One Improvement Each Key Oklahoma City Thunder Player Must Make
The Oklahoma City Thunder are not a perfect team, which is why each of their players has at least one way in which they need to improve.
Beating the Miami Heat for a title will not be easy, but getting to the point where the Thunder have the chance to do that will not be much easier. For Oklahoma City to get through the West, they need each of their components to improve in at least one key way.
Every man who plays for this team has a weakness, and many have multiple ones. However, if they can just each improve a small amount, it will make the team leaps and bounds better for the playoff run that is coming.
After being an NBA draft joke for so long, Hasheem Thabeet has finally find a place in Oklahoma City where he can be a somewhat-relevant part of a contending team. He still needs to improve his foot quickness though.
During the 11.6 minutes he plays per game, Thabeet has done some nice things, but he also looks awfully slow. I understand that you can only expect a 7’3” player to move so fast, but Thabeet often appears to be in quicksand. He must remedy that if he wants to continue to get playing time down the stretch.
Have Larger Offensive Impact
The trade of Eric Maynor seemed to indicate that, for now, Reggie Jackson had a solid hold on the second-string point guard spot. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s recent signing of Derek Fisher could mean otherwise.
Beating out an experienced veteran like Fisher will not be easy, but it is possible if Jackson can make a bigger impact off the bench offensively. He is a long, athletic player and should be able to average more than 4.0 points and 1.6 assists per game. His aggression must increase; he has the ability to back it up.
More Effort on Offense
The major knock on Kendrick Perkins since he arrived in Oklahoma City has been his inability to consistently contribute on offense. Nothing has changed, and he must fix this problem to ensure his long-term future in Oklahoma City.
Averaging just 4.7 points per game as a starting center is not very good, no matter what excuse you choose to use. Even if Perkins cannot improve on that stat, he must become more active in the offense, whether it is setting more screens or even just being part of the passing.
I racked my brain trying to think of a way Nick Collison could improve his game, but the truth is that there is little he can do. That is not a bad thing.
Collison is one of those NBA veterans every NBA team wants coming off the bench. He can score the occasional few points, play defense and be where he needs to be for the team. He is a leader on the court and off, and he does everything he can to help the team. Keep doing what you are doing, big man.
Take More Open Shots
If I told you that a team had a shooting guard who was shooting 41.4 percent from three and 48.5 percent from the floor overall, you would tell me that team was dumb for only letting him shoot the ball six times per game. That is why Thabo Sefolosha must shoot more.
This has been a problem for Sefolosha in the past, deferring too much to his superstar teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. However, back then it was because he couldn’t shoot a bit. Now that he can, he must do it more often. It will diversify the offense and make the Thunder much harder to stop.
Shoot the Ball More
The ways in which Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha must improve their games are very similar. There is a difference, however, which is that I want Sefolosha to take more open shots, whereas I did not insert the word open into my prescription for Ibaka.
Ibaka must be more aggressive. He needs to get the ball more and give it up less. He needs to shoot more jumpers and get the ball in the low-post more often. Ibaka is shooting 55.7 percent from the field, which is the highest mark in the starting lineup. Shoot the ball more, Serge, for the same reasons Sefolosha needs to.
Become a Bigger Part of the Offense
There are times when I forget that Kevin Martin is even out there with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Usually, it is late in games and for some reason the ball never even finds its way to him. That has to change.
I’m not saying he necessarily needs more shots. However, he does need to play a bigger role in the offense, particularly when he is sharing the court with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Even if it is simply the ball going through him to them, that is better than what is happening right now. It is understandable to be overshadowed by these two stars, but it is not what is best for the Thunder.
Russell Westbrook & Kevin Durant
There is a reason that I have included the Oklahoma City Thunder’s two best players on just one slide. They both need to improve their games by limiting their turnovers.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are two of the NBA’s best players, which is why it is both understandable and ridiculous for the two of them to average 6.9 turnovers per game combined. It is understandable because they both have the ball in their hands a lot, but it is ridiculous in that two players this good could give the ball to the opponent this much.
Westbrook ranks third in turnovers per game among point guards, while Durant ranks first in that stat among small forwards.
The Thunder were able to overcome their turnover issues last season and make it all the way to the NBA Finals. The odds of them doing it again are more and more unlikely the longer their two superstars continue to turn over the ball at this alarming rate.