Permanent Dysfunction in Oklahoma City


One of the most annoying things in sports is the Monday morning quarterback. You know, the guy who waits until after the game, or the following morning — after a lot of thinking — to point out something that a player/coach/team should have done in the moment. Nobody cares for a person who criticizes or passes judgment with the benefit of hindsight. Nobody. Well, that isn’t stopping me (gasp)!

Note — Can I be a Monday morning quarterback if my hot takes are from a sample size of 3-4 years?

Losing Game 2 against the Mavericks doesn’t mean the sky is falling in Oklahoma City. I mean, I did predict them to win in five games — and it is only one loss — but it’s how they lost. Yet, once again, blowing another game in the fourth quarter reminded me of not only what a deserted barren wasteland that Oklahoma City is, but what a useless, incompetent organization that franchise is. The overall structure is just ungodly awful after you get past the two names that somehow manage to keep everything relevant. Those names are of course, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

I can only imagine the OKC front office standing around all season muttering the same comments they do every single season, “Well, our roster isn’t very good. Actually, it’s horrendous besides Durant and Westbrook. Say, you don’t think it’ll be difficult to resign Durant since we haven’t made any improvements to our team since he has been here, do you?”

I’m convinced that my children will be watching the Thunder someday and (pending free agency) will be watching a mid-40’s version Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook keeping a band of scrubs together throughout an entire season only to be let down in the playoffs against a franchise that isn’t stuck in a collapsed pit haunted of negative energy from the James Harden trade. What have we seen since the 2012 Finals that suggests otherwise?

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have done everything within their amazingly talented basketball arsenals to keep this team relevant. Alone. No help except for each other. They’ve witnessed each other fall down and not get back up from different individual seasons with injuries — both resulting in lost opportunities. Both those seasons, at the end of games when they’re swarmed with defenders, and deep into playoff runs there is no extra support for them besides Serge Ibaka who is a shell of his former self.

Note — Injuries suck. You can’t control them, but that is a part of basketball history now. OKC, Durant, and Westbrook don’t get those years back. With the window closing, it’s an extra wrinkle in Durant’s summer of free agency.

The next most competent player on their roster is Steven Adams who is essentially out there to literally move opposing players in order to clear out room for rebounding, to prove mustaches are still a thing, and to make sure anybody besides Russell Westbrook doesn’t get their ass kicked.

There is also a legitimate argument that the rookie guard, Cameron Payne, is higher on the competence list than Stevan Adams. When he has actually been on the court this season he has been really impressive in my opinion because he actually does stuff. He can handle the ball and get Westbrook off the ball. Payne gives lineup flexibility, extra shooting, and play making that nobody outside of Westbrook or Durant can provide.

In fact, Payne might be the biggest question mark of the season. Why doesn’t he play? Was he only drafted to be Westbrook’s dance partner before the games? Does Payne even need to stretch? Does Billy Donovan just tell everybody what time he’d like them to show up before the game and Payne just understands he is on a different schedule? These are questions I need answered.

The supporting cast in OKC is just a joke. Enes Kanter proves the Sixth Man of the Year award is really just a statistical award if he is a serious candidate for it. I mean, he scores really well from the block, but it might not be a stretch to say he’s one of the worst defenders in the history of the National Basketball Association.

Since Harden left — not to keep bringing that up — the Thunder have plugged more bodies into that third/fourth option spot than a morgue.

What is the difference between Andre Roberson, Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow, Randy Foye, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin, Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, etc? They’re all the same player when I have watched the Thunder over the last few years. They all stand around watching Westbrook and Durant while they wait to catch and shoot threes, or create and throw up garbage towards the basket because they’re scared they won’t get the ball back. It’s not to rip the players, but how many times do you have watch to understand they aren’t the solution. The two best players they’ve had to fit those roles are Reggie Jackson — who was traded — and Cameron Payne — who doesn’t play. Give the kid a shot because maybe, just maybe he will spark something that generates a better product on the court than what they have with him on the bench. If not, he will just be another one of those bodies added to the list.

There is absolutely zero reason why this team wouldn’t be a top two team in the NBA, or be having a season similar to San Antonio’s if they had a head coach and general manager who were above average at their jobs. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the same team you don’t need a crazy supporting cast. But you do need a supporting cast.

So far under Billy Donovan’s tenure I can’t decide if I’m watching Billy Donovan or Scott Brooks because they look exactly the same. Exactly the same. The product on the court is a perfect match of the other besides the fact that he was capable of figuring out it’s a good thing to leave either Durant or Westbrook on the floor at all times.

(For some reason Brooks thought it would be fine to have those two players on the bench at together frequently.)

You can at least have Westbrook out there at all times while Durant rests because he’s the human version of the Energizer bunny. Have you ever seen Westbrook look tired, like ever? As long as there isn’t foul trouble involved I’m convinced that Westbrook could play an 82 game schedule without a break. Okay, maybe he’d need a few short ones, but it would be close.

Billy Donovan has also proved he isn’t an above average NBA coach because he allows things that even basic basketball eyes can catch and raise questions at. When and why is it acceptable to have Dion Waiters as a primary ball handler, ever? Waiters is out here handling the ball under pressure, inbounding the ball during crunch time, and taking almost as many contested shots off of the bounce as Lance Stephenson.

While Donovan has proved he hasn’t been a competent coach, he hasn’t been given much help from his general manager. For whatever reason, Sam Presti gets viewed as a superior GM because he made draft moves that require no thinking such as drafting Kevin Durant (2nd), James Harden (3rd), and Russell Westbrook (4th). While the Westbrook pick was the most bold and paid off, you could argue the Harden pick was a bad one from hindsight because he passed on Stephen Curry. At the time it was the obvious pick and fit their team best, but it doesn’t matter when you trade him for a package that features Kevin Martin. Kevin Martin!

Presti has literally been incapable of improving this team’s overall talent since he traded Harden. In a season where they needed to make a splash in free agent he made another half ass attempt to improve it. I was hoping they’d make a legitimate trade that would help their chances of beating the Warriors or Spurs in the playoffs. Obviously, they still have a chance because Durant and Westbrook’s individual talents, but Randy Foye? That’s your big splash to improve the team with Durant’s departure on the line?

Note — Jeff Green, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Korver were all rumored in trades and I would have loved to see OKC push for one. Steep price, but worth it.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but the loss to the Mavericks left a bad taste in my mouth as it was unsettling to watch them fight in crunch time with the same four plays they’ve been doing since forever. 1) Durant/Westbrook isolation, if that even counts as a play. 2) Screen/Pin for Durant to get a three/post up isolation touch. 3) Russell Westbrook spread pick and roll. 4) Westbrook/Durant pick and roll. With their roster and coaching, you can’t suggest much more for them to do, but predictability is the cousin of death.

To me, waiving off Steven Adams’ almost buzzer-beater is the epitome of Durant and Westbrook’s career. They’re always going to be in every game because of the unbelievable talent them two possess, they’re always going to have a shot, but they’ll likely come up short because of OKC’s inability to improve that situation.

If I’m Kevin Durant, I don’t return this season without the Larry O’Brien. What suggests he’ll have any better chance winning in OKC in the future?

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