This team led the league in blocked shots per game in three of the last four seasons, and was second in the one that it didn’t.
This team also finished in the Top 6 in rebounding in the last four years.
Who is this team? Without cheating and looking at a stats site you’d have to guess the Pacers with Roy Hibbert and David West, or a defensively minded team like the Spurs, with Tim Duncan leading the block-n-board bash, or Da Bulls, with high-end Crafty Breuer Joakim Noah, his pony tail and the other dudes swatting shots and grabbing clankers.
Nope, nope and nope. It’s the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that – despite having blocks leader Serge Ibaka (3.0 bpg) in the hizzouse – just doesn’t pop into your mind as a team that would pile up a mound of boards and blocks. We see Kevin Durant blowing guys away on the break and rising up for those improbable three-ball makes, and we see Russell Westbrook somehow getting to the cup and somehow getting it to go.
Yet that is indeed the case, and this is important because we know that no matter who’s on the roster besides Serge (and obviously Durant and Westbrook), the Thunder is going to be near the top of these two categories. And that means if we need to grab someone who has dual-threat board/block ability right quick, OKC will be the place to go.
Does it seem kind of odd that one of the smallest point guards in NBA history, lil’ Scotty Brooks, presides over this board-and-block bonanza? Maybe, but then consider that the Thunder play exactly the same way Brooks did under the tutelage of Jimmy Lynam back in his Philly days – balls out, head first, pushing it all the way from the baseline to the other end, even if it was for a half-court set.
That helped James Harden turn into the player he is for the Rockets, but it also helped guys like Nick Collison, human albatross Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha, Hasheem Thabeet, Nazr Mohammed and even Nenad Krstic (remember that guy? Anyone know where he went? Anyone care?) collect rebounding and swatting numbers above what they would have had if not for Brooks’ high-energy attack.
(I realize a lot of Thunder fans are pissed at Brooks after the Thunder got smacked around by the Grizzlies last year. But come on man, the guy averages more than 50 wins a year! And he had 60 last year! Stop making me write in superlatives already!)
It’s been a quiet off-season for OKC, but as a team that is constantly squeezing the most out of young guys and nobodies, there are, as usual, a few sleepers to look out for.
One is No. 12 pick Steve Adams, who is 6-11 and has a 7’5″ wingspan – idea for a shot-blocker and, after spending some time with Durant and Ibaka, maybe he’ll even become a strong rebounder.
Second-year small forward Perry Jones III is another guy with some upside – he’s also 6-11, and while he barely played at all as a rookie, he could board (7.2 rpg) and block (about 1.0 per game) while at Baylor.
Also look out for second-round pick Andre Roberson, a 6-foot-7 small forward who has been one of the most impressive guys on the Thunder’s Summer League team. He’s building a rep as a guy who does all the little things, which means he’ll get his share of the kind of hustle stats we love in B-n-B Land.
So there you go. You’ve been Thunderstruck!