With Durant Out Thunder Will Make More Than Just A Lineup Change
By Randy Renner
If you're going to have to experiment around with some things it's probably better to do it against the worst team in the NBA than one of the best.
The Philadelphia 76ers, who haven't won a regular season game since March 25th (MARCH 25TH!!) certainly qualify as the NBA's worst. They've lost all eight of their games this season and 18 straight dating back to that win over the Denver Nuggets early in the spring.
Thunder head coach Billy Donovan wasn't sure who's name will replace Kevin Durant's in the OKC starting lineup when he talked with local reporters after Thursday's practice.
"No not yet, I'm gonna watch Philly a little more, look at their lineup," Donovan said. "We've certainly got options with Dion (Waiters), Kyle (Singler) and A-Mo (Anthony Morrow) so that's a luxury."
Waiters has gotten off to a great start, averaging 10.6 points on 48.3 percent shooting overall and 52.6 percent on threes. Over the last three games he's been even better carrying averages of 16 points on 68.2 percent shooting overall and 75 percent from beyond the arc.
All his minutes have come off the bench but many times he's been on the floor at the end of games, usually taking the place of Andre Roberson.
Singler has gotten most of his minutes as the regular backup for Durant and Donovan has said many times he prefers Singler's length and his defensive ability in certain matchups. But Singler has mostly struggled offensively, averaging just 2.3 points on an abysmal 23.8 percent shooting.
He might be about to break out of his shooting slump. He went 2-for-2 on threes in Washington DC the other night after having missed six straight previously. And when Singler is on the floor the Thunder do play pretty good defense, especially at home where opponents average just 93.7 points per 100 possessions. Of course they're lousy on offense even at home where they manage only 86.4 points per 100 possessions with Singler on the court.
Morrow, probably mostly because of sporadic playing time, has gotten off to one of the worst starts of his career averaging 2.7 points on 30.4 percent shooting overall and 31.3 percent from deep.
All three will likely see their playing time increase and their rolls change while Durant is out and that doesn't with those three.
"There's guys who've gotta keep themselves ready to play and sometimes that can be very, very challenging."
Donovan also said things will change even for guys who are on the court regularly like Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter. With Durant out Donovan wants to expand the 2-man game with Westbrook and Kanter who seemed to quickly develop a great chemistry with that late last season while Durant was out with his foot injury.
"Yeah I think those guys have gotta play together," Donovan said. "Russell is so good at attacking the rim and getting into the paint and when he doesn't finish those shots you're dealing with one of the better offensive rebounders who's rolling down the lane after a pick-and-roll and is able to get into position to grab an offensive rebound and score."
That's precisely what led to several of Kanter's 20-10 games last season.
The Thunder catch a break in the schedule going up against teams over the next five games whose combined record is 11-30. But still you want to be able to play the best you canwithout Durant and hopefully be able to stack some wins up.
Tipoff set for 7:10 tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena. You can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.