It has been a so-so start for the Oklahoma City Thunder. They're 7-3 with wins against teams they were supposed to beat and losses to teams with which they were supposed to struggle.
But is it okay to simply give the Thunder a pass for losing games against a few of the NBA's elite teams?
Thunder Nation might not be comfortable with that notion. They expect their team to compete with the league's best. They expect greatness. They expect championships.
However, the popular excuse of "it's still early in the season" can be made. The Thunder have three losses in 10 games, which is a very solid winning percentage. And they have an opportunity to avenge those losses in the next five games, all of which are at home.
Needless to say, the Thunder will have the opportunity to show their true colors in the next couple of weeks, and I believe they will remind everyone that they're still contenders and still a great team.
Those lesser-known Thunder players will be the difference between an NBA title run or an early playoff exit. Durant and Westbrook will always be the core of this team, but having other complementary players develop throughout the regular season is crucial to its success in the playoffs.
These are the Oklahoma City player power rankings through the first 10 games of the regular season.
Note: These rankings are based off my opinion of the top players who have contributed the most to the Thunder's success thus far in the season.
14. Ryan Gomes
Nobody is more excited for the D-League to start than Ryan Gomes.
Gomes hasn't seen much playing time this season for the Thunder, and I don't see that trend changing anytime soon. He did start the second half of a game in place of Serge Ibaka, which was pretty cool for him, I guess.
13. Hasheem Thabeet
Hasheem Thabeet continues to impress, not with his basketball ability—but with his height.
There was a time last year Thabeet saw consistent minutes and somewhat contributed to the Thunder. Oklahoma City fans were thinking "maybe Thabeet's NBA career isn't a complete bust after all." Those thoughts have been put on hold for the time being.
12. Andre Roberson
The Thunder are trying their best to develop Andre Roberson into the next Thabo Sefolosha. His defense is exceptional, but his offensive ability isn't quite there yet.
Roberson is a player to keep an eye on in the near future. He will more than likely get some time with the Thunder's developmental team and have the opportunity to develop as an offensive threat. But unfortunately for Roberson, we may all forget he's a member of the Thunder roster by the end of the season.
11. Kendrick Perkins
It may seem Kendrick Perkins is a little low on the list. I tried shuffling things around to make him higher but I just couldn't do it. After all, he's the starting center, so why is it that I have him so low?
Well, I've come to a realization that despite having Perkins so low in these rankings, he is not any less of a valued player. His defense is among the best in the league, and his name will be called when the Thunder face teams with big men who can score.
But still, Perkins is a liability on the offensive end. He hasn't been a scorer since he has entered the NBA and his ball-handling is quite atrocious. Albeit, he is very capable of setting solid screens and giving other players open looks. The thing is, other Thunder bigs can set screens too, and they are all more capable than Perkins at putting points on the board.
For those who didn't know, Derek Fisher is still playing basketball.
Not only is he still playing basketball, but he is giving the Thunder solid minutes. He isn't the scorer we were accustomed to seeing when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's finding ways to put his mark on games.
One thing I have noticed about Fisher in the early part of the season is his pesky defense. He doesn't look like he's nearing 40 years of age. He is quick, aggressive and, gosh darn it, he is helping the Thunder win games.
The most valuable asset Fisher brings to the Thunder is his veteran leadership. He has championship experience that he brings to this team, which is pretty nice to have on a roster with a lot of youth and inexperience.
It has been tough for Thunder head coach Scott Brooks to utilize the extremely athletic Perry Jones III. Jones has proven that he is more than capable of draining threes, but it's hard to tell just how effective he could be if he were given more minutes.
Royce Young on DailyThunder.com talked about the situation with Jones not receiving much playing time, and the reason why Brooks has been put into "a bit of a pickle."
Brooks is in a bit of a pickle with Jones. He’s been really effective when he’s played, but there aren’t too many situations where he fits. But he needs to play, and not just in the first half. If he’s going to drop those corner 3s, and he’s going to finish inside, he’s got to find the floor for some run every night.
Brooks is in a tough spot because while his bench isn’t overly outstanding or anything, it certainly is deep. There are 11 guys on this team that could see minutes any given night and with three guys penciled in to take around 35 each a night, that makes it tough to find time for guys like Jones.
So yea, it may be difficult to give Jones more minutes in games, but wouldn't it make sense to see what he can do? At least try giving Jones a decent amount of minutes and see how he does. It is certainly worth a try, and it might work out in the Thunder's best interests moving forward.
It's pretty clear that Thabo Sefolosha is trying to be more aggressive on offense this season. He hasn't been great, but there's reason to believe he'll develop more as the season progresses.
Sefolosha is known as a three-point shooter, but this season he has been driving to the rim much more. It seems that his shooting has regressed a bit, as he's shooting 38 percent from the field compared to his career average of 44 percent.
But I like that he is starting to change things up a bit by moving more with the ball. He is no longer just a catch-and-shoot player, and once he perfects his craft a bit more then he'll be a very valuable asset.
And on the defensive end, he is still exceptional. Sure, he Andre Iguodala hit the game-winner over him in the loss to the Golden State Warriors just last week, but that was an extremely tough shot. Sefolosha would give him that shot every time if he had the choice.
Steven Adams has been a pleasant surprise for the Thunder. The rookie was expected to spend most of this season in the D-League, but his consistent contributions have earned him extended minutes with the Thunder.
Adams has been given fewer and fewer minutes the past couple weeks, and the early season chatter of him being the starting center has been put on hold.
But still, Adams has the potential to be very, very good. It wouldn't surprise me if he turns some heads in the NBA by the end of the season. And even if he doesn't, it's hard to blame a rookie. If anything, he will be a great player down the road.
Still, I feel Adams is one of the rare players that can be effective early on in his NBA career. Give him some time to develop this season, and he might be a valuable weapon for the Thunder come playoff time.
The Thunder player with arguably the most weight on his shoulders coming into the season was Jeremy Lamb. He was expected to fill the void left by the departure of Kevin Martin, who was the Thunder's third-highest scorer last season.
To be honest, the high expectations placed on Lamb are unfair. He doesn't need to be the next Kevin Martin or James Harden. There is a widespread belief that the Thunder need another person to step up and put the same amount of points on the board as James Harden or Martin did for the Thunder in past years.
But really, Lamb just needs to go out and contribute while staying within himself. And so far this season, he has done just that.
Lamb is averaging 18.9 minutes and 8.3 points per game this season. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but they're where they need to be. As long as other Thunder bench players can contribute points in games, then the Harden-Martin void will be filled—even if it isn't from a single player's performance.
It's easy to view Lamb as the lone result of what the Thunder got from the infamous Harden trade with the Houston Rockets. But if you look at it for what it really is, which is the addition of Lamb, Steven Adams and a future first-round draft pick—all while refraining from entering the luxury tax—then you can easily make sense of the trade.
Lamb is still young and has plenty of time to develop into a great player. He's doing just fine right now and will continue to get better throughout the season.
The Thunder's plus-minus point differential per 100 possessions is a staggering plus-8.2 when Nick Collison is on the court. When he is on the bench, the Thunder are minus-1.2.
Yeah, that is a pretty big impact.
Overall, the Thunder's offense seems to flow well with Collison on the court. He has an old-school feel to him the way he plays. He's savvy, technique-sound and one of the hardest workers on the team. He doesn't have the flash and awe-striking athletic ability of some of the NBA's big men, but his consistency has a huge impact over the course of game and a season.
If you thought Nick Collison's point-differential numbers were impressive, then you'll be surprised (maybe even amazed) by Reggie Jackson's effectiveness while on the floor for the Thunder.
The Thunder are a plus-12 with Jackson on the court per 100 possessions and a minus-7.1 with him off the floor.
He showed us last postseason, after taking over for an injured Westbrook, that he is capable of contributing valuable minutes for the Thunder.
Jackson is explosive, quick, aggressive and an artist when it comes to attacking the rim. At some point this season I expect him to be given more minutes, possibly spending a lot of time with Westbrook in the backcourt.
With those two capable scorers on the floor at the same time, the Thunder offense will be extremely hard to contain.
I believe by the end of the season Serge Ibaka will be shooting around 60 percent from the floor. Right now he is shooting 50 percent, but that's due to a slow start in the first couple of games of the season.
We saw Ibaka's worth in the Thunder's game with the Los Angeles Clippers last week. The Thunder had things under control with a demanding lead in the first half, but things went south in the second after Ibaka was ejected from the game due to an altercation with L.A.'s Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes.
Right now, Ibaka is the Thunder's third-best scorer, which is exactly where he needs to be. If he can stay around 14 points per game, then the Thunder will be in good shape.
As far his defense...he is still Serge "Iblocka" Ibaka.
At No. 2 on the list is Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook's value to the Thunder is immeasurable. We saw the offensive struggles the team went through in last year's postseason and at the start of this season with Westbrook sidelined with the knee injury. But now that he has returned, the Thunder are beginning to get their swagger back.
And if there was any question concerning Westbrook's play after two knee surgeries, those have been laid to rest. He's back and playing like the explosive, relentless guard we are all accustomed to.
He is struggling a bit at finishing at the rim, which is why he is No. 2 in these power rankings (plus the fact he has a guy named Kevin Durant on his team). Westbrook's mid-range jumper is the best it has ever been.
Once he can knock off the rust with his lane-driving finishes, he will be virtually unstoppable, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses across the league.
No. 1 in the Oklahoma City Thunder player power rankings should not come as a surprise...it's James Harden.
Just kidding. Too soon?
All sore-subject jokes aside, Kevin Durant is the player most clearly deserving of the No. 1 spot. He is the face of the organization and will remain that way as long as he is wearing a Thunder uniform.
He can do it all: score, rebound, assist, defend, block, etc., etc., etc.
With that said, Durant is still looking for his first NBA title. He's made it clear that he is "tired of being second." And it seems Durant will do anything to finally get over the hump and get a championship ring.
Nobody wants to go down in history as "The Best Player to Never Win it All." So far, Durant is in that discussion. However, there is still plenty of time left in his career to win the title, and I wouldn't count this year out to do so.
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