When the Oklahoma City Thunder finished with their best offseason ever by acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, NBA championship bells went off in the minds of fans. That’s understandable, however, with their struggles to begin the season, those same fans are now calling for trades. But why? Did anyone really think the team would start 20-0 out the gate? Did anyone really think there would not be any issues of spacing, shot selection, or defensive breakdowns?
The Thunder traded for two iso-players who were alpha males on their respective teams to play with a point guard coming off a triple-double season. How was that supposed to work right off the bat? Let’s not forget the other teammates on the team as well. In two years, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, and Billy Donovan have gone from Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, and Kevin Durant to Taj Gibson, Victor Oladipo, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George, all in a matter of months. How does that equal balance?
What we’re seeing from the Oklahoma City Thunder is what we should be seeing from them in the first half of the season.
These are three players who must not only learn to play as a unit, but they also have to trust one another. When the news was announced that they would be paired together, the first thought was either Olympics or All-Star team caliber results. However, neither has happened yet. Donovan runs a structured offense, spearheaded by the most dynamic point guard in the game. Now, he has to dial it back a bit and learn to play with players who loves to handle the ball more than Durant, Ibaka or Oladipo did. It’s a learning process for all parties involved.
The Thunder is forcing turnovers on 19.2% of opponent possessions.
???? That’s best in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/lhNpxNq1DC
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 3, 2017
But I will say this, come playoff time, no team will want to see the Thunder.
Even with the struggles, one has to think these are veteran players playing for more than stats. The league is watching them with a microscope for several reasons. One is to see if this will work, and if it doesn’t, the hounds will be out blood. Trade calls will flood the offices of the Thunder in hopes that either Carmelo or George would be enough to push a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers over the top.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 10, 2017
But then, looking at what they have accomplished, the Thunder are still not that bad off. Their record will say one thing, but the intangibles say something else. According to NBA.com, the Thunder are the second best defensive team in the league, top 5 in second-chance points, and tops in offensive rebounds. The metrics are there, but it’s the close games where they have fallen short. Issues like that will work themselves out once the three-headed monster catches their groove.
It’s easy to look at OKC and see failure for players who can average 20 points each in their sleep. It will take time to gel, and most fans are not that patient. It takes time to build chemistry, as every team can’t be like the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, or Boston Celtics. The Thunder are veterans who know what it takes, they’re just working through the kinks now.
What that said, instead of asking for trades, offer encouragement or don’t be there with the “I knew we had this” remarks when it all comes together.