He probably won’t beat out Derrick Rose or O.J. Mayo for Rookie of the Year, nor will he win any accolades for outstanding marksmanship (41.0 percent from the floor) or ball control (his 3.1 turnovers per game is ninth-worst in the league). However, Russell Westbrook does receive high marks for an impressive 15.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game, numbers that have made the 20-year-old a formidable third member of the little-known but rapidly growing Oklahoma City Three.
And even though he’s still learning how to efficiently distribute the ball on the pro level, Westbrook is already well-versed in the practice of forcefully finishing his own drives. You only need to watch the Thunder for about one quarter to realize that very few point guards in the league can match Westbrook’s explosiveness off the dribble.
The Wild Card
Though Durant, Green and Westbrook would be front and center on any Oklahoma City Thunder film poster, one other player acquired at last week’s trade deadline warrants a mention as well: Thabo Sefolosha.
Why should a player who has averaged just 5.0 points during his brief NBA career generate any sort of excitement? Because 5.0 points per game doesn’t tell the whole story. A closer look shows that in the 42 games in which Sefolosha has played 25 or more minutes, the 24-year-old has averaged 10.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.6 blocks. Those numbers obviously aren’t dazzling, but they’re enough to make you realize that Thunder General Manager Sam Presti spotted something in Sefolosha. And unlike so many of the deadline deals that were motivated by finances, this one was clearly motivated by the belief that adding Sefolosha would mean adding a valuable new component to a growing young team.
And make no mistake, despite all the talent, young and growing are still very valid adjectives to describe this franchise. In its first nine games this month, the Thunder let up an average of 114.0 points and had a 2-7 record (after a 7-7 January). That’s not very good, and neither, for that matter, is the Oklahoma City basketball team – at least not yet.
Just don’t make the mistake of grouping this team in with other struggling franchises like the Kings or the Clippers, who don’t compete these days so much as they make a nightly mockery out of lopsided box scores. Oklahoma City still loses more often than not, but there’s a distinct ripple of electricity in the air in Thunder country. One day sooner than we all might think, that energy is going to translate into wins.
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The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
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