Beat writers Maddie Lee and Erik Horne grade the Thunder at the halfway point of the season.
Forty-two down, 40 to go. With an improved roster, continuity and a favorable schedule, the Thunder is 26-16 and third in the Western Conference — four games ahead of where it was last season after 42 games. How do the players grade out individually? The Oklahoman's Erik Horne and Maddie Lee handed out report cards:
CWhen he has been on the court, Abrines has seen a dip in his 3-point shooting to 32.3 percent but an improvement on defense. He has played just 29 games due to a combination of injury, illness and personal reasons. Abrines last played on Dec. 23.
AThe Thunder center’s best offensive season has launched him into the AllStar conversation. Averaging 15.5 pointer per game, Adams has also maintained his reputation as a tough defender. He ranks third in offensive rebounds in the league, giving opposing teams headaches through second-chance points.
BAs a two-way player, Burton has turned in 15 games with the Thunder. He can, and does, play almost every position. Burton can drive through defenses like a running back, but he’s also a skilled ball handler. The rookie is still green but has shown flashes of his potential.
BAfter an “A” start to the season, Diallo is back to averaging about 12 minutes per game. He has carved out a niche as the second unit’s spark plug. With his explosiveness, Diallo is a walking highlight reel. Like all rookies, consistency is the key to earning more playing time.
CFelton’s biggest asset is his veteran presence. With the addition of Dennis Schroder, Felton has slid down the depth chart. The 15 games he has played have been a mixed bag, sometimes taking too many ill-advised shots, and other times leading the second unit through trying injuryplagues stretches.
A- Ferguson’s defense has seen a huge improvement from last season and only seems to keep getting better. The 20-year-old bumped his grade up with recent extra credit in the past three games: 3-point shooting. He started the season in a shooting slump but has increased his average to 5.3 points.
AThere’s a reason George has inspired “MVP” chants. In his second season with OKC, the three-time NBA AllDefensive Team selection is playing some of the best basketball of his life, averaging 30 points per game since Dec. 1. He lifted the Thunder’s offense while Westbrook struggled with his shot.
AGrant has provided an immediate upgrade to Carmelo Anthony at power forward at a third of the price ($8.6 million). Averaging career highs in points (12.6) and rebounds (5.0) while shooting 52.3 percent and guarding every position in the Thunder’s switch-heavy defensive scheme.
B- Hasn’t shot well (31 percent), but also has had limited opportunities. TLC’s 120 minutes are the fewest of the Thunder’s 14 players. Filled in well during the Thunder’s three-game west coast road trip in November, averaging 10.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and shooting 48 percent.
B- Hobbled by left knee soreness that robbed him of his entire preseason, Nader has solidified his rotation spot since Abrines’ absence. Defense can improve, but besides 3-point shooting (10-of20 in 10 games since Dec. 25), Nader has shown the ability to score with aggressive drives and tough finishes.
A- Arguably the biggest bargain in the league ($1.75 million). Noel’s second-unit rim protection and rebounding (3.8 blocks and 12 rebounds per 36 minutes) has freed up Grant to focus on one position and saved Adams’ legs. High foul rate, but sorely missed by Thunder while in concussion protocol.
DPatterson came into preseason as the presumed starter at power forward and has instead disappointed in a reserve role. Quietly shooting 40.6 percent from 3 his last 15 games, but slumps have been too frequent.
BAn instant upgrade over Felton with the second unit and an additional playmaker alongside Westbrook and George. Stepped in well in Westbrook’s eight missed games. Has wavered between big moments and prolonged slumps on both ends, but fits Thunder’s up-tempo style (and salary cap) more than Anthony.
B+ Despite injuries
(arthroscopic knee surgery, ankle sprain), inconsistent shooting and adjusting his playing style, the Thunder is 21-13 with Westbrook in the lineup. He’s ceded more control on offense while leading the league in assists and steals per game and putting in more consistent defensive shifts. Now, about those free throws ...