Monday Morning Mailbag
Since the last time we cleared out the ol’ mailbag, the Thunder clinched a spot in the playoffs, won a franchise-record 14 games in March and, most recently, suffered two frustrating losses after stalling out in the second half.
Now, the Thunder finds itself in a race for the fourth seed and home court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The plot thickens with just seven games remaining.
But a six-pack of questions in this week’s mailbag is focused heavily on Thunder guard James Harden. There seems to be two factions of Thunder fans. One side strongly believes Harden should be a starter. The other side sees nothing wrong with his role coming off the bench. We also get into Kendrick Perkins’ technical foul tally and the Thunder’s best possible opponent in the first round.
As always, you can join the discuss next week if you’d like.
You say it’d be a mistake not to start Harden next year. I agree that it is time. But where does this leave Thabo? Isn’t instant offense more valuable in a 6th man than defensive prowess? Could we see Thabo get shipped out? How does Nate Robinson factor in? – Jeff F.
Jeff, I wouldn’t say that instant offense off the bench is more important than a defensive-minded player. Most teams employ a scoring sixth man because it balances out the roster and prevents having too many scorers in the first unit. And, yes, that’s important to have. Because it’s incredibly difficult for any team’s best scorers to be in the first unit together and still be effective. Boston has gotten away with it because its big three has sacrificed and agreed to play their roles without worrying so much about who gets the shots. But I think Thabo has a role on this team no matter what. Every contending team has a defensive stopper, or a player who can turn it on defensively and hound the other team’s best scorer. Thabo is that guy for the Thunder. Two examples would be Memphis and Portland. Those teams have two of the league’s best perimeter defenders in Shane Battier and Nicolas Batum. Both come off the bench. Both continue to wear out the other team’s scoring threat with fresh legs. Obviously the difference between Batum, Battier and Sefolosha is Batum and Battier can score. But if Harden can prevent a guy from going off early, Sefolosha can come in and continue that effort. And that steady dose of defense would then be just as critical as having scoring off the bench. Plus, Harden could still play with the second unit if the rotation is used properly. It could be a win-win. As for Robinson, I don’t expect him to have a prominent role in hardly any lineup during his time in OKC.
What is Perkins technical foul count at? I know he didn’t play much for Boston this year, but I was just wondering how many he had to this point. – Jason H.
Jason, he has eight total. That includes games he played at Boston this season. He’s picked up four with each team this year.
Hey Darnell. I was thinking a good article (either in the playoffs or right before the draft) would be to go back and find some of the actual quotes made about OKC drafting Westbrook. Both what Sam Presti and the owners said, but more importantly what all the ‘draft gurus’ were saying (during the actual draft and in the days following in their critique of every team’s draft). And if you could find them, those same ‘draft ‘gurus’, what they are saying about Westbrook now. Maybe there could also be stat comparisons between the other guards taken in the first round that year and the effect those players have had on their team’s records. When I’ve seen stats like the only players to have 3000 (?) points and 1000 (?) assists and 300 (?) steals in their first 3 years are Oscar, Penny, Chris Paul, and whoever the other guy is, I think people would enjoy seeing the facts about how smart Presti, etc. turned out to be. Anyway, just a thought. — Russ M.
Russ, thanks for the suggestion. A lot has been written about how wrong the so-called “gurus” were. Westbrook has proved the Thunder’s front office right. But I think you’re having a slight case of selective memory. I seem to remember a whole lot of fans grumbling the night of the draft and in the days after. I can’t remember a single person who said to me then that they liked Westbrook with the fourth pick in that year’s draft. What Westbrook has been to fill up his bandwagon, though, has been pretty impressive to see.
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