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Category Archives: Oklahoma City Thunder

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Let's talk about Paul George and the MVP

We’re about a quarter through the season and some usual MVP suspects are starting to flesh themselves out. We’re talking Giannis. LeBron. Embiid. Curry. AD. A name you might not have expected to hear…Paul George.
Usually, when we talk about MVP candidates from the Thunder, we think about Russell Westbrook, and rightfully so. Russ is among the league leaders in defensive metrics and averaging another triple-double for the first place Thunder. Guess what, though. Westbrook hasn’t even been the best player on his own team this year.
Am I going to give you an in-depth breakdown of PG13’s 2018-19 season? I’ll spare you. After all, there is more and more breaking news in the NBA every day now, Robert Mueller is dropping Woj bombs about President Trump and apparently our climate is imploding as we speak. In other words, there is a lot of news for you all to catch up on.
So, I’ll give you the short and sweet. Let’s start with the numbers.
Stat Class
How does George compare to the other MVP candidates? I put George’s numbers against Steph Curry, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, The Greek Freak, and Joel Embiid. Here’s the breakdown:

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Is George leading in these categories? No. But the MVP is not automatically handed to whoever leads the league in scoring. Ask Steve Nash. There are multiple factors that go into determining who deserves MVP votes. Yet, it is good to see PG13’s numbers be relatively comparable to the other players making serious noise for this offseason’s hardware. After all, 24.3/4.3/7.8 splits on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 36.5 percent on 8.9 triple attempts per game is pretty darn good.
Is he shooting 50 percent from deep like Steph? No. Pulling down crazy boards like Giannis, Davis and Embiid? Nah. Dishing out assists to young gun teammates like LeBron? Nope. But you know what George is doing?
The guy is playing Defensive Player of the Year caliber defense while leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the best record in the bloodbath Western Conference. True basketball pundits love to talk about the other side of the ball when it comes to MVP discussions, but they tend to come up short. Not here, though.
The hierarchy of basketball skill set comes in this order:
1. Putting the ball in the hoop.
2. Stopping others from putting the ball in the hoop.
3. Helping others put the ball in the hoop.
There is an early list of potential DPOY winners for this season. Some names: Giannis, Embiid, Robert Covington, Paul Millsap, Myles Turner. Also on the list, and inching closer to the top of it, is George.
George’s court awareness has risen to a new level. Not only is he leading the league in steals, but he is flaunting his IQ when he nabs them. Does he poke the ball away from dribblers ala Kawhi Leonard? Absolutely. But he uses his long wingspan to snatch crosscourt passes in manner that leaves the passer thinking “where the hell did that guy come from”
Check out the clips below as we transition into…
A little bit of film
In this clip, George fights over a screen with a tenacity that would make the grumpiest of coaches smile. Yes, I am looking at you Coach Popovich. Then, George puts his hands in the air to disrupt either the lob pass to the roller, or the kick out to the shooter.

The steal comes easy for George, as it usually does for him. The dude just instinctually puts his hands in the air like he just walked into a party playing Return of the Mack. An easy bucket in transition is the result. Textbook pick and roll defense, my friends.
Watch this next bit of film. AD rolls to the hoop after setting a solid screen on Westbrook. PG13 recovers to help out and guard Davis. Instead of trying to stick with Davis because, you know, he’s Kevin Garnett with a better 3-pointer, George reads the defender’s eyes and steals a cross-court pass in a way that makes you say aloud “when did Paul George become a wizard?”

While Steven Adams and Jerami Grant should both be getting early All-Defensive team recognition, the Thunder are the best defensive team in the league in large part to Paul George.
Putting it all together
The Thunder are in first for a number of team defensive metrics. Also, they pass the eye test with resounding approval. Adams anchors the paint while being a more than capable switch defender. Grant protects the rim like a center despite being a wing. If you are wondering why the Thunder are in first place, look no further than their defensive effort.
Their offense tells another story, however. They are 25th in percentage of points from three; a poor figure for the modern NBA. They are also 25th in 2-point field goals assisted on, as well as 3-pointers unassisted and overall field goals assisted on (25 is there number, huh?)
In other words, this team does not move the ball too well. Alongside Russ, George is what keeps this offense afloat. He nails 50 percent of his isolation field goals and is the sole reliable 3-point shooter when they run a lineup of Adams, Westbrook, Ferguson and the albeit much-improved Grant.
Simply put, he has done a better job than Westbrook of carrying the offensive load for a team which certainly needs it. He stretches the floor better than Russ and is right there with him when it comes to iso scoring, drives, pull-up jumpers and catch and shoot triples. Shoot, he even leads Russ in some of those categories. Oh, and George is putting up one of his highest raw assist and assist percentage seasons ever.
So what do we have? We have a two-way gem for the best defensive team in the league helping his team reach first place in an historically brutal conference.
Yeah, I’d say that earns George some MVP chatter.

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Recap: Celtics overcome abysmal first half to triumph in OKC

As of this evening, according to Basketball Reference, the Boston Celtics lead the NBA in defensive rating per 100 possessions and opponent points allowed per game. They are also dead last in in offensive rating per 100 and second to last in points per game. Their 2-2 record is solely based on defensive proficiency—and, in the Knicks game, a fair bit of luck. The Orlando freaking Magic torched them worse than the Raptors did, and in the first quarter of this contest vs. OKC, it looked like more of the same. Only by virtue of defense were the Thunder up by teens rather than 20-plus.
Should we be worried about this? I’m not worried, this is f—

I mean, it is fine. This is the fifth game of the season. Just because the NBA year starts in mid-October now doesn’t make any panic occurring right now less unearned. Right? Totally. Look at this pretty dunk:

[email protected] throws it down to end the first pic.twitter.com/thAaVjqBQJ
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 26, 2018

They ended Q1 on a solid 8-0 run and they’ve kept it within the margin of error so far in the sec—

OK, this is starting to get bad. The shots still aren’t going in; Kyrie looks like he might be feeling a tidbit of knee pain and just missed consecutive free throws, which never happens; GH isn’t even trying to shoot, though he’s rebounding reasonably and putting in serious defensive effort; Uncle Al is fouling a ton and looks kind of tired. Also Jaylen Brown’s rough start to the season might be troubling me more than anything else with this team. Only Tatum is keeping the Celtics even halfway alive. Boston is down 16 at the half—50-34 Oklahoma City—and shooting 0-11 from de—

At least Westbrook is also shooting poorly, though he basically always does that and it didn’t stop him from winning the 2017 MVP over Point Harden and God Disguised as Kawhi Leonard, because triple-doubles though—
And then, with all the sudden orgastic joy of Sir Galahad riding suddenly into the kingdom to bring peace and prosperity amid grim horrors and goat-demons named Alex Abrines, the three-pointers came. Eight in number for the quarter, beautiful as the night, terrible as the moon. Westbrook barely has more points than Stevenadamwhodrinks69beers (ask @HebertofRiffs about it) and is shooting with far less efficiency. The Celtics would, when the smoke cleared, have scored more points in the third quarter (40) than they did in the first half (34). Horford hit three triples en route to 19 in the game while Tatum nailed fadeaway after layup after free throw without seeming to attract much attention. I’m not sure quite why, but it felt like Horford and Marcus Morris were drawing defenses in more, especially the latter due to his ISO-heavy tendencies. (Tatum’s biggest highlight play came in the quagmire of the first half; more on that later.) For approximately 20 seconds, they had a two-point lead, but they were most definitely not out of the woods.
If Boston were to end up losing this game, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing. They proved they hadn’t lost their ability to regroup after messing up, something that didn’t look within their repertoire in the Orlando game. PROCESS OVER RESULTS KAIZEEEEEEEEEN. During most of the fourth, it looked like we were heading for what a smart coach—Popovich, Stevens, Spoelstra, Doc, Gentry, Kerr, Dwane Casey in the regular season—considers an instructive loss and a lesser or more insecure coach—Thibodeau, Brooks, Donovan, Scott Skiles, Dwane Casey during the playoffs—obsesses over as one does as personal slight. And given how far we’d come from that putrid first half, that would’ve been OK.
Then this happened.

TIE GAME. pic.twitter.com/29y5r1EwTB
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 26, 2018

That’s why Danny brought him here, and paid what it cost to do so. That’s why he will in all likelihood pay Kyrie the five-year, $188 million max. He made one of the most famous three-point shots in NBA history, and may well make several more of massive importance. He had the aptitude and confidence to note how OKC started to tear itself apart—once again failing to run an organized offense in deference to Russell Westbrook on full-tilt hubris—and shred a defense for a gorgeous floater.
Credit where due to the actual go-ahead shot, though:

Marcus Morris = CLUTCH! #CUsRise pic.twitter.com/uj9qxxTULv
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) October 26, 2018

Free throws by Morris and Horford put icing on the cake, 101-96. Tatum kept them from ruin during the game and the veterans sealed it, but the whole squad had to recover to ensure the W.
In summation:

“the weak should fear the strong”-Kyrie Irving-1844
— joylesspud (@joylesspud) October 26, 2018

Box score

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