The Thunder stink. Everyone knows it, and anyone that watches them can only come away frustrated with their stagnant offense and waste of talent. They’re in the bottom third in the league in assists, field goal percentage, 3 point percentage, free throw percentage, and, to top it all off, lead the league in technicals. How is this happening? This team was supposed to challenge the Warriors, right? They added Paul George and #me7o. They already had the totally deserved, super legitimate MVP on the roster. They dumped a couple bums that weren’t contributing at all. How are they bad?
Is it because of Paul George? Probably not. He seems to be the only member of the Big 3 comfortable in his new role, and is at least shooting well from 3, something no OKC player has been able to say since Durant left. He seems to be a decent locker room guy (although he did break up the Pacers by sleeping with Roy Hibbert’s fiancee. People don’t forget, Paul) who people respect. I think we can pass the buck.
Is it because of Carmelo Anthony? In a word, yes. But not 100%. I’d say he’s at least 50% of the reason this year’s Thunder are terrible. He’s at least 50% of the reason why all of his teams are terrible. Absolutely no one knows how to take a dump in the Kool Aid faster than Melo. It’s really amazing how he can ruin any situation. Sure, prime Melo is one of the best pure scorers ever, but his true talent is his ability to sour locker rooms. The Knicks are somehow a fun team this year, and the only difference between this season and last season is Melo (and D-Rose, who is now contemplating retirement). The fact that he still carries himself as a true superstar (and the fact that anyone out there actually believes him) in 2017 is mind-numbing to me. He’s a worse version of Andrew Wiggins at this point, and the internet will gladly tell you Wiggins stinks. The NBA today is all about ball movement, player movement, creating space, and open shots. Guess how many of those boxes getting the ball at the elbow, jab stepping five or six times, dribbling the air out of the ball, and taking a contested 12-footer check off. If you answered zero, you’d be correct! The Thunder pass less than any other team (to be fair, they pretty much always do), and Melo’s iso fetish is a huge part of it. If he doesn’t have the ball, he’s pretty much just a statue, and asking him to move the ball is like trying to heard cats. Because of him, Westbrook isn’t even averaging 10 assists. Do you know how hard that is? No one has ever chased stats harder than Westbrook, and even he can get double digit assists passing to Melo. If he just embraced being a complimentary player and realized that no, you’re not, and never have been, better than Russell Westbrook, he could be a seriously good wingman. Everyone fantasized about Olympics Melo when he was traded to OKC, where he did this arcane, possibly mythical action known as the catch and shoot (I read about it in an ancient spellbook one time, so who can say if anyone ever actually accomplished it or not) and dominated. Just accept that you’re not that guy anymore, Melo. It’s less work and your scoring will probably go up. There’s no downside. Plus, people might, might, stop making fun of you for never leading your teams to anything. Who wouldn’t want that? Unless he’s just seriously self-loathing, which I can respect.
Of course, I did say Melo wasn’t entirely to blame. There’s this other guy on the team that ruins team chemistry and is averse to efficient offense. I’m speaking of course about Alex Abrines. Guy stinks! But they also have the biggest ballhog in the league in Russell Westbrook. I hate to be the guy who says I told you so (just kidding), but yeah, I told you so. In the wake of Kevin Durant’s departure, the Thunder decided that, instead of getting better or worse, they would just let Westbrook go on a giant revenge tour and instruct everyone on the roster that getting him triple doubles was all that mattered. And now they’re stuck with the results. Remember Steven Adams? After the 2015 Western Conference Finals, he looked like he could be a DeAndre Jordan type All Star. I haven’t heard his name since. I was really bummed out when Domantas Sabonis, who I loved in college, was a bust in the NBA. Welllllll, funny how he’s been really good this season on a supposedly barren Indiana team. Victor Oladipo was mocked mercilessly for sucking on OKC. He was left for dead. And now, away from the league MVP, the person who, above all else, was supposed to make everyone around him better, he’s finally putting it all together and capitalizing on his immense talent. So you’re telling me people get better when the leave the Thunder and get worse when they join? Hmmmm. Color me shocked that no one actually enjoys playing with a point guard with a 41% usage rate. Once you tell Westbrook to go full Westbrook, you can’t really expect him to dial it down now that he’s got shiny new teammates. Nothing can stop him from showing the world that he’s better than Durant. And his hero ball routine isn’t even working this year. Outside his rookie year, he’s never shot worse from the field. If he didn’t have the second highest turnover total of all time last year, his 4.7 TOs per game would be rightly seen as horrifying. He’s mysteriously shooting his worst percentage ever from the foul line. He still stinks from 3. He’s just a grossly inefficient player on a grossly inefficient team. It doesn’t help that Billy Donovan is just a patsy that lets Westbrook walk all over him rather than actually draw up real plays. On the surface it seems like the Thunder’s issues are easily fixed: just move around a little more and get more people involved. But when your team is built around Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, that’s a lot easier said than done.