Preview: Kings at Thunder


HighTops investigates the recent drafts of the Thunder and Kings.

The last time the Kings played Oklahoma City, it was November 10 in Sacramento. The Kings prevailed 101-98 for their third win in a row, getting the Kings to .500 (4-4) for the first time since Dec. 4, 2006. The Kings dominated the boards 51-36 and 15-8 on the offensive glass. The Kings also won on points in the paint and fast-break points, and they held OKC’s backcourt of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha to 20 points on 7-27 shooting. The Kings committed 21 turnovers and sent OKC to the free throw line 35 times, or it wouldn’t have been as close as it was.

Since then, OKC has gotten considerably better and currently have a record of 35-23 while the Kings have fallen on hard times and are 20-39. Since Jan. 29, OKC has gone 11-2 with a 9-game winning streak, which is why Thunder head coach Scott Brooks was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for February.

The Thunder are what the Kings hope to be next year. A young playoff team, built through the draft. OKC went from 20 wins in '07-08, to 23 wins in '08-09, and already have 35 wins two-thirds the way through the '09-10 season. Three drafts that produced four starters and two excellent reserves, and took OKC from the cellar to the playoffs in three seasons.   

  • In 2007, OKC/Seattle drafted Kevin Durant with the #2 pick.
  • In 2007, OKC/Seattle traded Ray Allen to Boston for the #5 pick Jeff Green.
  • In 2008, OKC/Seattle drafted Russell Westbrook with the #4 pick.
  • In 2009, OKC drafted James Harden with the #3 pick.
  • In 2009, OKC traded a 2009 #16 pick to Chicago for Thabo Sefolosha and cash.
  • In 2009, OKC traded with the Jazz for Eric Maynor, the #20 pick.

While the Kings haven’t had as many top-5 picks as OKC, they have done well with the picks that they did have.

There are other similarities between the two squads.   Both teams have two players in the top 50 in points per game: #2 Durant 29.7; #13 Evans 20.4; #41 Westbrook 16.5; #43 Carl Landry 16.1. And, both have two players in the top 40 in 3P%: #30 Beno .385; #35 Casspi .382; #37 Durant .381; #42 Harden .378.   The Kings average 101.0 ppg and OKC averages 99.5 ppg.   Both have a high turnovers rate the Kings at 15.4 per game and OKC with 15.2.  And, both rebound well OKC at 43.6 rpg and the Kings at 42.5 rpg.   But what really separates these two teams is the defense.

OKC is 7th in fewest PPG allowed, 2nd in lowest FG% allowed and 2nd in lowest 3P% allowed. They have great length and quickness, which is why they are 5th in Steals and 7th in Blocks.  OKC is by far the superior defensive team. And, there might be one other reason why OKC is playing so well together.  This season their starting 5 plus their #1 pick Harden have played together every game except two.  Krstic is the only starter to miss a game this year, but only two. The starters are:

  • Thabo Sefolosha is a Swiss born, 6-7 215 lb 3rd year SG who is their lockdown perimeter defender.   He averages 6pt/5rebs with 1.8 asts and 1.3 steals.
  • Nenad Krstic a Serbian born 7-0 240 lb 5th year Center signed as a free agent in 08.   The 24th pick of the 2002 NBA Draft by New Jersey, he averages 8pts/4.7rebs on 49% field goal shooting with only .6 blocks per game.
  • Jeff Green is a 6-9 235 lb 2nd year PF, who’s been averaging 16.9pts/6.2rbs on 48% from the field and 42.9% from 3-point range, with .9 blks and 1.9 stls per game.
  • Russell Westbrook is a 6-3 186 lb 1st year PG, averages 18.8pts/6.5rbs/10 asts with 2.4 steals while shooting 46%.   But, he’s only made 21 3pt shots this season.
  • Kevin Durant is a 6-9 230 lb 2nd yr SF who’s shooting 44% FG%, 43.5% from 3PT range, and 91% from the FT line.   He averages 29.9pts/8.5rebs with 1.2 blks and 1.5 steals.

Eric Maynor 6-3 175 rookie PG, James Harden 6-5 220 rookie SG, Nick Collison 6-10 255lb 5th year F-C, and Serge Ibaka 6-10 235 lb rookie PF are the primary reserves.

BJ Mullens, Ethan Thomas, & Kevin Ollie see very few minutes.

In our last meeting the Kings backcourt of Beno & Evans had 32pts/12rebs/11 assts and outplayed Westbrook and Sefolosha.  Hawes and Krstic both had 12pts/8rebs. But the Kings had no answer for Durant who had 37pts/5rebs and was 18-18 from the FT line.  And, the Kings best player was JT, who had 21pts/14rebs.

For all their high draft picks, OKC is weak at the center position and lacks size in the frontcourt.   They rely heavily on quickness for their defense, and Durant and Westbrook for their scoring and assists.   Almost half of their shots are inside 10 ft, and at the rim they shot 64% with 50% assisted.   43% of their shots are long 2’s & 3’s with a TS% of 44.5%. 

Green, Durant and Ibaka are the real shot blockers but the Kings have the size to attack the rim.  The Kings will need to maintain good spacing to avoid steals, and need to use screens and picks to create space to avoid getting their shot blocked by Sefolosha, Durant or Green.  No one has stopped Durant, but Landry has the type of inside game that might stifle Green.  Tyreke needs to keep the pressure on Westbrook for 48 minute, to keep him from getting the ball in the paint for easy baskets.  And to keep our frontcourt out of foul trouble we’ll need good rotations on the help defense.


Omri Casspi vs. Kevin Durant. But Andres Nocioni held Durant to something like 38 points last time! How will we survive without him? PFFFFTTT. Omri loves a challenge, and while Durant is perhaps the best scorer in the league (already!), the Playa from Judea will give it everything he's got. The key will be in making Durantula work at the other end. KD is an improved defender, but the drive-and-kick game or slashing from Omri could tire Durant out a bit.


Oklahoma City has caught curling fever!



Lady Ziller is convinced Paul Westphal looks like a mix of Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek. Thus, we shall now refer to Paul Westphal as "7-8 PM at Grandpa's House."


Dogs chasing their own tails. "Silly brutes," Brockman joked pugnaciously.


Rutherford B. Hayes. BACK DOWN UNIONISTS!


5 PM PT. Two Game Threads (5 and 6:15) and a post-gamer (7:45).

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