In anticipation of Thursday night’s big matchup between the Thunder and Clippers, TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr took some time earlier this week to chat Thunder hoops.
He’ll be in town broadcasting the game, working as part of a three-man booth that includes play-by-play man Marv Albert and NBA legend Charles Barkley.
Here’s a bit of what Kerr had to say:
In your hierarchy of the Western Conference right now, where do you place the Thunder and Clippers?
I was asked to pick my finalists a month ago, before the season started, and I actually picked Oklahoma City to win, based on last year’s regular season and their balance offensively and defensively. I wasn’t sure how much they’d miss Martin, but I think at this point they miss him more than I anticipated. He gave them a consistent third scorer every night and I don’t know that anyone has emerged in that role yet…But it’s early and everybody is kind of searching for their identity and their rotations. Some teams are going through overhauls, like the Nets, for example. But for Oklahoma City, it’s more tinkering and figuring out rotations. And to be 7-3 after 10 games, they’re right where they need to be. But they have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to get to that championship level.
The development of the Thunder roster is so contingent on its young guys. What have you seen out of them early on?
Well I really like Steven Adams. I think he’s going to be a big factor for their team. He’s big and athletic and you can run a little offense through him because he’s a good passer. And I think Reggie Jackson has made some strides, too. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. I see Perry Jones getting a little bit of time. But I think Lamb is kind of the big question mark and he’s under the spotlight this year because of the Kevin Martin departure. So I’m anxious to see him.
Do you think Durant and Westbrook are getting better and do you think they need to take an even bigger step for this team to reach its potential?
I think Westbrook still has improvement he can make. It’s hard for me to say that because he’s already so talented and so good and plays so hard and competes. So I really love watching him play, love what he does. But I just don’t think he should be a 41 percent shooter, which he is this year. If you’re going to be a star in this league and win a championship as either the best player or the second-best player, I don’t think you can shoot a low percentage from the floor and he’s a 43 percent shooter for his career. And for me, it’s all shot selection with Russell. I think he takes a lot of really tough shots, contested long twos. I think he has some improvement to make, if he wants to go down that path. But it may be hard for him, because it’s his mentality to attack all the time. It’s one of those things that’s a double-edged sword: You love it, but it hurts you, too. So I think he could just refine his game and become more efficient offensively.
If you had a list of teams who could legitimately win the title, how big is that list? And is OKC on it?
The Thunder are definitely on it. I felt coming into the year, there were four teams in the East: Indiana, Chicago, Miami and Brooklyn. And maybe six in the West who could win it all. Now I don’t think it’s just that simple. For example, if Miami comes out of the East, I think San Antonio is the only team that could beat them. But I could easily see Miami get knocked off by Indiana or Chicago and I think a number of teams in the West could beat those two teams. So matchups determines a lot of this stuff, but I think that the Thunder are right in the mix.
Kerr also talked at length about Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin and the budding rivalry between the 24-year-olds. Look for an extended piece on the duo coming in Thursday’s Oklahoman.