It’s been a long time, but it’s time we bring back the old mailbag.
Since our last edition, the Thunder has become the best team in the Western Conference, Russell Westbrook has signed a lengthy contract extension and, oh yeah, there was this really annoying thing called the NBA lockout.
But in this week’s mailbag, we talk Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson and Kevin Love on the Thunder. Feel free to join the conversation next week if you like.
What’s your thoughts on Serge? He finished so strongly last year (around 12 points, 10 rebs and 3 blocks the last couple months I believe) and yet, it doesn’t look like any of that has carried over into this season. Is he just a victim of the short training camp? Did he play over his head last year? Is there anything you see that leads you to believe he’s going to revert back to what he was doing at the end of last season? The Thunder really need his rebounding. Take care! — Matthew R.
Matthew, unfortunately Serge appears to have been a victim of hype and expectations. Although he’s coming around (a season-high five blocks in his last game and 19 boards in his last two games), he clearly hasn’t been the same dominant defensive presence he was last year. But maybe it just looks worse because we all anticipated he’d come back so much better. Some, as early as two seasons ago, even threw his name out as a dark-horse Defensive Player of the Year candidate. I think Serge will be fine. It’s important to remember that Ibaka still hasn’t been a starter for a full season. He’s started 60 career games. That fact, coupled with him still being just 22, suggests he’ll figure things out and continue to develop nicely. But his flaws have become obvious, and when I see them I get the sense that his ceiling simply isn’t as high as we once thought.
I love Harden and like Ibaka, but if there is any chance we can’t sign both, is there any chance we could package both of them for Love? The money is right pre- Love extension. We could max him out to have arguably the best 3 man combo in league. He rebounds like a demon (imagine Perkins helping with box out), is a great post threat, and passes well. This would allow us to work pick and roll like never before. Opposing teams would have fits trying to guard Westbrook and Durant if they actually had to worry about a post threat. Also on radar as post threats for lesser compensation: Greg Monroe and R Hibbert. — Todd B.
Todd, there’s a really good chance of that happening — if this were NBA 2K. In real life, fuggedaboutit! This ain’t a fantasy league. Love is one of the best power forward’s in the game. Minnesota isn’t going to trade him unless it absolutely has to. And the Thunder isn’t trading James Harden for him. That’s a deal neither team would have any interest in. Greg Monroe and Roy Hibbert? Dream on, my friend. They’re close to untouchable, too. Everyone would love to see a post scorer and dominant rebounding big man on the Thunder. But that’s beyond realistic at this point. Just be happy with the two All-Stars currently in the stable and the nice complement of role players that surround them. There are about 27 other teams that would give up everything to trade rosters with the Thunder. So you can bet the Thunder realizes what it has and isn’t in a rush to make a move. For that reason, I wouldn’t anticipate much turnover over the next few seasons. It looks like Perk and Ibaka are here to stay, assuming Ibaka gets extended of course.
Reggie Jackson’s play is that of an unpolished rookie. By playoff time, will he he have improved enough to hold his own against more seasoned playoff experienced veterans? — Roland G.
Roland, I think so. You can tell Jackson has some natural ability that allow him to play and have an impact immediately. But he’s just over-thinking at the moment. The game hasn’t slowed down for him yet, and he’s unsure of how to operate out there right now. But he’s a hard worker and a student of the game. Plus, he’s a supremely confident young man who believes in himself and has a burning desire to get better. It’s way too early to say this, but I think we could see him come up big in at least one playoff game this season. So, yes, I think he will improve enough to hold his own.
Didn’t DeAndre Jordan sign a contract this year? Wouldn’t that make three players from 2008? –Mick
Mick, Jordan did get an extension. But he was a second-round pick in the class of 2008. That means he came into the league on a different salary structure than the top 30 picks and was therefore eligible to get a new deal sooner. Derrick Rose and Westbrook so far are the only two first-round picks from 2008 to receive extensions to their rookie scale contracts. But technically, yes, three players from the 2008 class have been signed to contract extensions.
What do you think about assist to turnover ratio for the Thunder as a team? I know the past “great” teams have been good in that subject, but how much does it really have an effect? — Gage
Gage, I think it’s been atrocious this far. Through 16 games, the Thunder has finished with more turnovers than assists six times. Oklahoma City has averaged 18 assists against 16.1 turnovers. Currently, the Thunder ranks 26th in total assists and 21st in total turnovers. Of the past 10 NBA champions, only four ranked outside the top 10 in both of those categories. A look at the best teams this year shows similar success in those departments. Chicago is second in total assists and 20th in total turnovers. Miami is seventh in assists and 28th in turnovers. Denver is first in assists and 29th in turnovers. And Orlando is 19th in assists but fourth in turnovers. What does that tell you? Good passing teams are going to have turnovers. But the Thunder is turning it over an an extremely high rate yet is far from an elite passing team. Something’s got to change.