Thunder are lost and it starts at the top

The Oklahoma City Thunder have lost their identity, and with eight games remaining in the regular season, a miraculous turnaround is looking increasingly less likely.

With OKC’s tough closing schedule, seeing the Memphis Grizzlies on their schedule was highly anticipated because it meant an easy win. When the news broke that both Mike Conely and Avery Bradley would be out on Monday night, things looked even more promising. There was no way the Thunder would lose a game to one of the worst teams in the NBA without their two best players. Obviously, we forgot how inconsistent the Thunder are as they embarrassingly dropped Monday night’s matchup to the Grizzlies 115-103. Not to mention, Memphis’ shorthanded starting lineup combined for 98 points, including 24 points from Bruno Caboclo and 21 points from Tyler Dorsey.

The only thing you can point your finger at is how inconsistent the Thunder have been this season and how they’ve lost their identity.

They’ve hung their hat on being a tough, gritty, defensive-minded team who’s offense went as far as their defense could take them. Over most of the season, OKC was a top-five defensive team in the NBA while key players capitalized off turnovers and translated them into points. Things have slipped significantly, which isn’t unusual.

A red flag is raised when the team seemingly doesn’t realize their flaws or better yet won’t make proper adjustments when those flaws are recognized. My assessment of this team is that they have a lot of talent and a ton of potential, but may be too stubborn to reach that in its entirety and that starts with Westbrook, George, Adams, and head coach Billy Donovan. Those are the four associated with the Thunder that are tasked with making sure this team reaches their full potential and it isn’t happening.

The main reason why it isn’t happening is due to the lack of urgency between those guys. Westbrook is the emotional leader of the Thunder, George and Adams anchor the defense and they all should be answering to Donovan. None of those four act like anything is wrong. None of them act concerned. None of them act like anything is a big deal, even though their team is on the brink of being the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a first-round matchup against two teams they struggle against.

The outlook for Oklahoma City this season is not promising with five of their final eight games coming against playoff-bound teams. Two of the other three teams (Minnesota and Dallas) aren’t ideal matchups for the Thunder. It’ll be an uphill battle for OKC from here on out. There is time, but things need to turn in a positive direction quickly if the Thunder want to avoid another first-round exit this postseason.

Addam M. Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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