This week couldn’t have started off any worse for the Oklahoma City Thunder. As fans have probably heard by now, that reigning MVP, Kevin Durant will miss up to 10 weeks.
It’s obviously a big blow for the Thunder, who are expected to be a serious NBA title contender. While it is entirely possible the team could still see success, it will be a tough task to accomplish.
Thunder G.M. Sam Presti said it best when asked how to proceed without Durant, during a news conference Sunday.
“In regard to replacing a player like Kevin Durant, you don’t replace Kevin Durant. I think it’s not going to be one person, it’s going to be a collective mindset,”
It’s obvious the team will need to see contributions from players like Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, but who else can they rely on? Here are few players that will need to step up to stay a factor in the Western Conference.
The first option is Reggie Jackson, who will look to become more of a scoring threat for the team.
Last season, Jackson, serving primarily as the team’s sixth man, averaged a cool 13.1 points per contest and shot 44%rom the field. Jackson scores most of his points from inside three-point range, and is an extremely efficient slasher. The play of Jackson can let Westbrook play more of a shooting role, and not be the team’s main distributor. (Jackson currently is suffering from a wrist injury, but it is not believed to be serious)
With Jackson likely stepping into the starting role, Anthony Morrow or Jeremy Lamb would either enter the starting rotation or become the team’s sixth man.
Both have their strengths and could easily fill some of the scoring void left by Durant.
Lamb, whom the team acquired in the James Harden deal, has proven to be a solid, but not entirely effective option off the bench. He averaged just over 10 points during the first half of the 2013-14 season, but saw his numbers dwindle during the latter part of the team’s schedule.
During his brief two-year career Lamb has averaged 19.7 minutes per game. With Lamb likely seeing more time in the wake of Durant’s injury, he might see a boost to his numbers and keep up his early season play from a year ago.
Morrow, a free agent acquisition, has proven he can be a useful option for an NBA team. In his first NBA start during the 2008-09 season he scored 37 points with the Golden State Warriors. Last season, during the month of April, Morrow averaged 15.1 points and shot 44.8% from three-point range with the New Orleans Hornets.
Morrow averaged 30.6 minutes during that stretch, so it is possible when given time he can put up similar numbers.
Both Lamb and Morrow are effective three-point shooters. While Morrow is more effective, Lamb might not have fully grown into his game. The edge goes to Morrow because he has proven to be more reliable over his career, but Lamb could easily steal some minutes with strong play.
While these three players are big pieces to the team’s success, there are many that could step up. The team will see contributions from Perry Jones, Josh Huestis, and Sebastian Telfair.
The beginning of the season will be tough for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but if the team is still fighting 10 weeks from now, then it’s a whole new ballgame.
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