Oklahoma City Thunder

Final Regular-Season Grades for Every OKC Thunder Player

Shehan PeirisCorrespondent IIIApril 17, 2014

Final Regular-Season Grades for Every OKC Thunder Player

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    Sue Ogrocki

    As the Oklahoma City Thunder embark on their quest for NBA glory, head coach Scott Brooks will have plenty of tough decisions to make when it comes to figuring out his playoff rotations. The postseason is definitely a different style of basketball, but reflecting on how each player performed in the regular season is a good place to start.

    Consequently, here are the last player grades for the regular season. As always, the grades attempt to go beyond the box score, but the eye test is so subjective that the numbers have to factor into the evaluations.

    The entire season’s work for each player is considered, but the grades are weighted more to contributions over the second half of the season since sports is always a “what have you done for me lately?” business.

    Another important point to consider is every player is not graded on the same scale. While that would be the case in an ideal world, the fact of the matter is these players are not of equal talent. If every player were graded on the same scale, Kevin Durant would get an A++++, Russell Westbrook would get an A++ and most of the remaining players would get Cs and Ds.

    It’s much more important to fill your role in the bigger picture of the team than it is to go out and try to score points or rack up stats, so these grades factor in what was expected of each player.

    For every player, there will be an explanation of their role on the team, complete with a grade to reflect how well he fulfilled that role and a breakdown explaining that grade.

     

    Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com

Hasheem Thabeet

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Stats: 8.3 MIN, 1.2 PTS (57% FG), 1.7 REB, 0.4 BLK, 2.6 PER

     

    Hasheem Thabeet did not come into the season with great expectations. He was behind four other big men on the depth chart and was merely supposed to be an extra big body who could provide spot minutes if necessary.

    With Kendrick Perkins’ injury, however, Thabeet’s role grew slightly, and he was called into a more prominent reserve role behind rookie Steven Adams.

    He didn’t receive consistent playing time, but the one thing Thabeet is supposed to provide is rim protection, and he didn’t do that very well (as evidenced by his block numbers).

    The UConn product was an adequate big body to defend true centers, but his unimpressive rebounding and shot-blocking numbers, his depressingly low PER and underwhelming impact on games gives him an unimpressive grade.

     

    Player Grade: D-

Andre Roberson

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    Danny Johnston

    Stats: 10.0 MIN, 1.9 PTS (49% FG), 2.4 REB, 0.5 STL, 9.0 PER

     

    As a second-round pick who is still a developmental project, Andre Roberson handled himself relatively well in his rookie season. Brooks occasionally gave him expanded minutes, and he was an effective energy player thanks to his athleticism and length.

    He didn’t shoot the ball very frequently, but a field-goal percentage hovering around 50 percent is a good sign considering how raw he is offensively.

    The most impressive aspect of Roberson when he was at Colorado was his rebounding, and he displayed the same nose for the ball in OKC.

    Throw in his skills as an on-ball defender—allowing 0.50 points per possession on isolations and 0.63 ppp against pick-and-roll ball-handlers according to Synergy Sports (subscription required)—and Roberson had a very good rookie year, exceeding expectations and making a good first impression on the coaching staff.

    Despite that, his inexperience means he probably won’t see any action during the playoffs.

     

    Player Grade: B-

Steven Adams

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    Sue Ogrocki

    Stats: 14.8 MIN, 3.3 PTS (50% FG), 4.1 REB, 0.7 BLK, 11.3 PER

     

    Like his fellow rookie, Steven Adams outperformed his expectations this season. Even though he was the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, he was initially considered a raw, long-term contributor as opposed to a player who would help the Thunder this year.

    He shut the door on that notion early, posting some impressive stat lines and impressing everyone with his surprisingly soft offensive touch, overall activity and his penchant for getting under opposing players’ skin while maintaining a stoic, unfazed facial expression.

    Adams was a good rebounder—especially on the offensive glass where he was second only to Serge Ibaka—and exhibited his prowess as a rim protector throughout the season.

    The more exciting aspect of his rookie campaign, however, was how well he finished around the rim (with both hands) and the athleticism he displayed while getting up and down the court to keep up with explosive athletes like Westbrook and Durant.

    It was a tremendous rookie year for Adams, although he tailed off a little bit toward the end of the year. If this grade was based on the first half of the season, he’d get an A, but factoring in the whole season pushes him down the grade curve.

    He will be an important role player in the playoffs—especially considering the size of the Memphis Grizzlies and potential opponents like the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs—so he’ll have to step his game up even more so the Thunder maintain their depth in the league’s other “season.”

     

    Player Grade: B

Kendrick Perkins

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    Danny Moloshok

    Stats: 19.5 MIN, 3.4 PTS (45% FG), 4.9 REB, 0.5 BLK, 6.2 PER

     

    Perkins was a lightning rod for criticism this season, and a brief glance at his basic stats is one reason why. No realistic fan or analyst expected anything out of Perkins offensively, so his scoring output is hardly shocking.

    For a player who has the reputation of a rebounder and a defender, however, his numbers are substandard—just like his unsatisfactory PER.

    But Perkins has always been one of those players whose true impact never showed up in the box score. His leadership and toughness sets the tone for a young OKC team. His communication defensively is the bedrock of the Thunder defense. And his defense has never revolved around gaudy shot-blocking numbers.

    The advanced stats tell the real story, and Synergy Sports’ numbers reveal he was the 21st-best defender against post-ups (holding opponents to 30.9 percent field-goal shooting) and the seventh-best isolation defender (forcing his man into 33.3 percent shooting) in the league.

    He certainly didn’t have a particularly good season, but the condemnation is unwarranted. He’s going to be a crucial part of a potential Thunder title run against big men like Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert and LaMarcus Aldridge.

     

    Player Grade: C-

Perry Jones III

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    Sue Ogrocki

    Stats: 12.3 MIN, 3.5 PTS (46% FG, 36% 3P), 1.8 REB, 10.1 PER

     

    Perry Jones III was a forgotten man thanks to his rapid fall from grace as a highly coveted high school recruit to an underwhelming player at Baylor to a late first-round draft pick. But Jones made a big leap this year, developing into a very good and versatile defender and a reliable three-point shooter.

    His decision making was impressive because he never tried to do too much. He didn’t force shots or try to make spectacular plays—something he did a fair amount of at Baylor. Instead, Jones was clear about his role and played within himself and the framework of the team.

    Jones started the year extremely hot from beyond the arc, but he predictably cooled off as the year went on. Defensively, however, he was used against a variety of players, and that versatility is going to be useful in the playoffs.

     

    Player Grade: B-

Nick Collison

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stats: 16.7 MIN, 4.2 PTS (56% FG), 3.6 REB, 1.3 AST, 11.8 PER

     

    The year may change but Nick Collison doesn’t. Seriously, doesn’t it seem like he’s been doing his Collison thing for 20 years?

    Fortunately for OKC, he’s doing that Collison thing for the Thunder, and he’s been tremendously important for the team. Even though he’s playing in limited minutes, he’s putting up solid numbers that give us an idea of how smart he plays.

    He shoots comfortably over 50 percent, showing his very good shot selection and ability to finish well around the hoop. He is also the fourth-best rebounder on the team but averages over an assist per game, which doesn’t even do him justice as a passer.

    The startling thing is his numbers barely show how effective he truly is. His hustle, energy and knack for making big plays and coming up with loose balls makes him invaluable for Brooks. OKC wouldn’t be where it is right now without Collison, and you can be sure that he’s going to play an important role in the postseason.

     

    Player Grade: B-

Derek Fisher

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stats: 17.6 MIN, 5.2 PTS (39% FG, 38% 3P), 1.6 AST, 0.9 STL, 10.2 PER

     

    Most Thunder fans would probably have been unhappy if you had told them Derek Fisher would play almost 18 minutes per game during the regular season. Chances are those minutes aren’t going to decrease that much in the playoffs either, unless coach Brooks really surprises and opts to go with more youth than experience in the postseason.

    But while there are some legitimate cons to playing Fisher (like his inconsistent offensive game, lack of athleticism and defensive shortcomings), he’s performed very well in his limited role.

    He’s not asked to handle the ball too much but only to space the floor with his perimeter shooting and make good decisions.

    Fisher is definitely doing that, shooting a very nice 38 percent from downtown and stepping up in the clutch like he’s always done.

    Whether playing him extended minutes in the playoffs is the right move remains to be seen, but Fisher has given his head coach no reason not to do so.

     

    Player Grade: B-

Thabo Sefolosha

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Stats: 26.0 MIN, 6.3 PTS (42% FG, 32% 3P), 3.6 REB, 1.3 STL, 10.3 PER

     

    It hasn’t been a great season for Thabo Sefolosha. As per usual, he’s been one of the better defenders in the league, but he’s missed time with injury and has struggled to regain his three-point stroke—which is a huge problem for the OKC offense that needs floor spacing to let Durant and Westbrook go to work.

    In a year where Sefolosha was expected to step up in Kevin Martin’s absence, it’s been a disappointing season offensively, which earns him the subpar grade.

    Defense will always be his calling card, but he’ll lose minutes to Caron Butler if he doesn’t start hitting some shots.

     

    Player Grade: D+

Jeremy Lamb

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Stats: 19.7 MIN, 8.5 PTS (43% FG, 36% 3P), 2.4 REB, 1.5 AST, 0.7 STL, 13.4 PER

     

    Like Adams, Jeremy Lamb was on fire to start the season—which was a good thing considering the fact many were counting on him to replace some of Martin’s scoring punch off of the bench.

    Unfortunately, his three-point percentage decreased as the year progressed, and he fell out of the rotation over the second half of the season—hence his average grade.

    It was a nice season by the former Huskie, as he showed his versatile offensive game and the ability to contribute as an all-around player.

    He also showed he needs more time to really mature, and it’s unlikely he’ll get playing time in the postseason.

     

    Player Grade: C

Caron Butler

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    Sue Ogrocki

    Stats: 27.2 MIN, 9.7 PTS (41% FG, 44% 3P), 3.2 REB, 1.1 STL, 12.3 PER

     

    Butler has turned out to be a waiver-wire gem for the Thunder and was a big part of the rotation from the get-go. He’s not the defensive presence that Sefolosha is, but the veteran is smart and physical enough to cause problems for opposing wing players.

    Conversely, he’s been terrific offensively and is shooting a ridiculous 44 percent from downtown. Butler has already emerged as one of Brooks’ favorites, and he’s sure to be a big part of the playoff push.

    As an established veteran that’s getting up there in age, it’s hard to exceed expectations, but that’s what Butler has done to this point.

     

    Player Grade: A-

Reggie Jackson

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    Danny Moloshok

    Stats: 28.5 MIN, 13.1 PTS (44% FG, 34% 3P), 3.9 REB, 4.1 AST, 1.1 STL, 2.1 TO, 15.3 PER

     

    Reggie Jackson has fared pretty well despite having an ever-changing role thanks to Westbrook’s injuries. He didn’t play as well as one would hope in the starting role, but he’s thrived as the sixth man and leader of the second unit.

    His all-around performance is Westbrook-like, but the most impressive aspect of his season was the poise and decision making he displayed. Last year, he looked tentative at times, but Jackson looked extremely comfortable as a facilitator this season and didn’t try to force the issue too much.

    As the energizer bunny off the bench, Jackson is going to be responsible for keeping the scoreboard ticking when Westbrook is riding the pine in the playoffs, and all signs point to him fulfilling that role excellently.

     

    Player Grade: B+

Serge Ibaka

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stats: 32.9 MIN, 15.1 PTS (54% FG, 38% 3P), 8.8 REB, 2.7 BLK, 19.7 PER

     

    Serge Ibaka has been quietly phenomenal this season. He was expected to take on a greater offensive role, and he’s done so really well—only nobody has noticed thanks to the exploits of Durant.

    He’s been more aggressive offensively, however, but has still maintained his brilliant shooting percentages.

    On defense, you’d like to see double-digit rebounds, but you can live with his current numbers because he’s such a game-changer as a shot-blocking force.

    It wasn’t a huge leap, but Ibaka continues to improve every season, and he’s a rare big man who is a two-way factor in the modern NBA.

     

    Player Grade: A

Russell Westbrook

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stats: 30.7 MIN, 21.8 PTS (44% FG, 32% 3P), 5.7 REB, 6.9 AST, 1.9 STL, 3.9 TO, 24.6 PER

     

    The numbers aren’t what we normally expect from Westbrook, but that’s fine when you factor in his injury and multiple surgeries. It was truly amazing to watch him bounce back from repeated setbacks and be the same ridiculously aggressive and relentless player, so he earns a grade boost thanks to heart.

    He’s still getting comfortable and knocking the rust off, as shown by his relatively low scoring and assist output, but his energy makes the Thunder go.

    Westbrook will need to keep improving throughout the playoffs for the Thunder to raise a championship banner, but Westbrook has been phenomenal just for the fact he’s played in 45 games.

     

    Player Grade: A-

Kevin Durant

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Stats: 38.5 MIN, 32.0 PTS (50% FG, 39% 3P), 7.4 REB, 5.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.7 BLK, 3.5 TO, 29.9 PER

     

    What can I say about Durant that hasn’t been said already? We all expected him to take another step toward greatness, but he took a giant, zero-gravity leap into megastardom thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons we’ve seen in recent memory.

    He took home his fourth scoring title, but that’s old news with Durant. Instead, let’s focus on the way he carried this team without Westbrook by doing absolutely everything humanly possible on the court.

    His rebounding and assist numbers are tremendous, but he’s still the most lethal and efficient scorer in the game as evidenced by his ridiculous percentages and how close he came to repeating a 50-40-90 season.

    It’s going to be tough for anybody to beat Durant in the playoffs, and he’ll add the MVP trophy to his scoring titles for his insane season.

     

    Player Grade: A++

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