With the Oklahoma City Thunder on the verge of being booted out of the NBA Playoffs at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, it’s time to invoke a critic/writer’s best friend and most used weapon – hindsight. Good ole hindsight, never lets you down. And, in this instance, I’m going to use hindsight expertly to argue that the Thunder shouldn’t have traded Jeff Green away to the Boston Celtics.
When the deal first went down in February, I was thinking that OKC made a great deal in getting defensive rock Kendrick Perkins. Now, with the power of hindsight, I’m second-guessing it. While Perkins has delivered what was expected of him – toughness, defense, experience, leadership and no offense whatsoever – is he really what this team needs? They already have two above average post defenders in Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, plus Green is a solid defender himself, versatile enough to guard on the wing or in the post. Green actually might have been a nice option to try to slow down Dirk Nowitzki this series (as if slowing down Dirk is even possible). What the Thunder has shown they are lacking, however, is a reliable third scoring option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, which is the role that Green ably filled for Oklahoma City, good for 15 points a night. While James Harden has shown flashes of potential, he is still too inconsistent (passive?) at this point to be relied on to fill up the scoreboard. And this lack of a third option has caused the much-maligned Westbrook to be, well, maligned, due to his poor shot selection and decision making. It’s not that Westbrook is shooting that much more than he was before, it’s the quality of his shots. He is 9-34 from outside 10 feet of the hoop this series, including 0-10 in Game Four. He’s also turning the ball over like a hot potato. All this can be traced back to a young player being forced to do too much on the offensive end due to limited options. Other than Durant, no one else on the Thunder can be counted on to score, so Westbrook feels the need to force things. That is where Jeff Green would come in handy.
All of this isn’t the end of the world by any stretch. This is just a case of a young team growing and learning. Westbrook will get better and more under control (remember – he didn’t even play point guard in college). Durant will continue to expand his game and become more Dirk-like. But it would have been interesting to see how this team would have done in this series with Jeff Green playing the role of the old third wheel.