What's wrong with the Thunder? That popular question has been presented to me more than a few times over the last two weeks during my Thunder journeys at home and away.
So I will try to answer the question the best that I can. There's more questions out there as well, but I'll start with the big one first.
What's wrong with the Thunder?
We knew the schedule was tougher after the All-Star break, but they should be better than 4-8 since the All-Star game in Toronto. Billy Donovan would be the first to tell you he is still learning the ins and outs of NBA coaching, which is why he hired two gems in Monty Williams and Maurice Cheeks. Both are not currently by his side on the bench; Cheeks will be back before the season is over while Monty will stay at home with his family where he is needed the most after suffering through a tremendous family setback. Leaning on Williams and Cheeks would've given Donovan a boost and possibly a few more wins in the process.
OKC's defense has looked good in the last two games (Minnesota, San Antonio) while at the same time the offense has sputtered in the second half, missed shots and turnovers are on the rise.
The Oklahoma City bench remains a question mark except for Enes Kanter, I sure wish he would play more, the opposing teams have a hard time keeping up with the tall one from Turkey, especially when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on the floor. Oklahoma City has about one month to figure out the fourth-quarter lapses and a bench rotation that doesn't put a potential Thunder lead at risk. Remember, with KD and Russ on the roster anything is possible with this team, but the dynamic duo will have to carry more minutes in the post season to have any chance of going deep in the playoffs.
Why don't they play Cameron Payne more?
The rookie guard out of Murray State played in 15 games during the month of January, but since February, Payne has only played in eleven games. Cameron lost his minutes when Oklahoma City brought in veteran guard Randy Foye from Denver before the trade deadline. Foye hasn't exactly lit the court on fire with his shooting, he's a smart veteran but his shot isn't helping the team at the moment. If Payne is a vital part of OKC's future it maybe time to insert the go-getter back on the floor, let him make his rookie mistakes and watch him flourish in the upcoming years.
Billy Donovan isn't doing any better than Scott Brooks? Why did they fire Brooks?
Brooks was dealt some bad fortune (injuries), it's very tough for a coach to stay at one place if they don't have a title to lean on and he was close, real close. You need some good luck, fortune, a friendly bounce, a call or two to go your way and of course great players to capture it all. Chicago's Derrick Rose blows out his knee in the 2012 playoffs, so Miami wins the East and the big prize over OKC. In 2013, Houston's Patrick Beverley bumps Russell Westbrook's knee, knocking Russ out of the playoffs and Memphis eliminates OKC in the Western Conference Semifinals. I'm still convinced OKC would've won it all in 2013 and who knows, maybe Scott is still coaching the Thunder.
I said it before the season started and still believe Billy Donovan was an excellent hire by Sam Presti and company. Eventually you have to stop blaming the coach and start pointing the fingers at the players. I remain on the positive side with this year's team, I feel they will step it up once the playoffs start. The timing maybe off this season though, because they're dealing with two of the best teams ever in the Western Conference. When is the last time San Antonio and Golden State lost a home game?