Studs and Duds from OKC Thunder's First Slate of Games
After a summer of analysis, projections and hypotheses, we finally had the chance to see the Oklahoma City Thunder take the floor.
Some things look just like we expected. It's not a surprise to see Kevin Durant be one of the best players in the NBA and carry his team to victories. There are some performances, however, that have been disappointing.
Here are three Thunder players who have impressed, and three who still have work to do.
Dud: Kendrick Perkins
Per-Game Stats: 19 minutes, 4.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.25 blocks
To his credit, Kendrick Perkins' value to a basketball team has never shown up in the box score. That said, he hasn't looked very effective on the floor, either.
He's been slow and ineffective for the most part, and his defense isn't what it used to be when he was a member of the Boston Celtics.
Perkins is still a valuable contributor, and he's going to be important in the Thunder's playoff hopes because of his defense against Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan. Despite that fact, he hasn't been playing well so far.
Stud: Steven Adams
Per-Game Stats: 18 minutes, 4.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.75 blocks, 0.25 TO
Maybe "stud" is a little generous, but Steven Adams has played well in limited minutes so far. Given the fact that Kendrick Perkins is playing in front of him, perhaps those minutes won't remain limited for long.
Adams has exceeded the expectations that were placed on him when he was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
In his four games, he's shown a good activity level, his rebounding chops, the ability to play solid defense and a good offensive touch.
It's looking more and more like he'll be a good contributor for the Thunder this season, and hopefully head coach Scott Brooks gives him more minutes as the season goes on.
Dud: Reggie Jackson
Per-Game Stats: 28 minutes, 10.7 points, 4.0 assists, 4.0 TO, 2.3 steals, 40% FG
Reggie Jackson being listed as a dud isn't to say that he's been bad, but he hasn't lived up to expectations to start the year.
Jackson didn't look particularly comfortable running the show for OKC, and he's turned the ball over too much. With the extended minutes, Jackson should be scoring the ball better and demonstrating more efficiency.
He will be much more effective as a sixth man now that Russell Westbrook is back, and his numbers will reflect that over the course of the year.
Note: These statistics are from his first three games because he only played 12 minutes due to injury in his fourth game.
Stud: Kevin Durant
Per-Game Stats: 36 minutes, 27.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 4.25 TO, 43% FG
Kevin Durant hasn't been his usual phenomenal self. His efficiency is down, he's turning the ball over too much, and he's not getting teammates involved enough.
But that's all a product of playing without Westbrook. Now that he has his partner in crime back, Durant will quickly return to last year's form.
Furthermore, the fact that he's actually been playing poorly so far is more of an indication of how amazingly talented he is.
After all, he's still scoring close to 30 points per game while carrying the entire load of the Thunder offense on his narrow shoulders.
Durant's numbers may not be his best, but he kept the Thunder afloat without Westbrook, and they should once again be an elite team now that Westbrook has returned.
Dud: Serge Ibaka
Per-Game Stats: 32 minutes, 10.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.25 blocks, 38% FG
Like Reggie Jackson, this is another case of being negatively affected by Russell Westbrook's absence. Even so, Serge Ibaka has had a terrible start to the season.
He still isn't capable of scoring with added defensive attention, so it will be interesting to see if he can be the third scorer behind Westbrook and Durant.
Ibaka's field-goal percentage has plummeted to subterranean levels, and he hasn't even been blocking shots like his normal self.
The good news is that he has already played his two best games of the year with Westbrook back, and he turned in an Ibaka-like 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks.
Stud: Russell Westbrook
Per-Game Stats: 33 minutes, 21.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 18.4 PER
The numbers are great, but that's not why Russell Westbrook is a stud. It's because he wasn't supposed to be playing at all.
Westbrook was supposed to miss the first four to six weeks of the season, but he missed just two games and is showing absolutely no signs of ever being injured.
He's attacking the rim with ferocity, showing that his freakish athleticism hasn't diminished at all and he is still the same old swagger-laden Westbrook.
He refused to accept the estimated recovery period, and the fact that he's back on the court already, fighting for his teammates, is the true definition of a stud.
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