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Heroes of a Losing Cause

Posted By Steven Jones On May 16 2013 @ 12:49 am In Oklahoma City Thunder | No Comments

Even though their season ended with four straight losses to the fearless Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder walked away from the 2012-13 NBA season with plenty of honors. Here is a quick run-down of where each important Thunder member ranked in the year-end awards balloting, and whether each result seems justified in the first days of a longer summer than anyone wanted.

Kevin Durant – 2nd place, Most Valuable Player: JUSTIFIED

After one of the best MVP runner-up seasons in memory, Durant admirably shouldered the burden in the wake of Russell Westbrook’s injury, becoming one of three players ever to top averages of 32 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in the playoffs. The bad news, as everyone knows by now, is that the last player to post such numbers was LeBron James in 2009, one year before he bolted Cleveland to take his talents to South Beach.

Durant obviously has no immediate plans to leave Oklahoma City, but after watching how angrily he played tonight – screaming for the ball when open, barking at referees to the point of letting Memphis get a fast-break layup at one point – his fans must wonder how close he is to the level of dissatisfaction that drove LeBron away from his first NBA home.

Serge Ibaka – 3rd place, Defensive Player of the Year: UNJUSTIFIED

He kept up his gaudy shot-blocking numbers (3.2 per game against Memphis), but still lacks the refinement and guile necessary to handle great inside scorers like Zach Randolph one-on-one.

Kevin Martin – 4th place, 6th Man of the Year: JUSTIFIED

He fit decently at times and better than that at others into the Thunder’s regular-season success, and his best two playoff games doubled as the last two Thunder victories of the season. He needs to play in an offensive system that takes greater advantage of his cagey offensive game, though the two-man chemistry he flashed with Nick Collison in a few playoff moments gives the Thunder second unit hope for the future.

Russell Westbrook – 9th place, Most Valuable Player: JUSTIFIED

Only a 4,000-word column or a tax-regulation-length compilation of advanced statistics could truly quantify what Westbrook meant to the Thunder this season, but here is one useful metric: Oklahoma City went 62-22 in games that Westbrook played, and 4-5 in games he missed. None of the eight players who finished above him in the balloting can make that depressing claim.

Scott Brooks – 14th place, Coach of the Year: JUSTIFIED

This blog has been just one voice among the many media outlets heaping scorn on Brooks, whether questioning his playing rotations [1] or bemoaning his lack of an offensive system.

Those criticisms are valid, but Brooks also helped oversee the giant strides that Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka made this season, and he integrated Martin into his team’s attack seamlessly. Fourteenth seems about right for him. Perhaps one of the top ten coaches could have done more with this team, but he’s the Thunder’s man for now.

***

So concludes another season of Kendrick Perkins’ least-favorite blog. Thanks to all the loyal readers, and to my supportive family – especially the newest member, Parker, whose steady three-month-old hands could have helped the Thunder take better care of the ball a time or three this year. See you all in 2014.

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[1] questioning his playing rotations: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2013/05/14/too-much-perkins-sends-okc-to-the-brink/

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