An opposing team's scout sizes up the Thunder|
The move from Seattle will help them because they're in a city where they're wanted, and they'll have a nice home-court situation that they didn't have last year. The improved home court will help them, but I don't see as much improvement in their roster as a lot of people think. They don't shoot the ball well enough, especially from the three-point line. Jeff Green is a guy they're trying to push, but I don't think he's as good as they seem to think he is. They'll be fun to watch, but they're still such a young team.
I see Kevin Durant ultimately as a small forward. He can play shooting guard, no question, but he doesn't defend as well there. If you give him a pump fake, he reacts so quickly that it basically takes him out of the play. If you turn and face him, then you can pump-fake to get him off his feet. But if Durant is on the weakside, in that position he has such great awareness, timing, athleticism and length that you might think your man is open only to see Durant closing down the passing lane in a hurry. In other words, I like him better off the ball defensively than on the ball.
In a few years, Durant is going to be a hell of player. He's an athletic slasher who can really handle the ball. He's a scorer like Carmelo Anthony, but Anthony does it more with brute strength. Durant could be like a 6-9 version of Dwyane Wade because he's so exciting going to the basket. If Durant could improve his shooting, he could have that kind of impact. I don't yet know if he has the personal disposition to dominate like Wade does, but he's still just a 20-year-old baby who is getting more and more confident. He averaged 20 points last year with everybody geared up to play him. I don't think he's a LeBron or a Jordan, but is the next tier down? He might be.
If you ask me Green's position, I can't tell you. I think they want to make him a power forward, but I don't see that -- and I wonder if he can be a straight 3 because he doesn't have great ball skills and he doesn't have great feet. I like him more as a combo guy to play both forward positions like Bobby Simmons when he was healthy with the Clippers -- maybe. But Green doesn't shoot it quite as well. Right now, I see him developing as a rotation player on a good team, but not necessarily a starter.
I think No. 4 pick Russell Westbrook is going to be terrific. He's extremely quick and confident, a great finisher in traffic and he's fearless. He'll take the ball to the rack no matter who's there. He doesn't care about getting his shot blocked or committing the charge; he's just focused on the rim and he finishes as a result of that. He won't back down against a great player, he won't be in awe of somebody and he'll take the big shot if something breaks down. He isn't a true point guard yet, but I'm already convinced he'll get there. He looks to score too much, but he's not selfish and he will make the pass off penetration. He's explosive and he defends on the ball. If he and Durant eventually get an explosive shooting guard to go with them, then that's a group that will be fun to watch.
They have a trio of young centers, and who knows what they'll produce. Mouhamed Sene is too raw. Robert Swift has some skill, but he is so frail that you can't count on him. If he comes in as an X factor, OK, but I've never seen it. He's tall, agile, he can pass and knows how to play -- all that stuff -- but once he gets near the basket, he's a nonentity. The one guy I like is Johan Petro. He plays hard, he's athletic and he can run the floor. He has a chance.
Nick Collison is an excellent rebounder, but I don't know if he can shoot the ball enough. If they can get production out of their centers, then Collison will be more productive as a power forward than an undersized center. He comes to play every day and he's entering his peak years, but on a good team he would be the first big man off the bench. He rebounds at both ends and he guards his position against everybody because he's tough.
Chris Wilcox is one of those guys who is always mentioned in trade rumors. A lot of teams are interested in him because he plays both ends, he's physical and tough and he isn't a liability at the offensive end. But his skill level is not great, and he should have mastered that by now.
One pickup I really like for them is Joe Smith. He's a guy who could be a contributor on a contending team, so they're lucky to have him as a mentor and example of how hard you have to play and how to be a complete player, a smart player who doesn't make mistakes. He can score, but he doesn't need to score to be effective. He's one of the most underappreciated guys around.