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The good, the bad and the most improved


December 9th, 2010

If you're looking for a word to sum it up, I think "weird" might be a good one.

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One (calendar) month down for the Thunder. More than 20 games finished up. A quarter of the season is history. If you're looking for a word to sum it up, I think "weird" might be a good one.

The Thunder has won more than it has lost, is in the middle of the Western playoff race and sits right at the top of the Northwest Division. Around this time last season, Oklahoma City was just barely a .500 team. This time, the Thunder's well ahead of that pace.

So with over a month in the books and a quarter of the season wrapped, let's review a few things.

Best Player: No doubt, it's Russell Westbrook. He's completely taken charge of the team and without his efforts, who knows where we'd be right now? Statistically, he's outplaying LeBron James. Kevin Durant is still the team's most talented player, and a lot of Westbrook's open lanes are helped from defenses leaning KD's way. But after one month, Russ has definitely been OKC's best player.

Most Disappointing Player: There were such high hopes for Daequan Cook coming in. I kept saying things like, "He won the 3-point contest!" while trying to convince myself he was the sharpshooter OKC needed. But Cook was as cold as ice in the seven games he appeared in. He's 3-16 from 3 and 5-18 overall from the field and hasn't appeared in a game for weeks. Not great for a guy whose only job is to shoot well.

Most Improved Since Opening Night: Serge Ibaka is starting to scare me. Like I'm terrified by the time he's eligible for a contract extension, Oklahoma City won't have enough cap room to pay him. He keeps moving up in terms of his ability. He actually has a refined offensive game now. Watching Ibaka grow as a player has been fun, especially because you can see a massive difference between him now and even opening night. The mid-range jumper, the aggressiveness in the post, his help defense " all of it is better. I can't wait to see what he looks like by even Christmas.

Player You Shouldn't Worry About: It's weird that we keep feeling unfulfilled by Durant's play early on. Then he sat out with an injury and missed a few games. But the fact he's shooting just over 40 percent from the field and under 30 percent from 3-point range doesn't feel right. And it's not going to keep up. At the end of November last season, KD was shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and just 23.7 percent from the 3-point line, while averaging 27.7 points per game. He followed that up with a better December (29.7 ppg on 49.3 and 38.6) and then started his absolute dominance in January (32.1 ppg on 51.9 and 53.2).

I keep telling you, don't worry about KD. He's still an awesome, awesome basketball player. The fact the team is winning this season compared to a slower start last season is a great thing and speaks to how much better this team is.

I'd say after a quarter of the season, it's hard not to be happy. The record is good, and the team is on pace for a good numbers of wins again. Not bad for a team that we'd all agree isn't playing anywhere near to what they're capable of.  

Young is the founder of the DailyThunder.com blog.
 
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