Oklahoma City Thunder Experiment a Complete Disaster
With the influx of several super teams in the NBA, every summer has become an arms race to amass enough talent to compete with the league’s best. For teams that do not yet have enough talent to beat the Warriors or Cavaliers, this means taking some chances in an effort to get those pieces. And while the Oklahoma City Thunder definitely took their chances in an attempt to build the latest super team in the NBA, it is safe to say that their experiment was an unmitigated disaster.
Destroyed By Utah
After the first game of the first round playoff series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz, there may not have been a point where the Thunder played better than the Jazz. Utah averaged over 105 points per game during the six-game series, compared to just over 101 for the Thunder, for a margin of four points per game. The Jazz also outshot the Thunder, shooting 45.4% from the field compared to the 43% mark of the Thunder. They managed to destroy the Thunder despite shooting 68.6% from the free throw line, a bottom-three mark in the first round of the playoffs.
While those stats would be impressive in a matchup between any team, it is even more so in a battle between a star-studded team like the Thunder and a team like the Jazz. Utah lost its best player last offseason in Gordon Hayward, and replaced him with rookie Donovan Mitchell. Instead of faltering, Mitchell demolished the Thunder by averaging 28.5 points per game in the series victory.
This was by no means the biggest upset in the history of the NBA Playoffs, but it was surprising nonetheless. According to Betway, the Thunder were favorites to win the series before it started. But the clearly superior performance by the Jazz flipped those odds to where Utah was nearly a -300.00 favorite before the start of game six, as of April 30.
Russell Westbrook’s Tailspin
The downward spiral of Russell Westbrook has been an intriguing one. He went from being a convincing MVP of the league last season, averaging a triple-double, to being looked at as overrated despite having a similar season this year. While the weight of expectations certainly has something to do with the change in outlook, Westbrook will now watch his former teammate James Harden win the MVP award as Westbrook’s season ends in disgrace.
Westbrook didn’t have a bad series, per se. He averaged 29.3 points per game and carried his team back from 25 points down to win game five at home. But he tried to do too much, something that is all too common from him. Westbrook shot seven three point attempts per game in the series, doubling his career average in attempts from beyond the arc. That is not the strength of his game, and he hurt the Thunder as a result.
But perhaps the biggest shock of Westbrook’s postseason was his postgame meltdown after being eliminated, when he got physical with a heckler. Nobody deserves to be heckled, but that was a poor way of handling a difficult situation by Westbrook, who should be used to the spotlight by now.
Paul George’s Inconsistency
Paul George scored five points in the Thunder’s season ending loss to the Utah Jazz in game six. Known as one of the best players in the league right now, he completely disappeared when his team needed him the most. It was baffling to watch him go 2/16 from the field in one of the most important moments of his team’s season against a fundamentally sound Jazz team. His inconsistency on the court was difficult to overcome, as will his inconsistency off the court.
His off-court inconsistency, of course, is about whether or not he will stay in Oklahoma City or leave for another team after this season. That decision could impact whether or not the Thunder can even remain this good for an extended period of time.
There will be a lot to sort out this offseason for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they will look to rebound from what can only be described as a disastrous season. Given the weight of expectations on this group, the pressure will only intensify if they stay together.