Even though the Thunder are 57 games into the season, it’s customary to see the All-Star break as the halfway point for the NBA. With that in mind let’s pass out some midterm grades to give us an idea of where Sam Presti’s head might come the trade deadline.
Russell Westbrook: How can you give this guy anything but an A+? He carries this team- night in, night out- while averaging 30-points, 10-assists, and 10-rebounds. Westbrook has 27 triple-doubles this season. Wilt Chamberlin and Oscar Robertson are the only other players in NBA history to accomplish this feat. OKC is 54-10 all time when Russ goes triple-double and is 21-6 this season. With Kevin Durant out of the picture, Russ’ crazy numbers also keep the Thunder relevant to ESPN which, like it or not, still controls the sports narrative for America. Maybe a more appropriate grade would be MVP.
Victor Oladipo: B+. This guy was supposed to be a piece, a cog – at best a third scoring option coming off the bench while Russ or KD sat. Desperate times called for Billy Donovan to put Vic into the starting lineup. Oladipo is averaging 16 points per game; after a slow start, he’s been kicking in offensively, scoring 20+ points twelve times this season. Vic still has a long way to go to be Robin to Westbrook’s Batman.
Steven Adams: B. Not sure that Adams has been healthy thus far this season. If in fact, his hand is still ailing him, it’s not keeping him off the court. The only time Kiwi has missed games was while he was going through the NBA concussion protocol. Adams’ numbers are not too shabby with 12-points and 8-rebounds a game. Still, it seems like he needs to be more of an offensive threat, someone Westbrook can dish to and who can pull down an easy bucket. At times Adams still has issues with aggressive guys like DeMcarus Cousins (but then again, who doesn’t). He nabbed a multi-year deal early in the season. But even if he is a fan favorite, he still needs to prove Presti did the right thing.
Andre Roberson: By the analytics, he’s an A. For most Thunder Fans he’s a C (at best.) Roberson is a guy that is easy to pick on. In fairness to Roberson, he usually defends the other team’s best player. Most of us would get worn out guarding LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. That still doesn’t excuse Roberson’s inability to hit wide open threes consistently. His contract status and limited ability make him a prime trade target. Andre gets a C minus.
Domantas Sabonis: Incomplete. The 6-11 forward is not developing fast enough for his critics. In his rookie season, he’s worked his way into the starting lineup, but is that because Sam Presti needs him to work? Hanging on to Ersan Ilyasova would have allowed Billy Donovan to limit Sabonis’s minutes, but if you’re going to build for the future, he needs to be on the floor. Six points and four rebounds a game may send Jerry Ramsey over the edge and could make great post game shows. The jury’s still out on Sabonis – the body of work just isn’t enough to pass judgment on yet.
Enes Kanter: B. It’s a solid B that should be an A, but you get docked points for punching a chair and breaking your hand. He’s an offensive machine averaging 14 points and seven rebounds. From an uncertain future to damn near invaluable; once Billy Donovan started running the offense through Kanter, he came alive. Your only consistent scorer off the bench and one three players on the Thunder who will get you points on a nightly basis. He’s also the best follow on Twitter of anyone in the organization, which keeps a minus from coming after that B. If only that chair hadn’t been so confrontational.
Cameron Payne: C-. Yes, he was hurt to start the year, and Randy Foye took precious minutes away from Payne at the end of last season, but in year two, he still seems lost at times. Donovan wants Payne to work within the offense not have the offense adjust to him. Payne will still shoot way too early in the shot clock; Desmond Mason says a change of scenery will do Payne some good. Dez might be right. Payne needs to step it up soon, or he might have a new address.
The Bench: Jerami Grant, Josh Huestis, Samaj Christon, Alex Abrines, Joffrey Lauvergne. At the risk of sounding like Dean Wormer: “These men have no grade point average, all classes are incomplete.” We just haven’t seen enough of these guys to judge what they are going to be. Abrines, Lauvergne, and Grant need seasoning. With time, you might see their jerseys in your kid’s closet. Huestis seems like a never-ending experiment and Christon beat out Ronnie Price for a roster spot. Since you can’t write in gif, just picture me shrugging my shoulders like the cast of the Breakfast Club.
All these grades can change by the end of the season; like any midterm report card, this is just to let you know where things stand now. There is still time for some late night study sessions and weekends spent cracking the books before finals week. Here’s hoping that the Thunder use their time wisely and are ready when it counts.