what letter grade would you give the Thunder’s restart?
Cody Beat: A solid B seems like the appropriate grade — 3-3 so far, with blowout wins over the Lakers and Jazz. Just off those wins alone I would give a higher grade, but we can’t ignore the lackluster effort against Memphis.
Jason Uhrynowycz: B- Losing to Memphis by almost 30 after beating the Lakers wire to wire was a real head-scratcher. The team has been up and down defensively through these six games and need to refocus on the offensive end, run their sets and attack the basket instead of the non-stop 3-point barrage we have growm accustomed to. The eventual return of Adams and Schroder will help but the bench must do a better job when called upon.
Jackson Hairfield: I. “If a student’s work in a course has been of passing quality but is incomplete due to circumstances beyond the student’s control, they may be granted a grade of Incomplete (I).” I would certainly call the 16-point win over the Utah Jazz passing quality, but since then Dennis Schroder has left the bubble with return date TBD and they have played a game with only one active center. This hasn’t been a complete Thunder team, and the hope has to be that the whole roster will play again at some point in Orlando.
Jesse Crittenden: B. There’s a lot of context needed for the Thunder’s 3-3 record in the bubble. The Memphis game was disappointing, but the team was without Schroder and Adams, and the team has yet to be fully healthy. But the chemistry is still there. Now it’s about getting momentum before the playoffs begin.
Who has been the best Thunder player in the bubble?
Jacob Silva: I won’t be denied from picking Lu Dort here. The man came into the bubble with tentative hope from all of the fans after his showing earlier this year. He’s done everything to solidify that hope. Most importantly, he’s shown the league that he’s capable of guarding the other team’s best player, without being an albatross on the offensive end.
Jackson Hairfield: The same as it has been all season, Chris Paul. He’s averaging 19.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.3 rebounds on 55.8/46.2/93.8 shooting in the seeding games. If Paul’s great play continues, and he gets some help from the other guards, OKC could take a team to the brink in a second-round series.
Jason Uhrynowycz: The most consistent player on the court has been Chris Paul therefore I will claim CP to be the best as well. Except for that uncharacteristic missed free throw at the end of the Denver game, Paul has been the same player we saw for 64 games prior to the bubble; the team’s MVP. Honorable mention for Lu Dort, who has been impressive with his bubble play but it seems like a stretch to claim he has been the Thunder’s best player.
Hunter VanDeusen: The easy pick is CP but lately Darius Bazley has been on a tear. It took Baz some time to get back in the flow of the game but with back to back career games, he has impressed. Having a confident Bazley for the playoffs will do wonders for this OKC squad.
Jessie Postier: I’m most impressed by Lu Dort. He’s given the most difficult defensive assignment almost nightly and I find that I’m hardly ever let down. Let’s be honest, having a lock down defender is fun!
Which player needs to step up their level of play in order for the Thunder to make a Playoff run?
Cody Beat: SGA seems like the obvious pick here. Since the first game against the Jazz he is shooting just 36.7% from the field and 23.8% from beyond the arc. He is at least getting to the line and manufacturing offense that way, hitting 82.8% at 7 attempts per game. He just seems to be a bit off offensively. He’s too talented to not figure this slump out, but we definitely need him to step up while Dennis is out of the bubble.
Jason Uhrynowycz: It appears as if SGA is pressing a bit. How he plays going forward will dictate the direction of this Thunder team. Shai needs to relax, let the game come to him and stop forcing shots. I fully expect SGA to refocus and break out of this minor funk before the postseason begins.
Jesse Crittenden: The answer has to be SGA. With no set date for Schroder’s return, SGA has more ball handling responsibility, and the Memphis game was a good example of what can happen if SGA plays poorly offensively. He has to play well in order to help stabilize non-CP3 lineups in Schroder’s absence.
Dillon Young: SGA, without a doubt. Most of us expected for him to have a coming out party in the bubble, but he’s been a disappointment so far. Not really worried about that, though. I expect him to get back in a rhythm when we have Steve and Dennis back.
Jessie Postier: Unfortunately, I feel the answer is SGA. I thought he looked better against the Lakers than the story his numbers told. However, that wasn’t the case against Memphis. Filling in for Dennis is proving to be difficult, but we’re going to need more than 10 points on 3-of-13 from the field for the Thunder to make a significant playoff run.
Should we be worried about Steven Adams’ health?
Jackson Hairfield: Absolutely. A fresh Steven Adams has looked great since the restart, but we see Adams wear down throughout the regular season every year. I fully expect him to continue playing, but a fresh Adams and a banged up Adams are different players. While the team doesn’t believe the injury to be serious, Adams took a nasty fall and if the pain lingers then we may not see him at the same level once he returns to action.
Bobby Howard: I think any concern over Adams’ tweaked knee is completely valid. While Steve will certainly play through it, there is no doubt that historically he is a different player when banged up. Here’s to hoping the time off against Memphis will help keep the Big Kiwi fresh.
Jack Foster: While any worry for Steven Adams is absolutely warranted, the way he played at the end of the Lakers game should serve as a reminder that he isn’t going to be taken down easily. The rest he’s gotten should be a boost for OKC in the final two seeding games.
Jessie Postier: Absolutely. But — give him all the rest he needs now, because we’re going to need him in the playoffs.
What is the biggest unanswered question so far in the bubble?
Kade Kimble: Is this Thunder team legit? We have seen plenty of good in the bubble, as well as plenty of bad. It’s a question that is very hard to answer without seeing a full roster here to play. Dennis Schroder plays a huge role on this team and his absence is surely felt.
Hunter VanDeusen: Can Lu Dort shoot consistently from deep? Despite being a rookie we can expect Lu to draw the toughest defensive matchups in the playoffs. But what can we expect offensively? If Dort can shoot 35% from 3, the floor opens up for OKC. Dort’s shot could be the difference in a first round series.
Dillon Young: Just how good are the Thunder? We know they’re good, but can they really contend in the playoffs? We’ve seen them wet the bed vs. Memphis and look like studs against the Lakers. How far can this team go with Big Kiwi and Schroder with them?
Bobby Howard: Can Shai Gilgeous-Alexander be the man in OKC? SGA has been shaky when having to head the offense, particularly since Dennis Shroeder has been out of bubble. His performance in the non-Dennis games will illuminate where Shai is in his development.
Jacob Silva: How will having no fans affect the level of play when the playoffs arrive? How do specific players benefit or not from being in that empty arena? We’ve seen TJ Warren become prime George Gervin in the bubble. What happens if a player on a mid-seeded team in the West (MPJ?) heats up like that in a series against the LA teams? I love the idea.