With the addition of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook is “really trying to adjust his game,” according to our guest, Andrew Schlecht (Keith Allison/Creative Commons).

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The Oklahoma City Thunder turned heads around the NBA this offseason when they added stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. So far, though, integrating them into the team hasn’t been a smooth process. Before back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks, they had been riding a four-game losing streak and were winless against the Western Conference. Andrew Schlecht, host of the Down to Dunk and OKC Dream Team podcasts and contributor to Daily Thunder, joined us to try to diagnose what exactly has gone wrong and whether or not the Thunder should be worried. See what we’re rumbling about in these electric excerpts below (all time stamps approximate):

5:00-5:40: “Overall, there doesn’t seem to be any worry or panic within the team at all. They’re still pretty casual about everything. And then as a fan and somebody who’s watching them, you just have to wait. Even a team with some continuity will evolve over a season. So, there’s not a lot of worry. The team has a ton of talent, they’ve got talent on both sides of the ball, so you’d think they’re going to put it together. Luckily, really besides the Warriors and Rockets, there’s nobody that’s so far ahead of them in the Western Conference that the four or three seed are out of reach. So, they have that on their side.”

9:00-9:40: “They’ve relied heavily on isolation in all of their losses. I think that they can look at all those and say, ‘Wow, that did not work.’ The ball did not move. Basically, if you could not create your own shot, or if your name wasn’t Steven Adams, you weren’t going to touch the ball for any meaningful time...I think a part of the problem is whenever a guy like Carmelo or Paul George or even Russell Westbrook get the ball on the wing and they’re single-covered, they think: ‘Let’s cook.’ Those three guys haven’t had a situation like that in a long time where they just have one guy to beat. In their minds, and they’ll even say this, they feel like they’re getting good shots.”

11:30-12:15: “If you watched them through the first eleven games, you thought, they are calculating almost in their head, ‘OK, now, Carmelo Anthony has had five shots and Russ has had this many and we need to get Paul George this many, so that we can all be equal…’ Just play basketball. It felt like very much ‘Your turn, my turn’ to the worst degree it could be… Somebody’s got to take a back seat, and the guy who I think has to take a back seat is Carmelo Anthony.”

16:20-17:20: “Russ is really trying to adjust his game for these two… He’s really trying to figure things out within the offense. I guess the good thing is that he is trying to do it in a way where he’s including others. I just don’t think that he has gotten to the right process yet where he’s really leveraging his talent to help make others better.”

23:10-23:30: “If you’re taking mid-range jump shots and taking 3s and that’s really all you’re doing, you’re not going to get to the free-throw line. That’s really been the biggest problem with the ‘Big Three’ as far as getting to the line, that there hasn’t been that aggressiveness to get to the rim really for any of them.”

32:15-33:40: “To have a guy like Ray Felton, who’s a veteran, who’s a feisty defender, who’s a leader in the locker room and just an overall cool guy, that’s been really helpful for the Thunder. And then Steven Adams has been spectacular on both ends. There have been points in this season where I’ve said, ‘Steven Adams is the best player on the floor,’ just because of the way he impacts the defensive end. His offensive game is also starting to evolve a little bit where he can score in a few different ways… Do they need to go get another guy this season to make a good playoff run? Yeah, they do. They have an open roster spot, so they’ll be a buyout candidate team. [Thunder GM] Sam Presti almost always makes a trade at some point during the season; I don’t expect that that will be any different this season.”


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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod