The Oklahoma City Thunder look as if they will be one of the last teams standing when the NBA playoffs come later this year. However, achieving that goal will be impossible if the team’s more important role players do not step up.
After starting out the season in dominant fashion, the Thunder have come back down to Earth. The primary difference has not been the team’s stars, but rather the supporting cast that fills in the rest of the puzzle.
Kevin Martin is the first Thunder role player who really needs to step it up. Since starting off the season red-hot, Martin’s play has taken a major downturn.
In the last 10 games, Martin is scoring just 11.3 points per game on 40.7 percent shooting. In the month of March, his shooting percentage is down to just 33 percent, the lowest month, by far, of the season.
The primary reason the Thunder have been so successful over the past few seasons has been having that solid scorer coming off the bench. James Harden filled it perfectly last season, but now the role belongs to Martin.
He must start shooting the ball better if this team is going to go far in the playoffs. It is really his only role on this team, and without it, this team will go nowhere.
The trade that sent Eric Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers firmly cemented Reggie Jackson as the Thunder’s backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook. Now, it is time for Jackson to live up to the confidence the team has shown in him.
The good news is that, lately, Jackson has shown that he is ready to fill his role.
In the last 10 games, Jackson has averaged 7.4 points, 1.7 assists and 1.4 rebounds off the bench while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Those types of numbers are what the Thunder need from him in his limited role off the bench.
The bad news is that Jackson has yet to prove he can do this consistently over the course of a long stretch of season.
Jackson is very similar to Westbrook in terms of playing style and skills, which is a good and bad thing. He is tremendously talented and athletic, but he also makes some of the same boneheaded mistakes Westbrook has.
The team needs Jackson to fulfill his promise in order for their bench to continue to be among the NBA’s best.
Thabo Sefolosha is one of the most underrated role players in the league, and he is invaluable to the Oklahoma City Thunder when he is playing his best.
At 6’7”, Sefolosha uses his tremendous length to defend some of the league’s best scorers and his recent development as a three-point marksman has also made him valuable on the offensive end of the court.
However, Sefolosha lacks the aggression one would like to see in a three-point shooter. He passes up on open shots far too much, so much so that his star teammates have gotten on his case about it in the past.
Sefolosha shoots 41.6 percent from three, which makes him one of the best on the team. Kevin Durant and Westbrook need space to drive and make things happen. Sefolosha can’t provide that space if he isn’t shooting.
The Oklahoma City Thunder need these three players to fill their roles confidently. Together, the three of them help provide the support system Durant and Westbrook will need to win the title their talent deserves.
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