City Sports Report

Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter must step up to help Westbrook in KD’s absence

Russell Westbrook will be in for a battle . (photo courtesy of www.standingosports.com)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have had been on the fighting for the playoffs all season. They have been able to weather injuries to their stars, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, to maintain within striking distance of the eighth seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. Durant is the one missing the most time right now with a foot injury he had operated on twice this season. But while he has been gone, it has been the Westbrook show through and through. The exciting guard out of UCLA has been dazzling teams with his ability to not only score but rebound and get his teammates involved. It was envisioned that Westbrook would carry the team until Durant came back from his foot injury and that the Thunder would be a dangerous team going into the playoffs. But unfortunately, the thoughts of Durant and Westbrook pairing together for a playoff run have been sharply curved due to the recent news on Durant. It was announced via Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti that Durant has been taken out of any basketball activities and that he is now out indefinitely. Durant will now join recently injured Serge Ibaka (knee surgery) on the list of players that will be hard to replace. And for both, there is not a timetable for them to return. The question now has to be asked of the Thunder: can they survive. The odds are against the Thunder to make it to the playoffs without two of their best players. Ibaka will be easier to replace in regards to big bodies with Mitch McGary and Steven Adams. But Durant is not the easiest guy to replace at all because he is a rarity in his combination of size and skill and provides a lot of scoring. All hope is not lost though.

Russell Westbrook has been explosive in his relentless attack on defenses. And after the first time playing without Durant, Westbrook got the hang of things and went on a triple-double binge. But along with Russell being the explosive player he is, the Thunder will also need help from other sources. Going forward, the focus must change some for the Thunder. They have a talented group of big men and they would be foolish not to use them at their disposal. The Thunder should utilize one of them to take up some of the slack from Durant’s loss. Enes Kanter is a big man that Oklahoma City acquired from the Utah Jazz as we neared the NBA Trade Deadline. Kanter can hit the short jump shot and also bang inside and use his footwook to help him make a play. The Thunder are going to have to look for him to be very assertive at all times in the post. The more he is that, the better the team will be and the easier things will be on the Thunder guards. If the Thunder focus on getting him going, then they will have their second scorer they need. And with the consistent second scoring that he can provide, it takes some of the pressure off Westbrook to carry the offense.

But Kanter is not the only one that got traded for to help. Dion Waiters is a player that was not so easily figured out in Cleveland. He eventually was traded to Oklahoma City in a three-team trade. There have been nights that he will step up and play well. But there will be other times where he looks a little disoriented and not into it. With Durant gone, there could potentially be more minutes for Waiters to see what he can do. If he is on, then look for him to draw more and more defense as the season wraps up. But if he is not on, then that will create more pressure on Westbrook. With Durant out, the Thunder are hoping he has his arsenal of weapons armed and ready. The Thunder will need him to be on instead of off without Durant. The more he can make things happen, the more conducive to the offense he will be. And along with being on and playing well, the Thunder need Waiters to hit the open shot. With Westbrook attacking the rim like a man possessed, the Thunder need to have some guys that can knock down some jump shots with regularity. They have one in Anthony Morrow and Kyle Singler, but the Thunder cannot play them a whole bunch due to their lack of defensive play. Waiters is capable of playing defense, but at times he is an observer. The dialed-in Waiters would definitely accommodate them.

The Thunder were supposed to take that next step and potentially get back to the NBA Finals. But instead, they have been battling injuries all season long. Looking at the playoff picture, there is still time to make sure they are involved. But in order to do so, Kanter and Waiters must step up and make it happen. If they do not step up, then the Thunder could be looking at the playoffs  from the outside looking in. And then the speculation that Kevin Durant wanting to leave Oklahoma City and join another team would get louder and louder. There is only one way to shot down the noise. Can the Thunder find that equation?

For more sports talk, feel free to check me out on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

2 Comments

  1. Rob Thomas Brown

    March 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    I see Enes Kanter being more of a help than Dion. Kanter can play well off of Westbrook. Being a Cavs fan, the Dion you mentioned in OKC was the same in CLE. ” there will be other times where he looks a little disoriented and not into it”, that’s Dion, you never know what you’ll get from him. Sometimes you forget he’s on the court. Good article MP and good luck to OKC, they’re going to need it without a healthy Durant

  2. ASR

    March 22, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Agreed Kanter has been solid for the Thunder giving them a low post presence but Scott Brooks has to adapt to his personnel. Screens and pick roll offense will put pressure on the interior defense and create driving lanes for Westbrook.

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