When the Oklahoma City Thunder brought in superstars Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to team up with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, expectations were high that the team would be an instant contender and rightly so. 20 games or a quarter into the season however, the team has dropped to an 8-12 record, losing their last three games and five of their last six. This is only good enough for 10th place in the tough Western Conference. This shows that you cannot just throw in superstars in one team and expect to win.
The main reason the Thunder is struggling is the obvious lack of chemistry between the new teammates. This is reflected in numbers that are becoming increasingly glaring. For starters, the team sucks on offense currently ranking 22nd in the league in points scored. You would think that a team with three players who can average 25 points per game would be leading in offense.
The reality is the ball gets stuck with just one player, there is no ball movement, and the Thunder end up with low-percentage jumpshots and isolation plays. Because of this, they are very predictable and easier to defend. In terms of assists, they rank 23rd and are a dismal 27th in field goal percentage. Clearly, things need to change.
After the shocking loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, incumbent star Westbrook said he accepts responsibility for the team’s troubles and that he should set an example. The problem is easier said than done. Throughout his career, Westbrook has never proven that he can make his teammates better since he is a dominant force that needs the ball all the time. Just as an example, two former Thunder players (Domantas Sabonis and Victor Olapido) are thriving in their new teams away from Westbrook. This is also one of the reasons why Kevin Durant left OKC. Westbrook’s ball dominance has not been converted into wins and he needs to prove that he can thrive with other stars.
George and Anthony are also to blame since they continue to play like in their former teams where they were the first option.
Another reason for their struggles is their starting line-up, which includes the three plus Andre Roberson and Steven Adams. There are no pure shooters in the line-up which means there is not enough spacing and it is easier for the defense to collapse.
GM Sam Presti needs to take a hard and long at his current core. Yes, it’s not yet time to panic since there are 60 games to work on his team’s chemistry but that window is closing fast. This great experiment has a time limit since George is a free agent next season while Anthony has an opt out clause that can make him one too. Given this scenario, I won’t be surprised if George and/or Anthony gets traded before the deadline in February 2018. The Thunder must also look to get some value for these stars.
The Thunder need to turn this around and they need to do so fast.