Russell Westbrook, in a generous move, shut a reporter’s question down by playing the loyalty card. Give Westbrook love for having his teammates back. But it is obvious to just about everyone that without him on the court, the team is pathetic. It’s a situation in which he cannot even sit down on the bench for a breather or a lead will disappear in the time you go to the fridge for that second beer. Not to exonerate Westbrook. He hasn’t been perfect either. He has forced the action. There have been times when he was out of control. He hasn’t been the best leader and then he turned around and was the best leader. It is a difficult situation he finds himself in. These are his teammates and he has to roll with them. But because of the money Sam Presti handed out and contracts that don’t go into effect until next year, these are the teammates he will have for the near future. In other words, he is going to practically have to kill himself with overwork for the Thunder to improve.
The optimist will say the bulk of his supporting cast, Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter will get better over time. Maybe. But right now, without Westbrook on the floor, they are a disaster playing against a team with a pretty average defensive identity. They are failing Westbrook.
Victor Oladipo: 11.0 points. 38.6%. 21.0% 3-pointers. 2.5 assists. 100 Offensive Rating. 116 Defensive Rating. 9.9 PER.
Some virus made Sam Presti give Oladipo a $15 million dollar raise. He is making $6.5 million this year and that will be bumped up to $21 million next year and the question is why. In the playoffs, he is not just catastrophic with his shot but he exhibits zero leadership on the floor when Westbrook is out which was a common complaint in Orlando. Not only is he not creating shots for others, he is not doing much of anything for himself and his defense is laughable as in not even trying.
Oladipo is not someone who can do things with the ball in the lane. He’s not explosive. He’s not a dunker. He makes perimeter shots and he drives to the rim when he has an opening. He doesn’t have the versatility to be a solid 20+ scorer. But he has the ability to make shots as witnessed by his 70% on Sunday night. The problem with Oladipo has always been consistency.
Steven Adams: 8.3 points. 62.0%. 6.3. rebounds. 123 Offensive Rating. 116 Defensive Rating. 15.1 PER.
After a $19 million dollar raise, Adams defense against the Rockets has been an F. He isn’t running the floor in transtion, allowing for dunk after dunk. He is doing nothing to inhibit Nene which is responsible for Nene looking like Pau Gasol on Sunday.
On Sunday, Adams had his best offensive game of the series, 8-10, and going to the line 5 times. Previous to that he had been to the line just four times in three games. He was more spectator than participant.
It was a reporter’s question to Adams post-game that made Westbrook go off the rails in the media session. As far as questions go, it was fair. The role players disappear without Westbrook on the floor. Why?
After his tremendous playoff run last year, the expectations that Adams, particularly without Kevin Durant, would emerge into a double-double 17 and 10 player was immediately dashed in his first game when he had 5 rebounds in 35 minutes at Philadelphia. The athletic front court of the young 76ers was a problem for Adams on the defensive end but made no impact on his offense. His year, though, was a step back. Adams just didn’t get enough touches or shots and that falls on the coaching staff. In the playoffs, he is averaging 6 shots per game. That is less than two shots a quarter. Inexcusable. As is his 33% from the line.
Enes Kanter: 6.0 points. 41.7%. 2.0 rebounds. 97 offensive rating. 116 defensive rating. PER: 15.5
Kanter is facing one more year in OKC before he has an opt-out. He is an average bench player for the Thunder with defensive limitations. He is not explosive. He is not a consistent shot blocker and struggles guarding elite athletes and in the playoffs his defensive rating is garbage. The book on Kanter is to play fast and on the move with shot blockers and dunkers. But Kanter has his own skill set he brings to the table but his measley 24 shots is not taking full advantage of his offensive skill.
Kanter’s inability to defend is why Utah let him go. In OKC there hasn’t been any great revelation or resurrection. He is horrible in pick and roll and his transition defense is abysmal bordering on God awful. He doesn’t facilitate. In 4 playoff games, he has recorded 0 assists and 0 steals. Plus he has been to the line 4 times.
Kanter is not doing much when he is out there, throwing a shot up at the rim but nothing more than that, leaving the post-Westbrook crew hanging.
$17 million doesn’t buy what it used to.
photo via llananba