Pieces fall into place for the Thunder

COMMENTARY — Even though we won't exactly how good this team is until the playoffs, it's evident that OKC has a well-oiled machine on the court.
by Jenni Carlson Published: December 22, 2012
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It's so much better for Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Kevin Martin, too.

Ibaka is the biggest beneficiary of this new-look team. Much like he emerged as a starter and a defender after the Jeff Green trade, he has blossomed as an offensive threat since the Harden trade. His points-per-game average has skyrocketed to 14.2, more than five points better than last season.

He still has that 16- to 18-foot jumper, but now, he's finishing around the basket. Before, he struggled to catch the ball in the paint, much less score. Now, there are lots of times where he's finishing with dunks.

His evolution has been all kinds of impressive.

Ditto for Sefolosha and Collison.

Sefolosha is getting all sorts of wide-open looks from behind the 3-point line. It's a shot he's proven he can knock down, and as those open looks have fallen, he's become more confident in guarded situations.

The other night at Atlanta, he knocked down one with a defender in his face.

Collison is showing more offensive skills, too. He has a solid midrange jumper that he rarely shot the past few years but that now is a regular part of his game. He has also developed a little give-and-go play with the guards, which used to be a staple with his second-team compadre Harden.

And last but not least is Martin.

He can do lots of things offensively, but his spot-up-shooting ability is like nothing the Thunder has ever had. He roams mostly outside the paint and makes defenders stay honest. That has opened up the floor for this team and made what Durant, Westbrook and Co. do even more effective.

It has been a remarkable fit.

You can see it with the eye test, the statistics and, of course, the remarkable record that this team has posted.

We can't say for sure if the Thunder is the best team in the NBA, though there's plenty of evidence that you should start the argument with the boys in blue. We can't say with certainty that this will be the best Thunder team of all time; it would have to get back to the NBA Finals to stake that claim.

But we can say that Oklahoma City has never seen a team quite like this.

There's never been a better fit.

Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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