In the third installment of "Inside the Thunder," we are going to look at Oklahoma City's Small Forwards. Or should we say forward, as Kevin Durant is the only SF listed on the Thunder's depth chart.
Kevin Durant, Kid Delicious, the Durantula, Velvet Hoop, or KD35, no matter what you call him, he is the face, and voice, of the Thunder. He is already one of the best SFs in the NBA, and seems to only be able to improve. Last season, Durant averaged 25.3 PTs, 6.5 REBs, and 2.2 ASTs per game (NBA.com). He improved in every statistical category last season, and is on course have 5,000 points by the end of his third season. If his teammates can take defensive pressure off Durant, he is almost a lock for the All-Star Game. Outside of Durant, the Thunder have no "real" back up Small Forward. They do, however, have a number of players who can step into the roll as needed. Jeff Green (PF) is a natural Small Forward, but plays Power Forward with OKC. Thabo Sefolosha has the height and presence to shift to the three, and both Kyle Weaver and Shaun Livingston saw time at SF during the Summer Leagues. This mix match of possible relievers should be able to help pick up the slack while Durant is resting.
Oklahoma City's strength at SF can be summed up in two letters, K and D. Durant can score, rebound, pass, and pester the opposing offense. He not only scorers, but his presence allows his teammates more open shots. Depending on roster moves, if Jeff Green ever backs up Durant he could be a yearly candidate for 6th Man of the Year. Green's numbers have always been overshadowed by the more flashy Durant, but he was the number two scorer on the team last season. Sefolosha has the potential to be an All-Defensive team player, at either SG or SF, and can help Durant when called upon.
Turnovers and defense are Durant's biggest weaknesses. He had just over 3 TOs per game last season (NBA.com), and needs to get that number down. Not being the only offensive spark on the team should be the first step in lowering this number. Despite his long frame and speed, Durant was often beaten off the block by opposing offenses. He has spent this offseason in the weight room, so hopefully a few more pounds of muscle will help this problem. After Durant, and Green if he shifts, the Thunder have no SFs who are reliable scorers. As with the focus on the SGs, Weaver and Sefolosha aren't known for their offense.
Few teams have a better situation at Small Forward than the Thunder. Durant is a franchise player who many are tabbing as the "Next LeBron," but KD still has a ways to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as LBJ. If he can develop the on court leadership, and become more able defensive player, the Thunder have a perennial All-Star. Even if Durant never develops one of those, he is still a player that every team in the NBA would like to have on their roster.
(photo from PicApp.com)
This Is Thunder Basketball