The Oklahoma City Thunder have closed the books on yet another successful regular season and are now in the midst of the hunt for a championship to bring back home.
This past regular season, the Thunder accumulated 60 wins, good for the top seed in the Western Conference and the most wins for the franchise since they won 64 as the Seattle Supersonics in the 1995-1996 season.
Sure, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were the primary contributors, but it was an overall team effort that led to win after win. From the other starters to the deepest ends of the bench, this team has some quality talent that's helped Oklahoma City's ascent into the elite tier of the league.
The playoffs have just begun, but the books are officially closed on the regular season, meaning it's time to sift through OKC's roster and give a final grade to each and every player.
In just his second year in the league and his first season as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Daniel Orton didn't get too much of a chance to make any real impression.
Thunder GM Sam Presti surely has some level of faith in the former Kentucky Wildcat and I've never been one to doubt Presti's eye for basketball talent.
However, for now it seems Orton is nothing more than a prospect/project player for OKC and may not see the light of court for a while until his very raw game develops on both ends of the ball.
Final Grade: Incomplete
When Jeremy Lamb came over as part of the James Harden blockbuster trade with Houston, many assumed that he may be the eventual starting 2-guard for OKC in the coming years.
That may very well be the case, but for now, Lamb is being stashed away to develop at a more gradual rate.
Lamb was drafted by the Rockets 12th overall, so there were some fair expectations for him to be an immediate contributor. Those expectations were for Houston, though, and now that Lamb is suiting up for a championship-caliber team, he will simply have to have more patience before he can really get some seasoning.
Much like Daniel Orton, Lamb saw quite a few back-and-forth trips between the Tulsa 66ers and the Thunder. In the burn that he did get (23 games), Lamb faired pretty well with 71 total points but took 68 shots to do so, resulting in an ugly 35.3 shooting percentage.
There's a lot of upside for Jeremy Lamb's future on the Thunder, and I still think he could potentially be in the starting five one day, but it's gonna be a while until he gets to that level of play. Luckily, head coach Scott Brooks works well with Presti in terms of slowly developing young players, so the future's bright for guys like Lamb.
Final Grade: C-
After fighting and earning a spot after a strong preseason, DeAndre Liggins hasn't shown up too much statistically this season.
That's exactly what the Thunder organization was thinking, though, when they rewarded Liggins with that spot, since he's more of a hustle player who brings a lot of energy and tough defense when he touches the floor.
Liggins works hard without the ball and takes advantage of his opportunities. He played in 39 games this season (even starting one) and produced 58 total points with 18 steals and 53 rebounds. It doesn't seem like much, however, Liggins made some respectable contributions to the Thunder, but it was definitely mostly during his garbage-time minutes.
Having a watered-down version of Thabo Sefolosha is a good safety net for Oklahoma City, who has plenty of offensive weapons to complement their defensive specialists like Liggins.
Overall, a pretty decent season for Liggins, but his lack of playing time didn't really allow him to contribute too heavily.
Final Grade: C+
In the months leading to the 2012 NBA draft, Perry Jones III was considered a top prospect before he was red-flagged due to his recurring knee problems that may trouble him in the long term.
The Thunder, however, jumped at the chance to land quality talent and drafted him 28th overall.
Much like the other young prospects suiting up for Oklahoma City, Jones played sparingly this season, only appearing in 38 games. Jones pitched in 88 total points but did so by heaving up 99 shots, making his field-goal percentage a very rookie-esque 39 percent.
Jones has tons of potential with very good size for his position (6'11") and could potentially have a very refined, versatile offensive game. Out of the current benchwarmers for OKC, Jones' upside may be the highest, assuming his potentially bothersome knees don't cause him to miss games.
This season wasn't very definitive for Jones, but he could see a big bump in time off the bench next season and may become one of the primary backups for both Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka.
Final Grade: C+
After a pretty quiet trade deadline for the Thunder this past February, they did manage to acquire a strong defensive-minded player in Ronnie Brewer in exchange for a future second-round pick and some cash considerations.
Brewer was seeing a big drop-off from his inclusion in the New York Knicks rotation, so a trade to a team that could use an experienced, pure small forward seemed logical.
As good of a fit as it may seem, the Thunder have not given Brewer too much time on the court to really mesh with the rest of the team. His numbers have reflected that so far, as he's managed just 13 points in as many games, shooting an appalling 6-23 (26 percent) from the field.
Defense is definitely Brewer's forté, but his atrocious attempts at an offensive game has taken away most, if not all, interest that Scott Brooks had in working him into the regular rotation.
During the playoffs, Brewer may be able to step up in big defensive situations when needed, but based on the small sampling of his regular season with the Thunder, we may not see too much of him in the postseason, either.
Final Grade: D
In the 2009 NBA draft, the Memphis Grizzlies opted to draft Hasheem Thabeet, a 7'3" center from UConn, over James Harden, who the Thunder would take with the very next selection.
Now that Harden's been shipped to Houston, the Thunder now have the No. 2 overall selection from that draft class instead of the No. 3 overall selection. However, it'd be quite the understatement to say there's a disparity in value between Thabeet and former Thunder sixth man Harden.
Bust labels aside, Thabeet has managed to have a somewhat decent season off the bench for OKC. Playing in 66 games, he posted averages of 2.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks, all of which were the highest numbers Thabeet's had since his rookie season in Memphis.
Besides the stats, Thabeet has been good at filling the niche of flat-out taking up space in the paint and posing as a threat to any incoming opponents. Sure, he's not very balanced or the most coordinated big man (but how many 7'3" guys are), but he definitely seemed comfortable this season without the lofty expectations on his shoulders and with his team winning a lot of games.
Being around winning can really help any player's confidence and can expedite even the slowest of developments, so it's no surprise that Thabeet this season has looked probably as good as he's ever been in his still-young career.
Final Grade: C+
Though some Oklahoma City fans were a bit skeptical at re-signing Fisher after his playoff run with OKC last season, he's proven himself able to at least contribute some short spurts of offense, though I couldn't find a stat for the leadership and experience he brings to the team.
Fisher came in last season with the Thunder in desperate need for a stable backup point guard since Eric Maynor was sidelined with an ACL injury and Reggie Jackson was still a very raw rookie. Even then, at the ripe age of 37, D-Fish filled in nicely and really pitched in some quality minutes en route to OKC's run to the NBA Finals.
This year's a bit different, though, since Jackson has developed a lot and had even won the backup job over a healthy Maynor this season. That's why it seemed a bit puzzling to have Fisher come in to subsequently take minutes away from Jackson, who seemed to be doing just fine.
Nevertheless, Fisher has been playing significant minutes off the bench (14.4 per game) but has had some troubles finding consistency in his shot, shooting just 33 percent from the field and only 35 percent from three-point range.
The shooting hasn't been so hot for him, but he's been able to facilitate OKC's stars well enough to keep getting minutes from Scott Brooks. Fisher's ability to work off the ball allows him to play in lineups with fellow point guards Russell Westbrook and Jackson on the court, too.
Regular season tends to be a bit different from playoff Derek Fisher though, and the Thunder are certainly hoping that he picks it up in the coming two months as they attempt to grab some gold once more.
Final Grade: B-
The young Thunder point guard with a famous, baseball-related name has evolved from a shaky rookie into a much more polished player over the course of this season.
Reggie Jackson has shown immense growth in all aspects of his game this year by being more aggressive and efficient on offense and by using his large wingspan and length to play solid on-ball defense.
It's no easy task to keep the Thunder offense running without Westbrook handling the point, but Jackson has really put in the work to learn the offense, and Scott Brooks has rewarded him with more playing time accordingly.
Jackson's averaged 5.3 points and 1.7 assists this year, but his big improvement was on shot selection, as he upped his field-goal percentage from 32 percent in his rookie season to a much more respectable 45 percent this year. He's also helped out on the boards, averaging 2.1 rebounds per game.
The gradual development of Reggie Jackson should be an encouragement to guys like Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb, who have both gone through much of what Jackson went through last season, like going back and forth to Tulsa and playing a lot of garbage-time minutes.
Final Grade: B
Love him or hate him, Kendrick Perkins has been a valuable help to the Oklahoma City Thunder, no matter how bad he may look in the box score.
As far as starting centers go in the NBA, most teams wouldn't put Perk at the top of their wish lists, but Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti certainly saw something special in Perkins that led to dealing away the younger, promising Jeff Green at the trade deadline two seasons ago.
That special something was a lot of the edge Perkins brings to his game, a sort of toughness and mean-but-not-malicious attitude that can get under the opponent's skin.
After battling through a lot of injuries last season, Perk stayed healthy throughout the year and only missed four games this year, tying his career-high in games played during his 11-year career.
Staying healthy was important for Perkins, since the depth behind him at center (Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet) function much better in smaller roles off of the bench.
Stats-wise, Perkins was a bit disappointing, as he took steps backward in his general production (4.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG and a career-low 45 percent). However, he's never been meant to be statistically significant for this Thunder team, and his contributions have much more to do with defensive presence in the paint and being able to make some easy buckets when given the opportunity.
Therefore, I do think that Perk's been good this season by staying healthy and available for Oklahoma City, but his stats show that he could've been better than he was.
Final Grade: B-
To most casual NBA fans, Nick Collison seems like any other reserve veteran big man. But to Oklahoma City Thunder fans, Collison is almost legendary.
Alright, I might be reaching a bit with the term "legendary", but Collison is certainly beloved by OKC fans for his amazing hustle plays, team-first attitude and consistently selfless dedication to helping the team win in any way possible.
Collison has become one of the most important role players in Oklahoma City and he sure does play that role about as good as anyone in the NBA. He's thrived on making smart plays with and without the ball by setting great screens, drawing charges and being an above-average passer.
He's quietly one of the best leaders on this Thunder team and has earned loads of respect from being the longest-tenured guy on the roster.
Overall, Nick Collison does pretty much anything you could ask for and more for Oklahoma City, and his subtle contributions have boosted this team's overall level of play.
Final Grade: A
After going through a career with the label of "defensive specialist", Thabo Sefolosha has done a lot this season to really expand that label with his vast improvement on offense.
Since he came to the Thunder back in the 2008-2009 season, Sefolosha has meshed in nicely with the starting unit, thanks to his elite defense on the perimeter and ability to score somewhat when given open looks.
This year, Sefolosha has upgraded that proficient scoring ability to the next level, as he posted a career-high in total points (613) and made only one less three pointer this season (108) than his last four seasons combined.
It's always a nice little surprise when team's can get a little scoring spurt from their defensive guys, but Sefolosha has shown a new level of consistency this season that he can contribute effectively on both sides of the ball.
Best of all, this offensive breakthrough hasn't hampered his defensive efforts, as he's still averaging 1.5 steals per contest and shutting down opponents like usual.
Final Grade: A-
Kevin Martin came over to OKC with expectations to at least somewhat fill the scoring void left behind by James Harden, and he's done so pretty well.
Though this season, his points-per-game average dipped lower than it's ever been since his rookie season, Martin has been a much more efficient player, shooting 45 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.
This mostly has to do with him becoming acclimated with his role as more of a spot-up shooter rather than having to create his own offense like he did in his years with the Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings.
Martin had some tough shoes to fill with the Bearded One leaving Oklahoma City, but him pitching in 14 points per game isn't too much of a drop for the Thunder to pick up as a team. His scoring presence has really eased this tough and quick transition forced upon Scott Brooks and his guys, so I think this was a really solid season for Martin, who had to make some big adjustments, himself.
Final Grade: B
Sam Presti's move to lock Serge Ibaka in long term last season has looked great so far, as Ibaka has improved almost immediately.
The fourth-year shot-blocking extraordinaire has expanded his offensive game by increasing his shooting range to the three-point line, as well as developing a very reliable mid-range game to complement his post scoring.
This metamorphosis has come as a result of some increased playing time, as well as more scoring opportunities with the departure of James Harden. He posted a double-digit scoring average for the first time in his career (13.2 PPG), and he still led the league in blocks, clocking in with 242 total swats.
What's most important about how good Ibaka's been this season is that he could be a big X-factor in the postseason, especially if the Thunder meet the Heat once more in the NBA Finals. Being able to have the versatility to attack inside and out against a team like the Heat would really make a difference for OKC's offense, as it would also open the floor up for explosive playmakers like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Therefore, I think Ibaka is very deserving of a high-letter grade for showing so much improvement and jumping on the chance of increased burn on the court.
Final Grade: A
Year after year, there's criticism thrown the way of Russell Westbrook. But this season, his critics remained rather quiet as Westbrook facilitated the Thunder offense efficiently while not hindering any of his own offensive instincts.
We always hear about how Westbrook needs to feed the ball to Durant more or that he's selfishly trying to steal the spotlight from KD. In reality, Westbrook's aggressive play is not stemming from some sidekick complex to be the best player on the team. Instead, it comes from his unwavering competitiveness that sometimes makes him look like the best point guard in the game, but can also make him look foolhardy at times.
Games like he had against the New York Knicks, though, show that he can take over a game just about as well as Kevin Durant can. When Russell is hot, he knows it and will continue to push the ball offensively. Even Durant can't be mad when Westbrook keeps calling his own number and keeps draining buckets.
This season, Westbrook's really made it a point that he is who he is and that he won't let the hate affect his game. It's a big step for a guy who's had to deal with this harsh criticism basically his whole career, but the way he's tuned it out this year and played his own game is an encouraging sign for Oklahoma City.
If Westbrook manages to stay focused on the task at hand and continues to develop better decision-making on the court, there's no telling how dominant of a pair he and Durant could be for years to come.
Final Grade: A+
Let's just put it this way, if it weren't for some guy named LeBron James, Kevin Durant would have surely been the favorite to take home the Most Valuable Player award this season.
Also, it may sound a bit nitpicky, but Durant lost the "official" scoring title to Carmelo Anthony (who played 14 less games than Durant) due to Melo averaging more points per game. In terms of total points, though, KD won in a landslide, scoring 2,280 with the next on the list being Kobe Bryant with 2,133.
With that being said, Durant was a scoring machine this season and joined a rather exclusive club by shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line. As you can see, KD can score at will but also do it with efficiency.
There's been a certain edge to Durant this season that's been a bit different in past years. He seems hungrier than he's ever been to win an NBA championship. I think it's a matter of him believing that the Thunder's time is now to win a ring and that he's done with the whole "up and coming" title for OKC.
Kevin Durant's focus this year wasn't on some scoring title or winning his first MVP award. His focus remains on finally winning a championship after inching closer and closer each season he's been in the league.
That itch and drive motivated KD to have one of his best, all-around seasons in his career, and the dude's not even old enough to rent a car yet.
Final Grade: A++