, but ineffective on the floor. Rookie Byron Mullens has a lot of potential, but until he can add some bulk and develop more consistency he will be pushed around by most NBA fives.


If there is a strength to be found, it is the ability to stretch defenses. Krstic, in particular, has the ability to pull defenders out of the paint and allow Oklahoma City's wing players lanes to attack. As he continues to regain his pre-injury form, Krstic's offensive numbers should continue to improve. Collison is, arguably, the team's glue right now. Last season, he played despite a broken finger for much of the end of the season, and was willing to play any position for Coach Scott Brooks. Having a leader like Collison in the locker room will continue to be a great thing for this young team. Thomas is a player who has never played to his full ability. The Booker T. Washington product has never averaged more than 8.9 PTs and 5.8 RBDs in his career. While he doesn't bring much on the court for the Thunder, he does bring a valuable veteran presence for the young team. Mullens is the definition of raw. In Summer League games, Mullens looked like a younger Krstic. He can shoot the ball from outside the post, but tends to fall apart in the paint. He can score on raw ability alone, but needs to focus on his defensive growth in order to really contribute in his rookie season.


Where to begin? The Thunder's Centers are either undersized, or they aren't strong enough to play with the best Centers in the league. Krstic isn't aggressive defensively. If he could push his block average more towards two per contest, rather than 1.1, he will be a much more imposing force down low. Collison's main weakness is that he isn't a Center. He is a Power Forward who plays where ever his coach needs him. This offseason he has spent a lot of time in the weight room, and, hopefully, this will show in the upcoming season. Thomas doesn't take advantage of his height or strength in paint. Yes, he is still struggling with injuries, but most expect that a player built like Thomas would be more productive than he has been over his career. Mullens needs to develop a defensive mindset. Last season with Ohio State, Mullens had a decent stat line (for a back-up), but needs to develop defensively in order to hang with most NBA Centers. If Mullens can add muscle mass, the combination of height and strength will put Mullens in a great position.

There is a lot of room for improvement at the Center position for the Thunder. They aren't the worst unit in the league, by any means, but they have a lot of room to grow and get better. A full season with the defensively minded Brooks should be great for these big guys.

(Stats from NBA.com and picture from PicApp.com)

This Is Thunder Basketball

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inside the Thunder: Power Forwards

Thunder vs Wizards
Today, This Is Thunder Basketball will look at, arguably, Oklahoma City's deepest position.


Jeff Green will likely enter the season as the starter at the Four. His improvement during his Sophomore campaign was overshadowed by Kevin Durant's breakout season. Even in the shadow of Durant, Green increased his season averages by 6 PTs, 2 RBDs, and 1 STL per game. While he is naturally a Small Forward, Green has thrived at PF and should only improve in his third season. After Green, the Power Forward position gets quite murky for the Thunder. They have five year veteran Nick Collison, who will also see time at Center, an incredibly consistent (and witty) player. D.J. White, who was out the majority of last season with a benign jaw tumor, showed what he can do at the end of last season and should be able to compete for minutes. Finally, there is Congo native Serge Ibaka. Ibaka played in Spain last season, and drew a lot of attention at the Summer League this year. Because he is still a "raw" talent, he will likely spend a lot of time with D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66'ers.


Jeff Green has the ability to stretch defenses like few PFs in the league right now. He can post up, or pull up for the three. His work ethic and attitude is perfect for a young team like the Thunder. Collison, whose rebound totals dropped a bit due to injury last season, is a more traditional Four than Green. He is more likely to spend his time in the paint, and fight for rebounds. White improved with each game last season, ending the season with a Double-Double against the Clippers, and will be back in playing shape after the summer. From his limited exposure, he is more of a "banger" than the rest of the Thunder's PFs. He will fight for rebounds, and is the perfect kind of player to relieve Green when Collison is playing the Five. Ibaka is an unknown for most Thunder fans. He showed that he can score, but his inexperience shows on the defensive side of the ball. Hopefully, time spent with Head Coach Scott Brooks and the rest of the coaching staff can help accelerate his learning curve.


Green is a small forward, and it shows when he goes up against some of the NBA's better PFs. Dirk Nowitzki in particular showed what a more powerful Four can do against Green, scoring more than 40 Pts against Green twice last season. Unless Green can get a stronger post game, bigger PFs will be able to take advantage of him. Collison is a player that you either love, or hate. He is consistent, but his play could also be considered boring. He never does anything to amaze fans, but is the type of player OKC needs to keep around. White is a relative unknown, but he needs to work asserting his self defensively and he will be a valuable contributor. Ibaka could be Oklahoma City's biggest defensive liability if he doesn't improve. In Summer League games, he was slow to rotate and was often caught off guard when someone attacked the rim. More court awareness will go a long way towards improving his game.

The Power Forward position is deep for the Thunder. Whether it is the finesse of Green, consistency of Collison, power of White, or unpredictably of Ibaka, these guys will surely give Thunder fans something to cheer about next season.

(Stats from NBA.com)

This Is Thunder Basketball

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Inside the Thunder: Small Forwards

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder vs Washington Wizards

In the third installment of "Inside the Thunder," we are going to look at Oklahoma City's Small Forwards. Or should we say forward, as Kevin Durant is the only SF listed on the Thunder's depth chart.


Kevin Durant, Kid Delicious, the Durantula, Velvet Hoop, or KD35, no matter what you call him, he is the face, and voice, of the Thunder. He is already one of the best SFs in the NBA, and seems to only be able to improve. Last season, Durant averaged 25.3 PTs, 6.5 REBs, and 2.2 ASTs per game (NBA.com). He improved in every statistical category last season, and is on course have 5,000 points by the end of his third season. If his teammates can take defensive pressure off Durant, he is almost a lock for the All-Star Game. Outside of Durant, the Thunder have no "real" back up Small Forward. They do, however, have a number of players who can step into the roll as needed. Jeff Green (PF) is a natural Small Forward, but plays Power Forward with OKC. Thabo Sefolosha has the height and presence to shift to the three, and both Kyle Weaver and Shaun Livingston saw time at SF during the Summer Leagues. This mix match of possible relievers should be able to help pick up the slack while Durant is resting.


Oklahoma City's strength at SF can be summed up in two letters, K and D. Durant can score, rebound, pass, and pester the opposing offense. He not only scorers, but his presence allows his teammates more open shots. Depending on roster moves, if Jeff Green ever backs up Durant he could be a yearly candidate for 6th Man of the Year. Green's numbers have always been overshadowed by the more flashy Durant, but he was the number two scorer on the team last season. Sefolosha has the potential to be an All-Defensive team player, at either SG or SF, and can help Durant when called upon.


Turnovers and defense are Durant's biggest weaknesses. He had just over 3 TOs per game last season (NBA.com), and needs to get that number down. Not being the only offensive spark on the team should be the first step in lowering this number. Despite his long frame and speed, Durant was often beaten off the block by opposing offenses. He has spent this offseason in the weight room, so hopefully a few more pounds of muscle will help this problem. After Durant, and Green if he shifts, the Thunder have no SFs who are reliable scorers. As with the focus on the SGs, Weaver and Sefolosha aren't known for their offense.

Few teams have a better situation at Small Forward than the Thunder. Durant is a franchise player who many are tabbing as the "Next LeBron," but KD still has a ways to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as LBJ. If he can develop the on court leadership, and become more able defensive player, the Thunder have a perennial All-Star. Even if Durant never develops one of those, he is still a player that every team in the NBA would like to have on their roster.

(photo from PicApp.com)
This Is Thunder Basketball

Monday, August 24, 2009

Inside the Thunder: Shooting Guards

The Two was one of the Thunder's weakest position last season, and by drafting James Harden they are looking to make big strides.


Oklahoma City has three players who are likely to be competing for playing time at SG. Thabo Sefolosha, who was acquired by OKC at the trade deadline last season, started 22 of the 23 games he appeared in for the Thunder and will likely have the starting job at the beginning of the season. Sefolosha is the team's shut down defender, and he seemed to thrive in that role last season. Rookie James Harden will, likely, be the next SG off the bench and he showed, in Summer League, that he has the ability to score against NBA level talent. Oklahoma City looks for Harden to develop into the type of player who can draw defenses away from, franchise corner stone, Kevin Durant. Kyle Weaver can be one of the Thunder's most versatile players, but will likely see a lot of minutes in the D-League at Tulsa. Weaver started 19 games for the Thunder last season, and improved his game over the offseason. With the 66'ers Weaver played a lot of point, and if that skill can improve, he will be a contributor to this team.


Sefolosha is one of the team's best defenders. When he is in the game, he can help create a lot of fast break opportunities for franchise big men; Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook. Harden is a scorer, and will spread out opposing defenses like no player last season could. He is also a good counter to Westbrook, in that he is more controlled and Harden can create offense at the Two. Weaver is somewhere in the middle of Sefolosha and Harden. Weaver can score 18 or 19 points, a hand full of rebounds, and assists; or he won't even be noticed on the stat sheet. In the Summer League, he showed that his defense has improved but he still has a ways to go.


Sefolosha has a dismal career scoring average of 5.9/game, though he has averaged 8.5 with Oklahoma City. When he is in, opposing teams don't have to pay much attention to him. Harden is unproved. Scouts claim that he is slow for a two guard, but he showed a lot of explosiveness during the Summer League. If he is too slow to be effective against NBA SGs, don't look for Harden to get many minutes against the Bryants and Roys of the League. As with his strengths, Weaver is streaky. Coaches and fans never know what to expect from Weaver. If he can develop some consistency, he will be a vital role player for the Thunder.

Even with the acquisition of Harden the Thunder have a lot to prove at Shooting Guard. But with a mixture of youthful energy, and veteran tenacity, this SG unit has a good chance at improving from last season. These players have a chance to be solid, but they still have to prove that they can be.

This Is Thunder Basketball

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Inside the Thunder: Point Guards

Oklahoma City will be taking the court for the preseason in a little over a month and the starting line up will be largely the same as when last season ended. But through the offseason, the Thunder have made a number of moves to improve its young roster. Today, we will look into the Thunder's Point Guards

Over View:

Russell Westbrook will once again be at the helm of Oklahoma City, but his supporting cast will be different from the one that finished last season. Westbrook's backup will be Shaun Livingston. Livingston. Last season, Livingston showed flashes of what made him the fourth overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft. But with the departure of veteran guards Earl Watson and Chucky Atkins, Oklahoma City acquired 12 year veteran Kevin Ollie to help mentor the Thunder's youngest position.

Strengths: Westbrook can score with the best of them and, in the Summer League, he has showed that he knows how to play like a "pass first" PG. Livingston is more of a play making PG and will bring a totally different dynamic to the Thunder when he is on the court. Ollie can hopefully show the young guards why he has never averaged more 1.54 TOs per game in his entire career (NBA.com).

Weaknesses: Westbrook can be reckless and needs to improve on his dismal Assists to Turn Overs ratio this season. Livingston still has questions on whether or not his knee can take a full season in the NBA. If he can improve his scoring, then he will see a large chunk of minutes thrown his way. Ollie has never been a scorer, but he knows how to control the ball.

The Thunder have a nice mix of players at PG, including a couple Shooting Guards who can play the point when called upon. The pace that the team plays will be different depending on who is in the game. As long as each of these players continues to improve, the Thunder will have always have an able player at the point.

This Is Thunder Basketball

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thunder Summer Review

This past offseason has been a busy one for the Oklahoma City Thunder. From the draft, to free agency OKC has improved on the team that finished near the bottom of the NBA last season.


In this Summer's draft, the Thunder picked up three players. James Harden, Byron Mullens, and Robert Vaden.

James Harden (SG): Harden is expected to make an instant impact for the Thunder. He brings the Thunder a scoring compliment to franchise cornerstone Kevin Durant, and helps fill out one of the weakest positions on the team.

Byron Mullens (C): Mullens is, what experts call, a project Center. He is a "real" seven foot, but lacks the physical presence needed to play in the NBA. If Mullens can develop a consistent post game, he can contribute in this league.

Robert Vaden (SG): Vaden, who has already signed with a Euroleague team, was picked up to add another scorer to the Shooting Guard position. After a lack luster showing during Summer League, Vaden signed with an Italian club to continue his development.

Free Agency:

Oklahoma City has been busy this offseason in free agency. By getting rid of "dead weight" and adding veteran depth where it is needed, the Thunder have set themselves up to accelerate the development of its younger players.

Etan Thomas (C): Thomas was acquired in a trade from Minnesota for Chucky Atkins and Damien Wilkins. Thomas, who is originally from the Tulsa area, and will bring much needed depth to Center position.

Kevin Ollie (PG): Ollie was, obviously, brought in to help mentor Russell Westbrook. Ollie has never averaged more than 1.54 TOs a season (according to NBA.com) and should be able to help reel in Westbrook's reckless play style.

Serge Ibaka (PF): Ibaka, who wasn't technically a free agent since the Thunder owned his draft rights last season, has a lot of potential to have an impact on this team. During the Summer Leagues, he showed that he is not only a great athlete but also has a soft touch on the basketball. Even though OKC is deep at Power Forward, he should see a good chunk of minutes as his development continues.

Even with adding Thomas and Ollie, Oklahoma City will be close to, if not the, youngest team in the NBA. Despite this, many are calling for the Thunder to have a break out season in '09. With Head Coach Scott Brooks and General Manage Sam Presti building a solid team around a strong core of young players, Oklahoma City is sure to make ripples through out the NBA this season.

This Is Thunder Basketball


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Expect to see profiles of players, weekly recaps, and breaking news as fast as I can post it. This Is Thunder Basketball hopes to be your one stop shop for all things Thunder.

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