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Berry Tramel

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Balanced scoring shows even without Westbrook

by Berry Tramel Published: February 6, 2014
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Jeremy Lamb is averaging 10.0 points a game. That’s a good development for the Thunder. Not just Lamb’s personal ascension into a quality NBA scorer.

Lamb gives the Thunder five players averaging double-digit scoring.

Kevin Durant 31.0, Russell Westbrook 21.3, Serge Ibaka 15.0, Reggie Jackson 13.5 and Lamb 10.0.

That’s no small thing for the Thunder, which has been top-heavy in scoring since arriving in OKC.

More balanced scoring means that when Durant and/or Westbrook is slowed, the Thunder offense doesn’t automatically have to take a hit.

As recently as two seasons ago, the year the Thunder made the NBA Finals, it had just three double-digit scorers — Durant 28.0, Westbrook 23.6 and James Harden 16.8. Ibaka averaged 9.1.

Last season, Ibaka’s development got the Thunder four double-digit scorers: Durant 28.0, Westbrook 23.2, Kevin Martin 14.0 and Ibaka 13.2. The No. 5 scorer was Thabo Sefolosha, at 7.6. That’s a 5.6 points a game difference between Ibaka and Thabo. That’s not a bad gulf when you’re talking about leading scorers. But when that’s the gulf between the fourth- and fifth-best scorer on the team, that represents a hole.

This season, there is no hole. After Lamb comes Thabo, at 6.8. And down at 4.7 points a game is Derek Fisher, who has shown himself capable of helping with the point production. Since Westbrook’s surgery the day after Christmas, Fisher has had scoring games of 15 against Miami, 13 against Minnesota twice, 12 against Denver and 10 against both Portland and Milwaukee.

Of course, a key is to keep that kind of scoring balance once Westbrook returns. Lamb has averaged 10.5 points a game since Westbrook went out. Lamb was averaging 9.5 points a game through Christmas. So Lamb has elevated his scoring a little.

Truth is, everyone has. Durant, you know all about. But Ibaka was averaging 14.4 points a game when Westbrook went out; now Ibaka is averaging 15.0.

Jackson has gone from 12.5 points when Westbrook went out to 13.5 now.

That’s only natural, since Westbrook was averaging 18 shots, six foul shots and four turnovers per game. That’s a lot of opportunity for other players. But the more balanced scoring made the Thunder better prepared to withstand the loss of Westbrook for now six weeks. Durant has been out of this world, but he’s had lots of help from players who have taken on an increased scoring responsibility, but nothing out of their talent range.

Lots of players’ numbers could go down when Westbrook returns, just from decreased opportunities. But the balance that has been achieved this season, both with and without Westbrook, has been a blessing to the Thunder. Keep that going when Westbrook returns, and the Thunder’s title hopes will be enhanced.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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