Since All-Star break the Thunder’s record is 6-11, bottom five in the league. The only teams behind Oklahoma City are the ones who are tanking. Let’s face it: the Thunder are a mess right now, and it’s ok to be worried if you are a fan or care about the team.
Who has the most responsibility?
Well, before diving into it, let’s check some numbers since the break.
In the last seventeen games, the Thunder rank last in field goal percentage at 42.3, 25th in three points at 33.2%, and 28th from the free throw line at 70.3%.
These three numbers are already telling us a lot. The team isn’t making enough shots: not from around the basket, not from distance, and let alone from the free throw line, where they struggled all season long.
Before the break, the team wasn’t excelling in the shooting, but at least they were average (15th in field goal percentage at 46.2, and 13th in three points shooting at 35.2%), while playing solid defense. Now, all the good things which Oklahoma City showed to us seem gone. There have been some sparkles here and there, like the win in Toronto, the first half in Indiana, the two wins against Utah or the one against the Blazers, but for the most part, it has been painful to watch. The Thunder lost their identity right when they should play the best basketball heading into the playoffs.
So back to the main question, who has the most responsibility?
- Billy Donovan
Well, when things go bad, the first one to be blamed (and fired) is usually the coach. How much is Donovan’s fault tough for this post-break collapse? I don’t think it is as much as some people believe. He had a plan on how this team should play, they did it for more than half of the regular season, and they succeeded, especially on defense. He put blame on himself after the loss in Memphis last night. He said he didn’t motivate the players enough. However, I think there is this much a coach can do to motivate grown-up millionaires. Donovan changed and experimented some rotations, but still, nothing revolutionary, and actually, it paid off. At the end of the day, he can’t make the FT for the players, he can’t make open shots, and certainly, he can’t take all the technical fouls because some players aren’t able to control their emotions. Could he do a better job? Sure, but should he take all the blame? No.
Responsibility level: 20%
There have been injuries here and there during this Thunder’s regular season, but every team goes through it. Right now Paul George seems not to be 100% because of his shoulders, and Adams indeed doesn’t look right, but there is no official word on him. Plus we have to remember, the Thunder are still without one of the best perimeter defenders in Andre Roberson, and Alex Abrines who should have been PG’s backup instead of Nader. So injuries are definitely affecting the team, but not that bad to justify the level of basketball played by OKC in the last month.
Responsibility level: 25%
Here is where the main problem lays in my opinion, and I think it always starts with the leaders. Russell Westbrook and Paul George are great basketball players, future Hall of Famer, but they aren’t playing as they are capable of right now. Westbrook and PG should get the team always ready to come out and compete, each and every night, especially in a deep playoff race where each wins matter. Yes, you heard that before. Westbrook says that sentence a lot, but does he always? The problem is the missing sense of urgency from everyone apparently. Everything seems to be ok, they aren’t worried, they know what they are capable of, no need to panic. So why aren’t they playing like they are capable of consistently? Why don’t you come out and destroy a G-League team and secure a good win that could help to get a better seeding in the playoffs? Why aren’t you building good habits on the court a month before the playoffs? It’s hard to play on a high level every game for eighty-two games nobody is denying that, but the Thunder are better than this, and either the players start to figure things out, or they will be on holiday again by the end of April.
Responsibility level: 55%