NBA / Jan 7, 2010 / 3:30 pm

Kevin Durant needs an ally, McDyess isn’t done, and more

Kevin Durant (photo. Jared McMillen)

Some extended thoughts from the last night’s games that weren’t big enough to warrant an entire column …

WANTED: SOONER SHOOTER
Before we start talking about Oklahoma City as a juggernaut for the next decade, or even as a tough out in the 2010 playoffs, the Thunder need to get another shooter.

After Chris Paul shredded their D for an easy layup with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter, OKC trailed by three. Obviously they would have to go to Kevin Durant, as he’s not only their go-to superstar, but also the only real three-point threat on the court, with James Harden (35% from deep) running a distant second. (True, Durant is shooting 31% on threes this season, but numbers go out the window for true clutch players.) KD had a chance to take a game-tying shot over the shorter Paul, but instead gave it up to Harden before N.O. deflected the ball out of bounds. On OKC’s next chance, Durant couldn’t get open, and Russell Westbrook, Harden and Thabo Sefolosha played hot-potato; it was clear none of them felt comfortable taking the big three. Westbrook missed just before the buzzer and the Hornets closed it out at the line.

As much as I love Jeff Green‘s do-everything game, the one area where he can’t do anything is beyond the arc. One time last night the Hornets left Green (29% 3PA) wide open for a three, which he measured for a long time before knocking it down, and by his face he appeared surprised that he hit it. Westbrook isn’t any better (26% 3PA), and Sefolosha (34% 3PA) doesn’t attempt many triples, let alone make them.

OKC needs another shooter to complement Durant, especially in crunch time. But looking at the lineup, it might have to be an internal move, i.e. somebody stepping their game up to be that long-range threat. Westbrook needs to be on the court in the fourth quarter to run the show, play D and take advantage of his explosiveness (he had a clutch offensive rebound/putback late in the fourth against the Hornets); Green is OKC’s big man when they go small and he does so many other things that he has to be out there; Sefolosha is the defensive stopper; and of course there’s Durant. Right now Harden or Nick Collison has been the fifth guy on the floor — Collison for his rebounding, Harden for his scoring.

Ideally, the rookie Harden develops into that shooter the team needs and the problem is solved. Because although there should be some players on the trading block (J.J. Redick?), I don’t expect Thunder GM Sam Presti to make a hasty move at the deadline just to hire a gun for the playoffs: Presti’s best asset so far, along with talent evaluation, has been his patience in building this roster. But it might be something to think about next summer, when OKC has a lot of money to spend.

Maybe they’ll throw a wad of cash at unrestricted FA Ray Allen, just to make my eye develop a twitch as a Sonics fan.

MORE THUNDER
Serge Ibaka is kind of a beast. I first heard of him at the adidas Nations high school camp a couple years ago, and soon after, his European agency contacted me about doing an Ibaka profile leading up to the ’08 Draft. After a long, complicated process of international calls and translating French, I finally got the interview and featured Ibaka as a “Player 2 Watch” in our Summer ’08 issue.

Drafted when the Thunder were still the Sonics and stashed in Europe for another year, Ibaka has been a difference-maker as a rookie this season, averaging 5.2 points, 4.8 boards and 1.0 blocks in a little over 15 minutes a night. He doesn’t really know how to play basketball yet, but he’s ripped and has crazy hops and tries to send every shot that crosses his face into the fourth row.

Last night Ibaka got head-level with the rim and sent a Darius Songaila offering to the frank man, prompting one OKC announcer to scream, “There has been a SERGE in the building!” as the crowd when nuts. In contrast to the “young Shawn Kemp” comparison I made in the initial Dime story, Ibaka’s ceiling is more like an energy guy off the bench for a good team. But I also see him being Tyrus Thomas-ish in that he could be a regular on the “Top 10 Dunks/Blocks/Plays of the Season” for years to come.

‘DYESS GAME
I flipped to Spurs/Pistons at the tail-end of a conversation between announcers about Antonio McDyess. From what I gathered, Sean Elliott was saying McDyess told him that if the Spurs won a championship this year he might retire, but if they fell short, he’d definitely come back because he wants to go out with a ring.

My first thought was, “If the Spurs don’t win, he’s gonna sign with the Lakers.” But then I looked it up, and it turns out ‘Dyess signed a three-year deal with San Antonio over the summer. When a guy is close to retirement and chasing a ring, he’d ideally sign a one-year contract so he can jump from one contender to another as the tides change.

As much as I like the Spurs, this seems like an “all-in” year for them. Not in the sense that Tim Duncan is slipping (because he’s really not, at least not significantly), but more because after this season, no one knows how the core in San Antonio will look. Richard Jefferson becomes a $15 million expiring contract for 2011, Manu Ginobili becomes a free agent (he’ll likely re-sign, but still), and key veterans like Roger Mason, Mike Finley and Matt Bonner also have their contracts run out. As long as Duncan is near 20-and-10 form and Tony Parker is still in his prime, the Spurs will always be a dangerous playoff team, but next summer they won’t have a lot of maneuverability seeing as Duncan, Parker and Jefferson take up a combined $47.2 million in salary.

As for McDyess, I doubt the Spurs would do him a favor and trade him to Cleveland, L.A., Orlando or Boston when they’re competing with those teams for a ‘chip, especially when they’ve had enough trouble over the years finding quality big men to play alongside Duncan. Win or lose, it looks like ‘Dyess will have to ride it out with the Spurs and see if they continue to put a championship-level roster around its superstars.

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  • control

    Manu is slipping on the Spurs more than Duncan…wouldn’t really hurt them that much if he signed else where. Guy is just too unreliable due to being injury prone.

  • Detroit Dave

    2 former Spurs would be perfect for this team. Stephen Jackson and/or Hedo Turk

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    who can OKC get as a shooter?
    maybe kyle korver or mike miller? perhaps they can talk wally sczerbiak into signing a small 2yr deal.

    i’d also like to see the Thunder add another big body. an enforcer, shot blocker, rebounder, takes hard fouls.

    where is danny fortson?

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    as for mcdyess (and i’ve always liked him), he should take his time. he should pull that pj brown move and sit out until after the allstar break.

    then sign with a team in march near the tail end of the season. by then, he’d have a better indication of which team(s) are Finals bound.

    ….but since he signed the 3yr deal, it’ll be tough for him.

    i’d really like to see him get a chip ala Mitch Richmond style

  • BRUCE

    Please do no ever compare Shawn Kemp to any man! Don’t not insult The Reign Man! If there is one out there, we would already! The Reign Man was one of a kind! One of the best at his position!

  • Coop

    Mike Miller might be a good shout for OKC; can shoot, better defender than people think, and he’s likely to re-sign for much less than the 10mil his contract pays for this season. I’m sure DC would want to keep him, however.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Coop — I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wizards just blow everything up and start over next year. Everyone on their roster could be available.

  • BiG ShoT BoB

    @Heckler – they already have that hustle guy in Collison.

  • fallinup

    I just thought in my head about all the shooters we have in the league today… is it just me, or is the pure shooter (3 point specialist) a dying breed?

  • dagwaller

    I started reading the article, and as SOON as I got to the nonsense about a “true clutch shooter” magically disregarding statistics in the moments before the end of the game, I knew…that Austin Burton was the author.

    Austin, you’re one of my favorite sports writers, but that’s some garbage.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @dagwaller — My point is, I would trust Durant to take a three with the game on the line BEFORE I looked it up and saw his percentages were actually pretty low. I can’t tell you right now what Kobe, Wade, Dirk or Vince shoot percentage-wise from three, and it doesn’t matter; if I’m L.A., Miami, Dallas or Orlando, I let them take the shot to decide the game.

  • Keith

    Next summer Harden needs to shoot 500 3′s every day in practice. 100 from each spot. Actually, Durant could do with the same thing. If Durant developed a consistant 3-point stroke he could be one of the most complete offensive players in the game

  • itsakademiks

    @keith i honestly dont think durant needs to work on his 3′s i think his percentage has slipped because he’s focusing on other parts of his game

  • dagwaller

    @Austin – What about Atlanta? They have a few stars that can shoot the 3. Or how about Philadelphia? They have none. Do you just assume that the best offensive player overall should shoot the 3? Or the best 3 point shooter?

    “Clutch” is an overrated statistic anyway.

  • dagwaller

    Another good example might be the Cavs. Should LeBron (35.7%) really be the one taking the last 3 when he’s got Mo Williams (45%), Boobie Gibson (47.6%), and Anthony Parker (47.3%) playing with him?

  • tp

    @dagwaller;

    do you watch bball bro? when you NEED a 3 the defense will be guarding the line. you think mo, boobie and parker have high 3 pt shooting percentages with a man in their grill? i’m just going to go ahead and let you figure it out yourself….

  • dagwaller

    TP – Hey, just figured it out. Yea, the rest of the defense is either still guarding LeBron (you may have heard of him) or hopefully will be stuck getting around the screens everyone’s setting so that the superstar playmakers can pass it to the 3 point specialists.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @dagwaller — No, I’m not saying it applies to every team, but it applies to certain players like the ones I mentioned. Regardless of what Durant’s three-point numbers are this season, I’d draw up the play for him to take a three if OKC needed one. Same goes for Kobe or Wade or Arenas or Vince, but not for Iguodala or Duncan.