Midseason Report Cards 2017-18

2017-18 Midseason Report Card: Oklahoma City Thunder

(All stats and records through Jan. 14; for report cards for all 30 teams click here.)

Offense: 105.4, 12th Overall

Defense: 103.0, 4th Overall

W-L | Pct. | GB

23-20 | .535 | 11.5

Conf.: 13-13

Div.: 5-7

Home: 14-7

Road: 9-13


The latest wrinkle is that coach Billy Donovan and his staff have tried to let Paul George and Carmelo Anthony initiate more offense, getting the ball in their hands and lightening Russell Westbrook’s load. Amid all the angst, center Steven Adams has had a breakout season, a reliable option offensively and a presence defensively.


Westbrook no longer leads the league in usage rate — he has dropped all the way to No. 2. His other numbers are strong, paling only next to last season’s outlier stats. The spot alongside him has been an issue, with OKC missing injured Andre Roberson’s defense while flipping through Alex Abrines and Terrance Ferguson for offense.  


Based on their defensive rating and their point differential, the Thunder could be 10 games over .500 now. A lot of it starts with Adams in the paint, while Roberson sticks to opposing scorers. George has strong defensive chops and even Westbrook has moments when sufficiently motivated.


The dropoff in talent and results is precipitous when the Thunder turn to multiple second-unit guys. OKC shouldn’t need scoring with the starters it has, but everybody can use shooting. In particular, veteran Patrick Patterson has been a disappointment since arriving in July.


“Firing Billy Donovan isn’t the answer” was the headline in The Oklahoman that greeted the Thunder this week, so Donovan has that going for him at least. The 14-5 run into the New Year might have taken an in-season coaching change off the table.


The Thunder were 25-18 at a similar point last season, when Westbrook had so little help according to critics of the OKC roster then. So now he has serious Hall of Fame-bound help and they’re two games worse? Doesn’t make sense. The creation of “OK3” at least got Westbrook to extend his contract and stay, but it was supposed to be about so much more. The players and coaches are taking the heat for now, but Sam Presti and the front office will be next to feel it.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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