Another loss means more questions for the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially for their big three stars: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony. The biggest questions are what is wrong with the OKC Thunder and why have they not been able to put together a string of wins?
Few outside of the Thunder organization and their fan base expected for the team have one of the better records in the NBA. Most everyone believed that Thunder would struggle coming out of the gate. However, no one saw the OKC Thunder sitting with a 4-7 record after 11 games.
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that talent and big names trump everything else in the NBA. Time is needed for the talent to gel. Big names oftentimes come with huge egos. However, having an ego is necessary when going up against the best of the profession night in and out. One of the problems is that Anthony, George, and Westbrook are trying too hard to push aside their egos. It has cost the OKC Thunder wins thus far.
Some indecision was taking place during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 102-94 defeat to the Denver Nuggets. A couple of fast breaks were halted because the trailing players rotated toward the three-point line instead of going into the lane for easier shots.
Carmelo Anthony and Paul George were among those Thunder players looking for long-distance shots in favor of layups, each time in deference to Russell Westbrook trying to make a play.
The OKC Thunder are playing like a team still figuring things out. The new Thunder stars have yet to live up to their billing due to a lack of chemistry. However, the Thunder has too much talent to be 4-7 and losers of four consecutive games.
According to the Norman Transcript, the Thunder conducted a team meeting to discuss the Thunder’s current skid. Offseason trade acquisition Paul George offered a keen assessment of the OKC Thunder’s play as of late.
“We’re going to take advantage of that mismatch. That’s just what it comes down to, but it’s on us to not spectate. Whoever has the ball, we can’t spectate. We got to get some movement, just cause some confusion to give that guy that has the ball a chance to even make a play.”
The OKC Thunder players have been guilty of spectating for the past few games. Instead of getting in position to make or complete a play, the Thunder stands around to watch the ball.
When the Thunder traded for Paul George (courtesy of NBA.com), they envisioned him fitting into the role vacated by Kevin Durant. George has been relegated to the third star with the Thunder’s deal to get (courtesy of ESPN) Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. The question bringing Anthony and George in together was about their overall fit. It has not been ideal.
Going into the game against the Denver Nuggets, the big three of the Oklahoma City Thunder were all averaging 20.1 points a game. Anthony, George, and Westbrook are all putting up a similar number of shots, and it is a clear sign of the Thunder players deferring to each other at the worst possible times. The Thunder’s deference has them winless against Western Conference teams.
There is an example of the deference the OKC Thunder players has which took place in the fourth quarter of the Nuggets game. Carmelo Anthony was being defended by the Nuggets’ Paul Millsap. Anthony took a few dribbles to lure Millsap into the back end of the elbow. In doing so, it opened up the paint for a Thunder player to roam inside.
Once Anthony was successful, the Thunder players, with the exception of Steven Adams, stopped to watch the ball. Paul George was in the right corner, Westbrook was near the top of the key, and Jerami Grant was being shaded on the left side. Anthony took a few more dribbles and took a difficult shot. He did score on the play, but it was made tougher than it needed to be because none of the Thunder players moved.
The video below shows several of Carmelo Anthony’s shots in the Thunder game versus the Nuggets. There were only a few instances when the Thunder moved on offense.
The chemistry between Anthony and George must improve if the Thunder want to compete for a championship. Their big names lead us to believe they should play well together. However, their perimeter-based styles make it difficult.
If Paul George returns to being a slasher while Carmelo Anthony roams the elbow awaiting drive and kick opportunities from Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will have better success. In order for that to happen, each member of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s big three must regain their swagger and play with an ego. Playing without an ego is why the Thunder are currently 4-7.
[Featured Image by J Pat Carter/Getty Images]