Kevin Durant: A. Strange but true. Durant's numbers this season were down, virtually across the board. Scoring from 30.1 to 27.7. Rebounding from 7.6 to 6.8. Assists from 2.8 to 2.7. Blocked shots from 1.02 to 0.97. Steals from 1.4 to 1.1. Field-goal percentage from .476 to .462. Three-point percentage from .365 to .350. Foul shooting from .900 to .880. So why the high grade? Durant's leadership was exemplary, from accepting responsibility for critical defeats to accepting Westbrook as a fellow star.
Russell Westbrook: A. OK, so he shoots too much and commits too many turnovers. Yes, more Thunder possessions end with Westbrook (shooting or turnovers) than with Durant. Agreed, his decision-making needs work. You know what all those deficiencies mean? The rest of the league is scared to death. A guy who in four years has gone from UCLA backup to second-team all-NBA with Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki can still get not only better, but a lot better? By the way, Westbrook this season shot two percentage points worse than Durant from the field and from 3-point range. Not 10. Two.
Finishing games: B. I know, playoff losses magnified the problem. But do you realize the Thunder was one of the NBA's best teams in recent years in close games? The Thunder went 8-2 in overtimes, and that includes the regular-season finale loss to Milwaukee, when Brooks played his C team down the stretch. In games decided by three points or less, the Thunder was 14-7. In games decided by six points or less, the Thunder 23-14. The playoffs spotlighted the lack of late-game offensive execution. In the playoffs, the Thunder was 1-2 in overtime games, 3-3 in games decided by three points or less and 5-5 in games decided by six point or less.
Kendrick Perkins trade: A. Some have questioned the value of the deal. Interesting. The Thunder needed a defensive interior upgrade and got the best post defender in the league, at the cost of versatile forward Jeff Green and jump-shooting center Nenad Krstic. The Thunder offense remained virtually the same after the trade, but the Thunder defense improved dramatically, almost four points a game. In the playoffs, Perkins' presence helped hold Nene Hilario, the NBA leader in field-goal percentage, to 47.8 percent shooting (down from 61.5 in the regular season), then helped hold Memphis center Marc Gasol to sub-.500 shooting (40 of 81) in that seven-game series. And Perkins wasn't even close to 100 percent health. Best of all, the trade allowed Serge Ibaka and James Harden to blossom into new and more important roles. Good trade. Hard to imagine a better one.
Draft: C. Cole Aldrich came to OKC at the cost of two No. 20-something draft picks. Aldrich didn't play much and didn't show a whole lot when he did. But the new makeup of this team is perfect for Aldrich to settle in as the No. 4 big man in the rotation, should Nazr Mohammed not be re-signed. Aldrich at least gives the Thunder an option. Second-round picks Tibor Pleiss (Europe) and Latavious Williams (D-League) did not play in the NBA this season.
Player development: A. Young players are supposed to improve. But improve like this? Westbrook from solid to superstar. Harden from role player to cornerstone. Ibaka from cool story to Bill Russell (OK, a little exaggeration). But it wasn't just the pups who improved. Nick Collison went from handy to indispensable. Daequan Cook went from non-factor to major contributor. Someone or someones on Scotty Brooks' staff is doing a bang-up job.