Hedrich Files

Analyzing our pop culture footprint one jump shot at a time.

Tag: oklahoma city thunder

Kevin Durant vs. Russell Westbrook: The Debate Rages On by Brian Bernstein

The debate continues right now, right here: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, who’s better? Who would you rather start a franchise with?

It’s tough to compare the two because both are top-10 players in the league today, and both are top-five in their respective position. Also, the question of who would you rather have is totally different than who is better. Picture yourself as a general manager and you had the option of either player to build around. It’s hard to go wrong with either, but what you have to decide is would you rather build around a point guard, a small/power forward, or would you rather just take the better player?

Ok, so lets get down to the nitty gritty. Let’s begin with Russ. He is right now doing something that only one other player in the history of the game, since stats were kept, has done. He is averaging a triple-double, 31.2 points per game, 10.2 assists, and 10.5 rebounds (he leads the NBA in ppg, third in apg, and 12th in rpg). Oscar Robinson is the other player to average a triple-double for a season in 1961-62, when the rate of play was much higher than it is today, allowing for many more possessions than take place in todays game.

He is possibly the most athletic point guard to ever play the game, and just may be the most explosive player the game has ever seen. With all do respect to LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and even Derrick Rose (pre-knee surgery), Russ is a beast, and has another gear.

While my vote sadly won’t count for this year’s MVP candidate, if he finishes the season averaging a triple-double, I don’t care what the OKC Thunder record is, he should be the unanimous winner. He is on a team that has no consistent shooters, so the fact that he can get double digit assists per night is a feat in itself. He makes any team better and a nightmare to scheme against.

I have so much respect for Westbrooks loyalty and commitment to OKC, it’s quite commendable. For KD to turn his back on the Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors because he wanted an easier road to the Finals, I lost respect for him. He basically said I’d rather not continue to fight and beat the best; I’d rather just join the best. That’s a soft move man. Soft like a… cupcake.

But putting that aside and looking at talent alone, KD is one of the most unique players the game has ever seen. He is a small forward, or shooting guard, trapped in a 7-foot body. He can score in the post, he can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and can drive to the basket.

Russ and KD are true shooters, Russ is the better passer but KD is the better shooter, plus he’s more clutch. You can’t give Durant an inch of space because he’ll knock down any shot with the smallest window. You also can’t guard him with a smaller player because he’ll post him up or shoot over the top of him, and if you put a big man on him, you open up the driving lane.

I’m aware that I have still yet to answer the question of who is the better player, keep reading:

The biggest difference is on the other end of the floor. I have continuously stuck up for Russ and his defense. He does get lazy, a lot, but he’s anticipation and quickness allows him to be an aggressive defender, which does open him up to get beat, but when he decides to lock up, he is one of the toughest guys to beat. However, Durant takes the “cake” on this end.

Not only can he guard any position because of his quickness and length, he can block shots, play the passing lane, and is harder to get around. His defensive ceiling has increased since joining the Warriors this season, and Steve Kerr deserves all the credit. He is currently blocking more shots than he ever has per game in his career, so much for the Warriors losing a rim protector.

So again, who is the better player? Even though everything points to Russ, the answer is Kevin Durant. He is simply unguardable.

When guarding the best players in the world, you want to take away one aspect of their game, or try to, to make them beat you. With Russ, if you can keep him out of the paint you have a better chance at holding him in check. But with KD, there is no part to his game you can take away and feel good about your chances.

If you keep him out of the paint he will continue to knock down the long-range shots, if you take away the deep ball, he will kill you inside. He is just too diverse to keep in check.

I love Russ. He is one of my favorite players and he plays with more heart than anyone in the league, but Kevin Durant is simply the better player.

-Brian Bernstein

Points from the Key Podcast #14: 13 Seconds of Insanity+ NBA Round 2 Breakdown

Brian and Logan on the Lakers hiring of Luke Walton, the final 13 seconds of Thunder-Spurs Game 2, what the Heat should do with Chris Bosh, the rumors of Lakers trying to acquire Paul George, and all the latest NBA rumors.

Twitter: @PointsfromKey

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dodging-la-podcast/id1001991847

https://soundcloud.com/pointsfromthekey/points-from-the-key-podcast-14-13-seconds-of-insanity-nba-round-2-breakdown

Top 5 Teams in the NBA (Thus Far) by Brian Bernstein

It honestly feels like this season just began, and then 2016 swooped in like the Millennium Falcon traveling at light-speed and now almost half the season is over. This season has been filled with “Did you see that!?” kind of plays, record-setting starts, disappointments, and farewells, but within the rollercoaster of emotions, the only constant has been the teams making up the upper echelon of the NBA. It’s safe to say these teams deserve to be called elite.

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1) Golden State Warriors: First off, if you are the defending champs, then you are automatically deemed the best team in the league. The Warriors have continued to put all doubters to bed, especially those who called last year’s championship run “lucky.” They came out and destroyed their opponents on their way to a record-setting start to the season, winning their first 24 games, all the while recording the second longest regular season winning streak with 28 (behind only the 71-72 Los Angeles Lakers at 33), dating back to last season. The scariest part is they’re better than last year. Their blistering start is due to their un-freaking-believable offense, led by last years MVP, Stephen Curry. Curry is simply unstoppable, averaging 29.5 ppg, 6.5 assists, 2.1 steals, while shooting 51 percent from the floor and just about 45 percent from behind the arc. However, it’s as a team where the Warriors excel, putting up 113.7 ppg, while making 12.6 three- pointers per game, both league bests. Their defense continues to remain elite, posting the 6th best defensive efficiency in the league at .988. The fact of the matter is no team has really come close to slowing them down, nor has a team showed that can hang with the Warriors for 48 minutes. At least none that we have seen thus far.

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2) San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs are the only team in the West with a true shot at bringing down the champs. Some would even argue that they’re the best, but until they beat the Warriors, number two is where they’ll sit. There’s no question about it, the Spurs play the best team ball in the league. Even on a team that features a nucleus of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard, every player is willing to sacrifice individual success for team triumph. Each possession revolves around constant ball and player movement and making the extra pass. The same mentality is shown on the defensive end of the floor, and numbers don’t lie. The Spurs are the toughest team to score against, holding their opponents to a staggeringly low 89.5 ppg — five fewer point than the second best defensive team, Miami Heat (94.7). With the off- season signing of top free agents, All-Star power forward Lamarcus Aldridge, and David West, they have set themselves up to represent the West in the NBA Finals. All they have to do is make it through of the gauntlet of the Western Conference Playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Phoenix Suns

3) Cleveland Cavaliers: Last year’s Eastern Conference Champions are back in the drivers seat. Riddled with injuries during last year’s playoff run, and spilling over to this season, the Cavs are finally healthy and ready to make a statement. Obviously the Cavs success revolves around superstar LeBron James, but the X-factor is Kyrie Irving. Irving gives the Cavs that extra firepower title contenders need. He takes a lot of pressure off of James’ shoulders, while remaining the only other player who can create for himself. If he is not on the floor, the Cavs will not be bringing a title to Cleveland. Regardless of injuries, Cleveland will represent the East again, and LeBron will likely make an astonishing sixth straight Finals appearance.

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4) Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are the only team in the Eastern Conference that can spoil the Cavaliers championship aspirations, and if they want to succeed in that feat, they must learn to play consistently under new head coach Fred Hoiberg. The problem with the Bulls is that you never know which team will show up. One day they play like a real title contender, and then they turn around and lose to a sub-.500 team. Clearly, they need some time to fully comprehend Hoiberg’s system, but most importantly, the team needs to be healthy to build chemistry. Led by new superstar Jimmy Butler, the Bulls will go as far as their former MVP, Derrick Rose, takes them. Rose needs to be a consistent presence on the floor, driving fearlessly to the basket and putting stress on opponents defenses. That doesn’t mean he needs to be the primary scorer like he was when he won the MVP, but he must be an aggressive player to change the game. If he can get past these nagging injures, and Joakim Noah gets healthy, the Bulls’ recipe of Noah, Rose, Butler, Taj Gibson, and Pau Gasol will be successful come playoff time.

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5) Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder narrowly missed the playoffs last year due to a season riddled with injuries. The 2014-15 season saw Kevin Durant play only 31 games due to a broken foot. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook put up possibly one of the greatest single-season performances ever by a single player. However, that season is over, coach Scott Brooks is long gone, Durant is back and healthy, and Billy Donovan, the former coach at the University of Florida, is in. Everyone knows what you get when you play the Thunder, tough defense, and a fierce Westbrook-Durant combo. It’s so venomous because, they strike in different ways. Durant is a sniper with his long-range shot, Westbrook hits hard like lightning trying to decapitate his enemies with earth-shattering dunks, while the supporting cast of OKC makes them a viable championship contender. We know Durant and Westbrook can lead a team to the Finals; the question is if the spurting cast can live up to expectations. The tenacity that this team plays with, especially Westbrook, makes the Thunder a team to fear in the playoffs.

-Brian Bernstein

Why Kevin Durant ISN’T Leaving OKC Until 2017

The anticipation that led to the free agency mega class of 2010 is slowly surmounting again as we approach the next best free agent class of all time, this time headlined by Kevin Durant. There are more than a few teams interested in his services, but the most likely situation seems that he’ll be staying put in Oklahoma City, at least for one more year. While there will be a massive jump in the salary cap next season, it’s in the offseason after that (summer 2017) the salary cap will make another astronomical jump, allowing for max salary players to command yearly pay that would make even Donald Trump blush.

The NBA issued new projections for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 salary cap and luxury tax thresholds. The 2014-15 salary cap is now projected to be $63.2 million and the tax level is projected to be $77.0 million. The numbers for 2015-16 are now projected to be $66.5 million and $81.0 million, respectively. (CBA FAQ)

While not set in stone, the league’s salary cap is expected to balloon to $108 million for the 2017-18 season. The jump follows a projected $22 million increase — from $67.1 million to $89 million — between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 salary caps. That is astronomical for a single year bump, and is due in most part to the hefty national television contracts the NBA has agreed to with both Turner and ABC. This bodes well for all parties involved (the players and the owners), especially those players at the top, who, while still being restricted in what they can earn, will seemingly be more appropriately compensated.

Regarding Kevin Durant specifically, he is currently a 9 year veteran of the NBA, and once a player reaches the 10 year vet mark, it allows for a max salary to be the highest a player can earn. True maximum contracts allow players to earn a percentage of a teams salary cap the given year is it signed, with a 9 year player, a player can earn 30% of the teams cap, while a 10 year veteran can earn 35%, and 5% of a $108 million dollar cap is something worth holding out for.

Under the current CBA, if Durant signs a max contract with the Thunder this offseason, it will be for 5 year/$113M, if he chooses to sign elsewhere, the most he can sign for is $4 years/$84M. If Durant waits until the next offseason, when he is a 10 year vet, the max contract he could sign jumps up to 5 years/$132 with the Thunder and 4 years/$98M elsewhere.

Of course, there’s always the LeBron James option of simply signing a 1+1 deal, where the first year is guaranteed and the second season is a player option, giving Durant as many options as he desires in the free agent game. Durant currently has a player option for 2016-17, and could either exercise that option, or sign the 1+1 deal with the Thunder, essentially giving himself another shot at free agency in the summer of 2017, when he has a chance to earn $14M more if he wants to sign elsewhere.

Below are some potential teams that will try to acquire Durant:

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Golden State Warriors:

The best case scenario for the Warriors trying to acquire would be if Durant was set on leaving the Thunder this coming offseason. The Warriors have the impending restricted free agency of Harrison Barnes to deal with and ideally, the Warriors would only have to give up Barnes, possibly Klay Thompson, possibly Festus Ezeli, and a first round pick as the Thunder wouldn’t have very much leverage if Durant was set on going to the Warriors. Of course, all parties would have to agree on this deal because both Ezeli and Barnes are free agents and therefore it would be a sign and trade. So the final verdict seems unlikely, but then again so did the Andre Iguodala deal and the Warriors found a team (Utah) willing to take on a few horrible contracts along with their foreseeable draft picks to allow the Warriors to sign and trade for Iguodala.The biggest downside of Durant joining the Warriors would clearly be that he is title chasing and the perception would be that he doesn’t have the fight in him to compete for a title as the lone alpha dog, even though he already plays with a top 5 player in the league, Russell Westbrook. But Durant, along with the rest of the league, can clearly see the writing on the wall regarding the Warriors current and future dominance.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks continue to fly under the radar in their pursuit of a superstar. Atlanta may be the perfect situation for Durant to jump ship to, he would instantly make them the best team in the much weaker East, Durant would get all the credit for pushing this team (who’s been teetering on title relevancy for two years) over the top, and the Hawks wouldn’t have to get rid of any significant players for this to be a realistic possibility. Al Horford will be a free agent in the offseason, so the Hawks could offer him a large one year deal in a ‘bring the band back together’, one last shot at winning the East with the current roster, and then pursue Durant outright in free agency in 2017.

Los Angeles Lakers:

After Stephen A. Smith went public with his ‘Lakers are Durants most likely landing spot’ comments earlier in the season, there has been a strong backlash from Durant’s camp assuring the OKC fans he has no intentions of leaving, for now. If the Lakers could add Durant via free agency and not have to give up any assets, they instantly become a top five team in the West, but isn’t that already where the Thunder are, if not better? The main incentive for Durant joining the Lakers would have to be his off court opportunities, and so far, it seems like Durant already has gotten every thing he’s desired away from the basketball court: $200 million dollar Nike deal, and league wide recognizability. The Lakers remain a looming threat to bring in a superstar player, and Mitch Kupchak may go all in on trying to bring Durant in this summer.

Orlando Magic:

One team that has been perpetually in a state of rebuilding since the Dwightmare is the Magic, who miraculously came out the best in the Sixers-Lakers three way deal. The greatest asset they currently have is Nikola Vucevic, and he looks like a real, vintage NBA center most nights. With tons of young assets, including the underperforming Mario Hezonja, the Magic may have the package that the Thunder desire if they need to resort to a sign and trade. The Magic have tons of elite slashers, but do they have the shooting to spread the court enough for Durant to do his work? The Magic have been hedging their bets, waiting for a star to become available since losing Dwight, and they may jump all over this opportunity.

Washington Wizards:

Ever since LeBron went back home, the narrative for Durant was set: come free agency, it would be a no-brainer that KD would jump to the East coast and play for his hometown Wizards. This narrative has been losing steam since the moment the season started, but still isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The Wizards could have close to $40M in free agency money to spend, along with a solid core of Wall and Beal, but not every star wants to feel the nightly burden of playing in front of his hometown fans. While the Wizards collective hasn’t quite reached Cleveland levels of creepiness in trying to bring their Maryland-bred Slim Reaper back home, Durant has tried to kill that storyline overtime he’s been asked this season.

All cap information provided by NBA SALARY CAP FAQ

11 Things I Like & Dislike in the NBA (Week of 11/10-11/14)

-Say what you will about the Orlando Magic this season, they have some fun, young players that are showing strong promise early in the year. Elfrid Payton was the dark horse pick for Rookie of the Year and Aaron Gordon has been decent, for an 19 year old, in limited minutes. The biggest chip the Magic have moving forward? Nikola Vucevic. The kid is the real deal. After recently locking him up to a 4 year/$53 million extension the Magic believe they have their first real piece of their new contender. This is another case of signing a young guy to a long deal that will overpay him the first few years, then end up underpaying him by the end of the contract, a lot like how the Curry extension ended up working out. Vucevic is a very clever player, he uses his size in the post, has a flurry of hooks and fades, and can even pass a little. The entire Magic offense runs through him, so he is getting plenty of touches to continue his development, but he is quickly becoming a polished player. Everyone on the Orlando roster is available except for Vuc. 

-Reggie Jackson is gunning for that $10/million per year. With Durant and Westbrook out, Jackson becomes the de facto number one scorer, and boy is he making the best of being the featured player. He is currently averaging 22.8 PPG on over 18 shots per game, which is by far and away his biggest usage of his young career. He will be a free agent when the season is over, and he may be playing himself off the Thunder roster with his stellar play. The Thunder absolutely cannot afford to pay him near $10 million, so if he wants to stay there, he will have to take the hometown discount. He will never have a chance like this again, to be able to take any shot he pleases, and even though he can pick where he goes in free agency, his best role may be in that third scorer’s role, so why not stay in OKC?

-Wade is showing signs of life, and Bosh is back as number one option. We all saw this coming, especially after the massive investment the Heat put into Bosh, but it’s refreshing to see that he still has it in him to be the primary scorer on a playoff bound team. Wade looks healthier than he has in years, but for him it’s all about being this healthy coming May, not November. The Heat will be an interesting squad to follow all year, seeding will be very important for them coming Spring.

-Sac-Town Kings are officially the new League Pass favorites, they are full of personality. Boogie Cousins is finally asserting himself as the best player on a playoff team, and his maturity is finally starting to peak through. The chemistry is there with this team, and games up in Sacramento are becoming harder and harder for the visiting teams. Rudy Gay showing signs of life aka efficiency and the Kings have surprisingly not atrocious point guard play, after losing IT2 and signing the carcass of Ramon Sessions. But most of all, it’s all about Derrick Williams hair:

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-Are the Raptors the best team in the Eastern Conference? The Bulls sure aren’t the contender everyone thought they would be with Rose still sidelined and thinking more about his future than this season, and the Cavs are going to take a while to all get on the same page with each other, so who becomes the de facto best team in the East? It has to be these Raps. They are only one solid big man away from having a true title contending team, but as the roster stands now, they can still win the number one seed, it’s just a matter of having a playoff type roster vs. a regular season one. Look for the Raps to be active in trade talks come mid February. Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross for DeAndre Jordan may be in play.

-Jabari Parker and his affinity for staying put on defense, also known as the Harden-style of defending opponents. Parker is already so clever at getting to the rim, and has a solid mid range jumper, he is close to being a polished guy on offense, and it looks like it’s just a matter of effort for him on defense. His defense has truly been laughable, getting caught ball watching on back door cuts, and simply not truly to fight through picks. He’s already halfway there to being a star, he just needs to continue to add aspects to his game.

-At this point, I almost feel bad for Kobe, but he created this monster with his bloated contract and harsh personality. The Lakers are going to be atrocious this year, and at what point will they ship the season in and tank? Just remember these 4 words Lakers fans: Top 5 protected pick.

-Matt Barnes is slowly becoming the 2013 Jared Dudley for this year’s Clippers. He’s vastly underperforming when he was projected to be a quality starter and contributor. He can non longer hit the corner three with consistency, and his defense isn’t what it used to be, so why continue to start him? He’s currently seen as an essential glue guy in Doc Rivers’ eyes, but Clippers management will definitely be looking to upgrade the wing spot. Another note on the Clippers: It’s time to stop trying to make Blake Griffin into LaMarcus Aldridge. BG’s jumper is vastly improved, but he is in no way in LA’s class. Time to cut down on those J’s and work on those post moves in the paint.

-Myself, and others, have been impressed with the league wide use of ‘Horns’ plays this year, Coach Nick from BBallBreakdown takes a look at some of the best uses of it last week:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubD7fui4QJc&w=560&h=315]

-Warriors and turnovers. It’s getting ugly. Like the Thunder a few years ago, the offense makes up for them, but it can’t stay at this pace. 2000 words are on the way about the Warriors and how sloppy their play has been early on. Stay tuned.

-Is it time for Monty Williams to go in New Orleans? The talent is certainly there and he’s had more than a few years to rebuild, is the process going slower than management would life? There is no apparent ceiling for Anthony Davis and he should single-handedly be able to bring them to the playoffs, so is Williams holding them back? He has a short leash, and if the Pellies are under .500 come the trade deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone.NBA-basketball-Jerseys-1260880

Top 6 Best Home-Court Advantages in the NBA

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6. Chesapeake Energy Arena- Oklahoma City Thunder- Capacity: 18,203

The Thunder have built a college-like atmosphere. After hosting the Hornets for parts of two seasons, the SuperSonics ownership knew there was a strong contingent of fans dying to scream their lungs out 41 nights a year. In 2006 the Miami Heat cultivated the idea of the fans all wearing the same color t-shirts as a sign of unity, then the Warriors made it fashionable in 2007 and now the Thunder are perfecting it. Their fans are rabid and they consistently sell out the building. Now that they finally have a real contender to cheer for, the home games in OKC are as rowdy as they’ve ever been. It’s always great to see these smaller market teams so strongly embraced by their home city. OKC wanted a team and got one, now they are showing why they deserved one all along. The true test will be ten years down the road when Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are gone/washed up, how willing the fans are to scream their heads off for a mediocre product.

Best Moment:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3w7Q34gyQ4&w=420&h=315]

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