The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry took questions from readers in today's OKC Thunder Power Lunch Chat. You can join our Power Lunch Chats Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on NewsOK.com/Sports. Here's a recap of today's Q&A:
What do you think of the school of thought that the Thunder may amnesty Perkins in order to keep K-Mart next season?
This is blasphemy to some, I know. But based on what we've seen this year, Kendrick Perkins has had a bigger impact than Kevin Martin. No, it doesn't necessarily show up in the stat sheet. But Perk has played some great defensive games this year, while K-Mart's biggest scoring nights have come in blowouts. If it's between those two, I'd probably opt to keep Perk for his last two years and go forward with a big-time interior defender as opposed to a player who essentially has become a spot-up shooter.
Schematically, what do you see the Thunder changing to get over the Miami hump?
If the Thunder gets there ... I can see Brooks playing small more and trying to take advantage of his speed and athleticism a little more. I still think Brooks might also throw out that zone. I have a suspicion that the Thunder is working on it and trying to have it ready for a potential Finals rematch. I could be way wrong in that assumption, though.
Do you think it's a good idea to re-sign K-Mart? Or do you think the Thunder could land a better player in free agency or the draft?
Martin is a nice complementary piece and can have a big impact at times. But whether it's a good idea depends on how much he'll be asking for. His price can't surpass his worth. Not these days. There might be a cheaper alternative, such as Jeremy Lamb.
Martin at $8 million a year for three years: would you take him there?
Perhaps. But is what Kevin Martin brings at $8 million that much better than what Lamb can give you starting next year at $2 million?
Do you think Brooks is a great coach or just has great players that make him look that way?
I think he's great at some parts of coaching — motivating mostly and getting the most out of his players from an effort standpoint — and has great players that have bought in and believed in him. So it's been a good match.
If Scotty Brooks doesn't make it over the last hurdle soon, will we see someone else be brought in?
Doubtful. I'd be shocked if a coaching change is made this year even if the Thunder doesn't make the Finals. This team's record and history of success is too good to even talk about changing coaches right now.
Kobe has been showing up with his A-game pretty consistently over the past few games. What can the Thunder do to shut that down?
Kobe generally doesn't "go off" against the Thunder. Historically, when he does his team generally loses.
Were you at yesterday's game? Something was going on between Griffin and Ibaka long before the incident. Do you agree?
Didn't cover that game. But you could see on television that they were battling for most of the game. I doubt it's anything between them. Probably just two competitors going at it.
What has been the Thunder’s biggest improvement since last year’s playoff run?
Good question. I'd say Ibaka for the way he's developed on both ends.
What can OKC do to not have such a big drop off when the second unit comes in? Sub Durant and Westbrook at different times?
Brooks has done that, mostly with Durant and mostly all season. When the second unit plays good defense, it's fine. When it doesn't, it gets ugly. Also, I've said for weeks now that Reggie Jackson should get more freedom to break down the defense and create plays for himself and others. It would take a ton of pressure off K-Mart and his two-man game with Collison.
Will Ibaka get suspended for tomorrow's game?
It's possible. But the league hasn't announced anything yet.
What's the Thunder’s issue with blowing huge leads? Are they too comfortable in their capabilities of being a dominant team?
I'd say so. But I don't think the Thunder has blown as many huge leads as it seems. A few might just seem like a lot.
What changes in the rotation would you like to see against the Lakers and possibly the Knicks, assuming Ibaka will be suspended for at least one game?
I'd like to see Nick Collison start and play at least 30 minutes.
What player do you think Thunder will draft with the Raptor pick?
I would think getting a big man would be critical.
Thunder-Clippers: who would you take in a 7-game series?
Thunder in five, maybe six.
Do you think Durant will lead the league in scoring again?
I think so. Durant says it's not important to him. But if he gets close, strictly as a competitor I can't see Durant not wanting to win it.
Do you think the Thunder should re-sign Kevin Martin long-term? Or maybe just for the next year or two? Not at all?
Depends on his asking price. His production is starting to suggest his price might exceed his worth on this team.
Will K-Mart end up wanting the same as Harden and bolting?
Different situation. Harden had never been his team's franchise player. He had never gotten a contract extension, let alone max money. Martin has experienced most of those things. And losing. So there is incentive for K-Mart to want to stick around.
As Kobe has started playing better, who would the Thunder rather play: the Rockets or the Lakers?
Rockets, although the Thunder could get past both. Kobe Bryant, however, is still more likely to take over a series than James Harden. So based on that, the Thunder probably would prefer the Rockets.
Who do you think is the Thunder’s best possible matchup in the first round? Warriors, Jazz, Rockets, or Lakers?
In order from best to worse, I'd say Houston, Utah, Lakers, Golden State.
How worried are you about Martin in the postseason? He really seems to be ineffective lately doing much else other than spotting up from behind the arc, and even that sometimes …
I'm not worried personally. But it's going to be one of the biggest keys to the Thunder's success or reasons for the team's failure.
Will Brewer be in the rotation in the playoffs?
If it's a set rotation, it doesn't appear that he will be. If it's a situational rotation (which Brooks rarely uses), he could find some playing time. Why is Brewer not playing more? I don't know the answer to that. I could ask Scott Brooks right now and all he'd say is "you can't play everybody."
Do you take anything away from Thabeet's defensive showing against the Clippers’ bigs yesterday?
Not really. Much of the same that we've seen most of the year. He was solid in spot minutes. That much we know he can do now.
Lamb’s stats in the D-League have been showing better then Liggins. When do you expect both of them to get more Thunder time? Next season?
Lamb perhaps. Not so sure about Liggins.
Assuming Noel doesn't fall out of the top 3, if Zeller is still available when the Thunder picks, would be he the best fit for them in the draft?
Zeller's game screams "glue guy" to me. He's probably at best a better version of Nick Collison. More athletic, of course. But I just don't see what impact he has beyond "the little things." With that said, if he's there at seven or eight you probably have to take him.
I love that Fisher is back. Not just for bench minutes, but for experience. I feel like his presence alone is influential.
I agree. But if he's going to be on the court he needs to produce just like any other player is expected to do.
Fisher played just the right amount of minutes last night. Will this continue? Should it in your opinion?
If he's not knocking down shots, yes.
Seems that lately Thabeet is growing into his roll and doing a good job of blocking at the rim. Good matchups or is it clicking?
He's getting better. I think you can see his growth.
Western Conference Finals, Game 5 against the Spurs, series tied 2-2. Westbrook is in foul trouble or needs a long breather. When Reggie comes in do you think “uh oh,” or “He can hold down the fort for 5 minutes?”
It's funny. Jackson came in for Westbrook with about 8:55 left in the fourth quarter yesterday. (I hated the substitution.) But Jackson missed a 3 and turned it over dribbling in traffic. But it felt like the former ..."uh oh." Yet when Westbrook came back in, he turned it over rather quickly as well. But because he's Russell Westbrook and proven it didn't feel as bad. But the fact is it was still a turnover at a pivotal time.
With all that said, I think Jackson is growing by the day and gaining more confidence. Will there be rough patches? Of course. Same with Westbrook. But if the coaches prepare him for those moments now, which should be the goal, then he should be fine when it matters.
Who do you see as the Thunder’s toughest competitor in the West? Would it be Denver, or someone who always plays them tough like Memphis?
San Antonio, with Memphis being second and the Clippers being a close, close third.
Do you think that Thunder should make a play for a center like Cody Zeller or Alex Len?
Haven't seen Len play. I like Zeller's IQ and intangibles. And he seems to be the type of player Presti loves.
How good is Jeremy Lamb?
He can shoot the lights out. Whether he knows what else is going on offense or how to play defense remains a question.
How long until KD gets a ring with OKC?
Roughly 415 days.
What’s the Thunder’s record in the alternate uniforms?
I've lost count. But it's around .500.
Westbrook had the best month of his career in February and has continued to add to that in March. Coincidentally the "meltdown" happened on 1/31. Do you think embarrassment was the maturing lesson he needed to get to the next level?
I wonder if Wolverine gets embarrassed ... But it does appear that was a turning point.
Do you attribute the claims of “not being able to finish games” to the Thunder’s stars having sat so many 4th quarters? Maybe less night-in, night-out pressure situations as our opponents.
That could have something to do with it. But they were so good last year at closing out games, and James Harden didn't "close" nearly as much as most seem to think he did. So that's not the issue. In those situations, Harden was reduced to what we've seen K-Mart essentially become. That's a spot-up shooter. From that standpoint, the personnel is similar. Again, I just think a few blown leads have seemed like a lot. It hasn't been that bad.
Do you see Boston making the playoffs? And if so, do you think they can legitimately do any damage without Rondo?
Yes. But what they do when they get there…
Do you see OKC overtaking the Spurs for the no. 1 seed?
Nah. San Antonio has a favorable schedule the rest of the way that's loaded with home games, and the Spurs likely will rally around Parker's injury and keep on trucking in his absence.
What area of the Thunder’s game do you think needs to improve the most before the Playoffs?
Does OKC get to 60 wins? They would need to go 17-6 to get there. Thoughts?
Highly likely. There are some very winnable games remaining on the schedule. Think about this. The Thunder hasn't even played Milwaukee or Orlando yet and still has a game against Charlotte. That could be five wins right there.
In your opinion, why is Brooks so stubborn about playing Perkins so much against Miami?
In my opinion, I think Brooks honestly feels like Perk gives the Thunder the best chance to win.
If you were picking and you had your choice of Len, Plummlee, Zeller, or some of the other bigs in the draft, who would you pick?
Probably Zeller. But, again, I haven't seen Len this year.
Would Eddy Curry be good for that tough-guy role like Perk & can't he score?
Eddy Curry is terrible.
What kind of food do the players get before the game?
Sometimes it's the same thing you're getting from the concourse. Chicken fingers and such. Other times, it's PB&J. At times, it's fruits and salads, or pasta.
Are you traveling with the Thunder this week?
Nope. Not going to New York and Charlotte. I'll pick it up in San Antonio.