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 and picture from

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

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 ( 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 (, 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
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 (

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 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


Welcome to This Is Thunder Basketball, your home for news, analysis, previews, and reviews of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

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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