This year the talk around the league is that who ever wins the Spurs/Warriors battle will be named the NBA champ. While currently both teams have had amazing streaks, the Thunder have quietly been playing amazing basketball. They have the third best record in the league and have won 9 of their last 10 games.
We all know the problems that the Thunder face; Either Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant or Serge Ibaka gets hurt right around playoff time and the team goes into panic mode. Last year they didn't even make the playoffs.
Russell Westbrook has been overshadowed by Stephan Curry but is still playing out of his mind. Putting up Rajon Rondo type of numbers, Westbrook is averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, along with almost 10 assists per game, all while scoring an impressive 24 points a game.
Kevin Durant is quietly (as always ) third in scoring this year. His effective field goal percentage is around 57% which is very efficient. I cannot stress also how free throws impact a ball game. For a 6'10" guy shooting 89% from the charity stripe is incredible.
With the obvious strength of Westbrook and Durant comes the downside of an unproductive bench and a unit of role players.
So what are some steps that the Thunder can do to even further their chances at an NBA Title?
Find better role players.
The key for the Thunder is to find more efficient players by playoff time. The Thunder lack efficiency in many categories and its almost as if they need to find specialists in different departments. Players like: Kyle Korver, Quincy Acy, Iman Shumpert, players who know their role and can free up Durant and Westbrook of tasks, like spot up shooting, defensive rebounding, and defensive intensity.
While Dion Waiters can be an explosive scorer, he lacks overall efficiency. Last year he was one of the worst statistical 3-point shooters and was a below average defender. In just watching Waiters you can see the large amounts of long two pointers he takes during a game. He is one player who the Thunder should look into dumping by the trade deadline.
Enas Kanter has got to go. Advanced stats kills this guy. He is a player who got the Max and has one of the worst Real Plus-Minus in the league last year. Last year he also had the worst on court defensive influence at the center spot and had the highest percentage scored against him around the rim.
The Thunder are knocking on the Western Conference door. If they improve their bench they can be significant title contenders.
By Ian Riaf