Over the offseason the Oklahoma City Thunder formed their own big three by trading for All-stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. They already had one of the most dynamic players in the game in Russell Westbrook, but as the Western Conference has gotten more competitive, they needed more. Last year was the first year the Thunder were without Kevin Durant after he left in free agency.
Without Durant, the Thunder won 47 games, but were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Houston Rockets. They’re hoping for a deep playoff run this year, but have gotten of to a rocky start. Through their first three games they’ve only won once, while losing their last two. This team has the potential to challenge the Warriors in the Western Conference, however it will take time for them to form their identity.
So far the Thunder have suffered two tough defeats, as yesterday they lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-103. Andrew Wiggins hit a three pointer at the buzzer to give the Timberwolves the win. The Thunder were coming off a disappointing loss to the Utah Jazz, showing that this team needs time to gel. In the game against Utah, the Thunder were out hustled and disorganized on offense. Last night they looked better, but didn’t make it easy on themselves.
Even though they only lost by one, they needed a late game comeback to even make the game close. In the game against the Jazz, it was apparent that Russell Westbrook was struggling to adjust to his new teammates. He wasn’t getting out in transition or using Paul George as the secondary ball handler. The Thunder did not have these problems last night, and it showed as the game was much more competitive.
Even though the Thunder now have two new superstars, this is still Russell Westbrook’s team, as he’s become one of the most dynamic players in the NBA. Unlike last year, he is surrounded by superstars who can hit the clutch shot. This was on display last night as Carmelo Anthony hit a three pointer with 5.7 seconds left to give the Thunder a brief lead before the Timberwolves answered with their own three to win the game. Having Melo and George also puts less pressure on the bench when Westbrook is not on the court. This was one area that the Thunder struggled in last year, as the Thunder were outscored by double digits in the playoffs with Westbrook off the court.
Despite this teams struggles, Westbrook has shown with this group that he’s still capable of recording triple doubles almost every night. The hardest part for these players will be learning to play off each other’s strengths. For example, both Westbrook and George are more defensively minded than Anthony. Through the first three games, the Thunder haven’t played a team that has more talent than them. Both Utah and Minnesota are teams they should beat. After adding both George and Anthony, many expected this team to be the one to challenge the Warriors in the Western Conference. Once this team meshes, they will be fun to watch. Thunder fans should be prepared for a season they wont forget.