In our Outsider’s Perspective series we go deep into each Pelicans opponent by gathering various contributors and editors from around the basketball community. Today we have SB Nation reporter Matt Ellentuck. You can find him on Twitter at @mellentuck.
Matt walks us through the rise of the Thunder in the Western Conference. Paul George’s career year, and the impact of a few guys not named Russell Westbrook. That alone should tell you how different this Thunder squad is from the ones of old. We also go over the pending return of Andre Roberson. Hope you enjoy the latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
- The Thunder are currently first in the Western Conference as they’ve battled through injury and a slow start to begin their first handful of games. What’s been the biggest factor in their climb up the standings? They appear to be a deeper team than most originally believed?
The Thunder were always better than their record last season, and their rise now doesn’t surprise me too much. I don’t think they’re the best team in the West, but should finish in the top-4 or so. The biggest impacts, in my eyes, have been Paul George and Steven Adams. George is playing much better than a season ago, especially on the defensive end, which is crucial given Andre Roberson’s injury. And Adams is quietly having his second All-Star caliber season. I wrote about how brilliant he is on Tuesday.
2. Paul George is quietly on pace to finish with the best season of his career. He’s currently averaging a career high in rebounds, assists, points, steals, and blocks per game while averaging the least amount of minutes he’s played in over four years. Outside of Westbrook missing a few games, what’s been the biggest factor in George’s fantastic play to start the season.
George’s ability to jump passing lanes — a big reason for his career-high in steals — has been huge for OKC, especially without Roberson in the lineup on the defensive end. Also, on the other end, George is taking more shots from deep, which should only help the contribution he makes on offense. This could be the best season of his George’s career if it continues, and it won’t be because he’s doing much differently, but he’s doing things more efficiently.
3. What will Andre Roberson’s return mean to the Thunder?
Adding another defensive presence will be key for OKC, even if he comes off the bench. We know the shooting struggles Roberson has, so his minutes may have to fluctuate game-by-game, but his return is important to maintain a deep rotation.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Thunder?
That they’re a two-headed beast. Steven Adams gives this team a Big 3. Adams is currently also averaging career highs in rebounds, assists, steals and points per game.
5. Give us an outside perspective on the Pelicans.
The Pelicans are a borderline playoff team that should have its sights on the future. Keeping Anthony Davis a must, and after this season, retaining Julius Randle seems to be a priority. The pieces have to come together soon for New Orleans, or else they’ll set themselves back an eternity should AD leave Jimmy Butler- or Kawhi Leonard-style. Keep. Him. Happy.
That was our time with Matt Ellentuck and we hope you all once again enjoyed it. Enjoy the game tonight and as always Geaux Pels! Be sure to check out our next installment over the weekend as the Pelicans get ready for the Miami Heat Sunday.