After the Oklahoma City Thunder added both Paul George and Carmelo Anthony this past offseason, it was presumed that they’d make major noise in the Western Conference.
George’s elite talent on both ends of the floor and Melo’s God-given ability to score the basketball was added to the squad that reigning MVP Russell Westbrook led to the playoffs last season.
But, though 15 games, it appears as though the learning curve might take a bit longer than expected.
The Thunder are 7-8 and have lost all of their games by nine or fewer points. In fact, they are 0-8 in games decided by eight or fewer points, which is certainly not a positive sign moving forward.
As predicted, the trio of Westbrook, George and Anthony have led the team in scoring. Westbrook is putting up 19.9 points while George is averaging 21.6 and Melo is managing 20.1. But, each are struggling with efficiency. Westbrook is shooting 40.0 percent from the floor while Anthony is shooting 42.6 percent and George is shooting 43.2 percent.
The question now becomes what, if anything, the Thunder can do to improve their cohesiveness and win close games. Anthony has an idea at how to fix the issue:
"Now we’re just playing too unselfish, too timid, we’re thinking too much. Russ, PG, myself, we have to do a better job of being selfish in a way of playing our game and being aggressive on the basketball court,” he said, per Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.
He continued, ”We play off of instincts. We’re very instinctive players. Now we’re not playing like that. When we’re playing like that in the first two quarters, we’re up 20 to 25. Towards the end of the game when we start thinking about it and we want to get somebody going or get somebody a shot, that’s where the games get confusing.”
It’s worth noting that the trio has taken 51.7 shots per game (61.0 percent of the team’s field goal attempts). Westbrook averages 17.7 shots per game while George is putting up 17.6 and Anthony is hoisting up 16.4. Therefore, the volume might not be an issue, but the individual situations could be the concern.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Thunder rank 21st in the NBA in assists, averaging 21.0 per contest. Therefore, Anthony’s assertion that the trio needs to be more selfish might not be the best formula for success.
It seems as though frustration has already boiled over in Oklahoma City, as the Thunder are tied for the NBA lead in technical fouls with 19. Given the talent level of their dynamic trio, the team should probably not be under .500, but the NBA season is 82 games long. Therefore, they’ll have an opportunity to turn things around.
If Melo’s remedy is experimented with, expect Westbrook, George and him to account for even more of a percentage of the team’s overall scoring production. However, as seen so far, that might not be the best way to win games, especially if ball movement becomes more of an afterthought.