When the Thunder acquired Paul George in the offseason I thought “wow this could be a great team.” When they traded for Melo I only imagined how good this team could be. But then again, I thought that it will be a tough transition fitting this many stars onto one roster.
Several months later this experiment has had its ups and downs but ultimately it has yet to succeed. With the Thunder sitting at 11 and 12 with a 9 seed in the Western Conference I hear so many people yelling time to panic in OKC. It is not time to panic with so much of the season left. Although a strategy needs to be implemented soon to fully achieve the potential so many people thought this team had.
Looking at the teams stats, you can see that the Thunder’s big three have all taken a step back on scoring. While each of these players is usually in the high 20’s or even 30’s, Westbrook is leading the team with 22.5 points per game. Even though it looks like these players are sharing the ball more and letting others shoot this hasn’t really been the case. The Thunder lead the league in isolation plays which means ball movement is low.
When these three stars came together in Oklahoma City people were saying super team. Not quite, this is more of a big three which is different than a super team. A super team is that of the Warriors who have superstar players like Durant and Curry but have star players who know their role in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green as well as a dynamic bench. Throwing three stars together doesn’t make a super team but a big three. They need to prove themselves to get the title of super team.
As we have seen they have not proved themselves. When big threes are formed and thrive like in Miami or Boston there is a respect of the other good players on the team besides the star player themselves. George, Anthony and Westbrook had been the superstar on their team previous to them coming together. But so were Bosh, James and Wade. What made the Heat work was that they took a step back to Lebron James and played their roles around him. For the Thunder to thrive they need to select the leader and play around him.
Although I have heard that they see Westbrook as the leader on the Thunder, as I believe they should, it does not seem like they want to take a step back on their game and find a role around him. It will be difficult for All Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony not be the best player on their team but it is necessary to be a great team. After all, basketball is a team sport and they are playing as individuals and not as a unit.
The Thunder still have loads of potential this season. Not often do three star players all unite on one team. We have seen big threes thrive to championship levels before but this team is still far from that peak. The learning curve will be a factor on how long it will take to gel together but after 23 games, there won’t be a lot of time left to climb to the top of the standings with teams pulling away.