NBA: Thunder Struggles Start With Coach & MVP, Not Newcomers

Joshua Hicks is a contributor to WARR and The D & Davis Show

During this past NBA off-season a lot of people, including me, thought the Oklahoma City Thunder cleaned up in all of the big trades, gave their general manager Sam Presti a leg up on the NBA executive of the year award for his emphatic work in trading for the best players without giving up any major assets or young talents.

But this season so far has been a nightmare for the Thunder. They are not winning the games they should, starting with a 13-14 record and sitting precariously at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

The overall chemistry is there, however, the talents does not seem to have gelled just yet offensively. Who is to blame for this? It’s coach Billy Donovan and Russell Westbrook.

Paul George’s game so far this season is equivalent to his stats during his tenure in Indiana, he is averaging 20 points a game with six rebounds and two assists so far this season, compared to averaging 23 points, seven rebounds and two assists last season. However, the difference between PG-13 last season and this season was he was the down the stretch clutch player that lived for the final moments of the game.

With Westbrook being so ball dominated, he cannot be the efficient go to scorer the Thunder need in the final crunch moments of the game.

Carmelo Anthony is still adjusting from being the primary scorer during his time in in New York. His 17 points a game is the lowest of his career and his role of being an efficient stretch four is not going as planned. We all expected to see the Olympic or Hoodie Melo but he has not shown up yet.

Because these newcomers are struggling, it is up to Westbrook and coach Billy Donovan to make necessary adjustments.

Westbrook is having his normal stats of close to 25 points a game with achieving triple-doubles every other game, but he has to adjust his game in the final minutes of the game. He is not dealing with a Kevin Durant, where he automatically was the side-kick and knew that in the final moments of the game Durant is the one taking that final shot.

Westbrook is now the leader with the ball in his hands and dealing with multiple players that have the same clutch gene as Durant, it can be hard to give up the ball in the final possessions of the game. Westbrook’s style of play has to transition from being a non-stop motorboat to a true point guard phase, creating opportunities for PG-13 and Hoodie Melo to take over the game instead of trying to do it all himself.

Donovan has to step up and be a coach to a team full of alpha males. He has to pull the players aside and make the necessary roster adjustments needed to make this work, while at the same time convincing the players to trust his plans and put his players in the positions for them to be as effective as possible on both ends of the floor.  

Personally, I believe the ideal situation would be to move Melo to the sixth man role to be the extra spark and go to scorer for the second unit to keep the team afloat.

Keeping PG-13 and Westbrook in the starting lineup to open up more opportunities for both players. In the end game situations, allow PG-13 to run the show with Melo being the second option.

Different critics may feel otherwise, but we know one thing is true: if the Thunder do not make any adjustments soon, it will soon be time to start from scratch with finding talent that can play with your franchise player.

Joshua Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio

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