You are only as good as your last game. The last two times the Oklahoma City Thunder have reached the playoffs, they were left with bitter feelings. The first of the two disappointments ended in a 4-1 series win and NBA Title for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Many expected this series to be one for the ages and the Thunder played well under their expectation level. The 2013 season ended even worse as the Thunder lost Russell Westbrook in the first round and eventually were bounced by the Memphis Grizzlies with another series count of 4-1 in the second round. Well, some things are finally starting to move back in a positive direction for the Thunder organization. The catalysts for this progression within the organization can be attributed to the Oklahoma City Thunder Summer League squad.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are the Orlando Summer League champions. The Thunder went 5-0 throughout the week and captured the title against the Houston Rockets by winning 85-77. Not only did they dominate the circuit this entire week, they were at one point up twenty points in the championship game against the likes of Terrance Jones and James Anderson. The most exciting result from this week for the organization was that the entire team got better over the course of each game. Each player seemed to have their highlight moment or game. The most memorable moment was provided by the electric Reggie Jackson in a game against the Detroit Pistons. Jackson provided a much needed spark for the Thunder as they trailed by as many as 14 points in the game. Jackson scored a record for the Orlando Summer League of 35 points, including 23 coming in the fourth quarter. Additionally, he made key plays to his teammates down the stretch that solidified the victory. He carried himself as a leader and his performance showed that his opportunity to play last year really has pushed him to work on his game and become an even bigger asset come November. He will be looked to as a spark off the bench to bring energy and knock down shots as possibly the 6th man this upcoming season.
In my opinion, the MVP of the weekend was Jeremy Lamb. He played an overall great floor game. He showed different aspects of his game at various times during the week. There were games where Lamb flashed abilities to run a team from the point guard position and get others involved. On the defensive end, he showed on occasion that he can use his length to disrupt passes or even shot attempts by opposing players. The most relaxing time of the week was watching Jeremy Lamb score 32 at ease and this was a day after Reggie Jackson’s record explosion against the Pistons. Lamb scored efficiently by shooting 10-14 from the field and added nine points from the line. He capped off a great week by leading the team with 18 points in the championship game. Specifically in this game and in others as well, Lamb displayed his ability to get to the rim and shot the ball fairly well. With the departure of Kevin Martin, the Thunder will definitely need someone to fill in the shooting role that Martin held before heading off to Minnesota. Lamb can potentially be that guy. He didn’t have his best shooting touch from behind the line over this week but his ability to score is undeniable. Lamb and Jackson will potentially have major roles that can impact whether the Thunder can bring home a more important title in June 2014.
There were also other players that opened eyes during the championship run. Andre Roberson was definitely one of those players that was hard to miss this week. He rebounds the ball and works hard around the rim. Every team needs a player that loves to eat glass and rack of boards. He simply does the little things and he is one of those players that teams need. He reminds me of Nick Collison in his pursuit and work ethic on the floor. He led the team in rebounding for the week while scoring mainly through his hustle. The 12th pick in this year’s draft, Steven Adams, had a solid week as he averaged 9 points and close to 7 rebounds. Dwight Buycks also performed well as a PG but likely won’t get a shot in OKC. Same goes from Daniel Orton. He played big and will continue to have a great summer,but there is no room on the roster for another center. However, if he continues to play like he has and running the floor, it will be hard to tell him no as well.
The Thunder are taking those necessary baby steps now to be ready potentially for the big stage in the future.