5 Creative Lineup Combinations the OKC Thunder Should Try Next Season
And so it is, we have no basketball, nearing no baseball and an NFL year as indefinite as the US economy.
Both college basketball and football will be tag teaming the 2011-2012 year together. The hope is that our easy American attention span puts out, fostering peak ratings and enticingly exhilarating postseasons.
As much as the NBA players attempt to nurture our sincerity in the union’s direction, reality would say otherwise: Americans want entertainment and they want it like they want their double-doubles at In n’
Out burger…fast and cheap.
With two more weeks omitted this week from the NBA's schedule of play, fans across the globe can nearly forget about enjoying what seemingly was a resurgent league with a growing fan base.
That aside, there is still much to talk about.
And with countless hours to assess current club rosters and possibilities of players’ movements, critics similarly can enjoy the many fruits of time toying with lineups, styles of play and coaching.
For the rolling Thunder, Oklahoma City and Coach Scott Brooks have a cracking thing going.
They have the youngest team in the league with a superstar in Kevin Durant, who sooner or later will be the best player in all of hoops.
Clip on Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, and there are countless lineup options to tinker with in Oklahoma City; Lineups that endorse run n’ gun, defensive mindedness, rebounding and all-around play.
Take Care of the Offensive Vampires' Lust
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When Russell Westbrook was drafted out of UCLA and cast into an unknown organization with little to any direction, the pick seemed all the more directionless.
Not only was the 19-year-old lacking a jump shot, body control, free-throw consistency and an ability to pass the ball, he had played just one year with starter minutes in Ben Howland's program and had yet to prove he was worthy of a No. 4 pick in the 2008 draft.
But boy were we all wrong.
Quickly, the lightening flash of a point guard proved he had the fire in the belly and that certain edge to compete on a nightly level with the best of the best.
Point totals have jumped dramatically from 15.3, to 16.1, all the way up to 21.9 last year, his third year in the league. His improved mid range jump shot draws out defenders, while his speed and strength gets him to the rim for an easy finish.
The problem is he likes to shoot...a lot. In fact, too much.
In last seasons' Western Conference Finals, Scott Brooks had to bench the hot-headed star for quiet and go-with-the-flow professional, Erick Maynor.
Maynor delivered a poised performance, leading charge, while opening up the game for Kevin Durant. The result was a much needed W, and questions began to swirl regarding Westbrook's immediate future in a small market paparazzi-less Thunder organization.
Could the kid demote his shot to Durant? With that said, the answer is no.
So why don't we create an offensive juggernaut by inserting Maynor into the lineup with Westbrook at the two?
Roll with Harden at the 3 and stick the 6'10" Durantula at the 4, whose long active arms could make up for a skinny light frame. Then place a quick and more athletic Serge Ibaka at the 5 instead of Kendrick Perkins, and all of a sudden, the average offensive Thunder are an up-tempo high octane offense taking care of Westbrook's offensive cravings.
Considering the league is moving away from lockdown defenses, the move could help evolve the Thunder from Western Finals to NBA Finals.
1: Erick Maynor, 2: Russell Westbrook, 3: James Harden, 4: Kevin Durant, 5: Serge Ibaka
When the Rims Are Tight Just Smack Em over the Head
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As nice as an offensive up-tempo orchestra sounds, we could stick with what works.
Trading project and team building block Jeff Green last February for longtime defensive lockdown Kendrick Perkins, changed the culture in Oklahoma city.
Quickly Perkins made his presence known, by asserting the Thunder's rivalry status with Western Conference elite, the LA Lakers.
His long standing relationship with the likes of Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, created his desire for hardnosed and rugged defense. It was that very thing that crowned him champion in 2008.
Losing him as a starter nullifies his worth.
What good is a guy who, for five minute spots, scores five points a night and struggles at the free-throw line?
In order for the Thunder to maximize Perkins' role, they need to play him. Play him that he might mix things up, piss off opposing teams bigs, get stars into foul trouble and rough up and slow down the tempo.
It was this very nature that put the Thunder on the map and it is this type of basketball that can brutalize softer more up-tempo clubs.
Imagining Perkins clogging lanes, Ibaka blocking shots and Sefolosha locking down the perimeter game, resurrects memories of the ugly late 80's bad boy Pistons.
Hardnosed Lockdown Lineup
1: Russell Westbrook, 2: Thabo Sefolosha, 3: Kevin Durant, 4: Serge Ibaka, 5: Kendrick Perkins
But What about Getting Others Involved?
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The 6'5" 220-lb Amish beard flaunting combo-guard James Harden has finally arrived. His entrance was a bit late, but fashionably late, as he has become one of the most electric players in hoops.
After a disappointing rookie year, the Arizona state Sun Devil was looking like the biggest bust not named Hasheem Thabeet in the 2009 draft. Being drafted over Tyreke Evans and Stephan Curry did not help his cause either.
That is until the man began asserting himself as the team's third scorer alongside both Durant and Westbrook. When one is down and out, it seemed nearly every night Harden came through with either a steal, a three-pointer or an acrobatic move around the rim.
Seeing his minutes jump from 22.9 to 26.7 from his rookie to sophomore season, and his points from 9.9 to 12.2, proves the 22-year-old is on the precipice to become a bonafide star.
Continuing with Westbrook at the 1 and 2 defensive-minded bigs with Ibaka at the 4 and Perkins at the 5, while inserting Harden into the 2 spot, creates a rather balanced lineup with a defensive minded approach and yet offensive quickness to compete.
1: Russell Westbrook, 2: James Harden, 3: Kevin Durant, 4: Serge Ibaka, 5: Kendrick Perkins
If It Isn't Broke Then Don't Fix It
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Yea, well it is. Things are broken until proven otherwise.
Do you see a ring on any of the Thunder's finger?
I know the topic of Nate Robinson is so 2009 and the Mighty Mouse inspiration is more known for his incredible bench press and high jumping skills than he is for anything NBA related, but at one time the little man was a near All-Star with the Knicks dropping nearly 20 points a night.
Imagining that the team wants to completely mix it up in order to create new chemistry with players hungry and willing to evolve rolls, the 27-year-old could be a fun option.
Not only is he absolutely electrifying, but Robinson can shoot.
Considering his run n' gun nature, shot totals would rise, thus creating more opportunities for both Westbrook and Durant. This keeps the stars happy and more likely to work in unison with one another.
Compared to lineup No. 1 with Erick Maynor, Robinson has a higher upside offensively.
His ability to step in and score in the staring lineup allows the team to still anchor the club with Perkins and Ibaka defensively, while re-adding a spark in Harden on the bench.
Not only could the lineup score, but ultimately the bench is lengthened quite a bit.
Mix Up Chemistry Changing Lineup
1: Nate Robinson, 2: Rusell Westbrook, 3: Kevin Durant, 4: Serge Ibaka, 5: Kendrick Perkins
Crash the Glass!
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One incredibly underrated aspect of Thabo's game is his ability to crash the glass.
The 6'7" swing is best known for his defensive prowess, but don't be fooled, Thabo can also rip down offensive boards and finish.
A subpar shooter, Sefolosha's drive to compete is what makes him less of a liability offensively. Gifted with tremendous hops, the Swiss native is a highlight waiting to happen.
A team centered around getting to the offensive glass needs to be quick enough to get back in transition. With long striding Durant, Westbrook and surprisingly quick Ibaka, the Thunder are just the team to do it.
So why not have Sefolosha, the team's best defender, model this new identity?
Inserting Sefolosha automatically makes the Thunder more athletic and strengthens them defensively. His undervalued 6'7" size means the man can play forward, while guarding smaller guards.
His combo nature gives Scott Brooks a plethora of options. Depending upon what is needed on any given night, Thabo can be switched in and out of three difference spots.
1: Rusell Westbrook, 2: Thabo Sefolosha, 3: Kevin Durant, 4: Serge Ibaka, 5: Kendrick Perkins
1: Rusell Westbrook, 2: Kevin Durant, 3: Thabo Sefolosha, 4: Serge Ibaka, 5: Nick Collison