Here are the winners and losers of the Thunder’s 2013 postseason run:
Winner – Russell Westbrook’s reputation
Anyone doubting Westbrook’s importance to the Thunder’s success any more? *Crickets*. Over the past couple seasons, as a talented scoring machine who never seems to tire, Westbrook made a strong push toward etching his name among the league’s elite. But, ironically, his sudden absence from the court, for the first time since grade school, may have strengthened that case. He’s a top-10, likely top-5 talent and one of the NBA’s most indispensable players. You can use this past month as evidence.
Loser – Thunder fans
Just like the last three years, OKC ended its season with a heartbreaking loss in the postseason. But there was something different about 2013, something artificial. NBA history is lined with devastating injuries that derail the title hopes of serious contenders, but Thunder history was void of that experience until this year. You can — or should be able to — accept when your team loses a playoff series at full strength. But it becomes a lot tougher to swallow when your season, for all intents and purposes, ends on a random mid-afternoon on a non-gameday, through a surprising injury press release and a string of revealing tweets. Chalk it up in the ‘What if…’ category. Bad breaks happen.
Winner – Reggie Jackson
From a developmental standpoint, Jackson was one of the only silver linings from this stunted postseason run. The second-year guard received a bulk of the minutes left by Westbrook and played about as well as you could have expected. He seemed comfortable in a tough situation, flashing his natural skill and showing the organization he can be relied on in a heavier role next season. Really, if there was a knock on his postseason play, it was his occasional hesitance to remain aggressive, acting like a backup option when he was likely one of OKC’s better scoring options. His postseason averages: 13.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 33.5 minutes and 48 percent shooting in 11 games. Solid contributions.
Loser – Kendrick Perkins
As has been detailed, the Amnesty Perkins movement is a pointless one. OKC is not going to pay one of its best locker room guys, with a still somewhat useful skill set, $18 million to just go away. But there’s no denying how bad he struggled during the past month, his limited offensive game exposed mightily in Westbrook’s absence. The first series, against Houston’s four-guard lineup, was just a bad matchup for Perkins. The second series, against Memphis’ talented frontline, he was just severely outplayed. Perkins’ final postseason numbers: 24 points, 24 turnovers, 39 fouls, 10-37 shooting, a plus/minus of -40 and a PER of -0.7, the worst in NBA Playoff history. Rough month.
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