By James Blackburn

Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden (L) and forward Kevin Durant (R) celebrate after Harden scored a 3-point shot against the Memphis Grizzlies in the second half of Game 7 of their second round Western Conference NBA basketball playoffs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Bill Waugh (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Second Round of Western Conference NBA Playoffs- Game 7
Thunder win 105-90

Box Score

Scouting Reports


James Harden (31 min, 6-10 FG, 4-8 3pt, 4 reb, 3 assist, 4 steals, 17 TP)

Strengths – Smart player who makes good decisions. Solid all-around type player who is versatile and can do many things well; reminds me of Josh Howard. He plays a similar role to the one that Howard played in Dallas. Spaces the floor with his outside shooting. Has the ability to shoot with feet set off the catch, and can also create his own offense where he can shoot off the dribble and attack the basket because of athleticism. Poised and calm throughout game. Good rebounder and passer. Moves well without the ball and floats to the right area of the floor where guard can see him off of penetration. Plays the passing lines well and is a solid defender in general.

Weaknesses – One of the things that makes Harden so good is that he does a great job of maximizing his skills and strengths, and minimizing his weaknesses. With that said, Harden needs to continue to improve his dribbling. Sometimes when he attacks the basket, his handle is a little shaky and he losses control. He was ineffective from the line today (1-4) but has been a 80% FT shooter for his career.

Overview – The more and more I get to watch Harden the more I like his game and the way he plays. He is not flashy and is humble in how he plays. He is such an all-around talent and contributes in so many ways to help his team win. Harden is probably one of the reasons the Thunder were willing to part ways with Jeff Green (among others, like needing another big). The trade has allowed Harden to play more minutes and to become the third option behind Durant and Westbrook. He is stepped into this new role and has flourished. Harden continues to improve every year and his contributions will continue to go mostly unnoticed because of Durant and Westbrook playing on the same team. Has the potential to be an All Star with in a couple of years.


Zach Randolph (38 minutes, 6-15 FG, 5-6 FT, 10 reb, 1 blk, 1 st, 17 TP)

Strengths – Great midrange shooter. Can hit the 15-18 foot jump shot with consistency from any angle, but he prefers the baseline. Good pick-and-pop player because of shooting ability. Does a good job of drawing contact. Does a good job of shielding more athletic and taller defenders with body and creating space with his strength and width. Patient in the post. Does a nice job of catching, turning, and facing the basket, where he displays solid footwork and patience and takes what the defense gives him – very much like Tim Duncan in that regard. Lefty. Never gives up on the play – scrappy and physical, not the prettiest game. Unconventional style.

Weaknesses – Does a decent job of getting up and down the floor for size, but needs to continue working on getting back on D quicker. Poor P/R defense. Not athletic or long, but uses size well like Charles Barkley used to. Good rebounder in general, but missed more than a couple of box out assignments from the weak side today where his man got the offensive rebound and scored. Forced some shots early in the game against great post defense, but in the second half did a better job of passing out of the double team. He only had 1 assist, but this can not be blamed solely on Randolph. The Grizzlies team struggled today from the field hitting only 39% for the game.

Overview – One of Randolph’s best seasons since being in the NBA. Rewarded by being named to the All-NBA 3rd team. Not the best performance by the big man today, but give OKC players credit. They did a great job defending him and threw some double teams on him in the second half. The Grizzlies ran the offense through him practically the entire second him, but Randolph had difficulty scoring over Ibaka and Collison today.

Shane Battier (27 min, 2-6 FG, 4 reb, 1 st, 4 TP)

Strengths – Good set shooter from 3. Talks on defense and does a good job of playing help defense and being in good defensive position. Gets hand up on shooters.

Weaknesses – Good defender in general, but is slow moving laterally. Can not create his own offense. On a 2 on 1 break, he floated to the corner for the 3, when he could have had a wide open lay up.

Overview – Battier was a great pick up for Memphis and was one of the most underrated and overlooked mid-season pickups in the NBA this year. Battier’s grit, toughness, and smarts were one of the big reasons Memphis had made it this far. He has taken a lot of the principals that were taught to him at Duke and carried them to the NBA. Great role player.

Marc Gasol (37 min, 4-10 FG, 4-4 FT, 7 reb, 2 blk, 12 TP)

Strengths – Strong rebounder. Good passer; throws good outlet passes to guards leaking out. Sets wide screens. Great post defender, plays big and tough, makes himself tall and wide. Likes turn around jumper from over his right shoulder.

Weaknesses – Must continue to work on midrange/FT area jumper. Kendrick Perkins would give him a lot of space and dare him to shoot that shot today. Complained to the officials several times about a no call, while other team went down court and scored.

Overview – Gasol is a great complementary piece next to Randolph. He does all the dirty work, defends, and sets screens. Any scoring he does is an added bonus. His offensive game has improved immensely since coming into the league. Settled for the easy play today at times offensively instead of attacking, evidence by his 4-10 shooting. Gasol and Randolph should serve as one of the league’s most feared front courts for years to come.


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By James Blackburn

Note: James scouted the Charlotte Bobcats vs. Oklahoma City Thunder match up a few weeks ago and offers some keen insight into the scouting reports for several players you may not be familiar with.

October 6, 2010

Thunder win 97-93

Game Notes

Notes- Shaun Livingston recorded a DNP as well as Kwame Brown for medical reasons.

Kevin Durant
Game Recap/ thoughts

1st Half

Bobcats lost the game because of turnovers (27 for the game) – first play of the game was a TO.
Too many of there TO’s were unforced as well.
Bobcat’s team defense looks terrible in first half- bad rotations- allowing too much dribble penetration- left shooters like Kevin Durant and Jeff Green wide open.
The Thunder’s PG’s ( particularly Maynor) are playing denial defense on the Bobcats PG’s in 1st quarter
Thunder is doing a great job of making the extra pass- are getting a lot of good looks from the field.
OKC picks up in a full court press at the beginning of 2nd quarter.
Thunder ran a lot of P/R action with their PG.
Bobcats look very tired and sluggish just before half- like a team that doesn’t want to be there. Thunder looks alive and active. Bobcats have no energy and no enthusiasm and are just going through the motions – the flight and travel from Cleveland last night could be partly to blame.
Thunder is ahead at the half 63-53 ( Bobcats are lucky to be down just 10)
2nd Half
The Bobcats look 10 times better from the start and full of energy – they are getting out in transition and scoring easy buckets as opposed to playing 1 on 1 basketball and settling in the 1st half. Gerald Wallace looks better in particular.
Observation- there are zero scorers for the unit for the Bobcats except Tyrus Thomas.
The Bobcats have to play the starters more minutes just to stay in the game vs. the Thunder 2nd unit.
The crowd is very quiet.
For the Thunder- Kevin Durant barely played in the second half.

Scouting Reports


DJ Augustine (21 min., 4-6 FG, 2-3 3pt, 6 ass. 1 TO, 10 TP)

Strengths- Ran the offense sets well, uses body well to shield taller defenders in the air and finishes well in the open court with good upper body strength. Is a solid 3pt. shooter. Primarily a scoring PG- will be counted on to score a good bit this season.

Weaknesses- Not the quickest or fastest guy on both sides of the ball- needs to improve passing ability, even though he did lead the team in assist tonight.

Overview- Augustine should be OK this season taking over the starting PG responsibility from the departed Felton. He is mainly a scoring guard- but so far this preseason has looked good and I think he is capable of leading the Bobcats back to the playoffs.

Sherron Collins (28 min, 2-8 FG, 0-2 3pt, 1 reb, 2 ass, 5 TO, 4 TP)

Strengths- Shows good leadership qualities and the potential to run a team. Is a decent shooter. Good upper body strength.

Weaknesses- Too may TO’s- he jumps in the air to pass and gets caught with no where to go- he also over penetrates too much at times and picks up his dribble. He does not look in shape- look winded early ( 220 lbs at 5-10, needs to lose some weight- At Kansas his playing weight was 200lbs). He is too small and not quick enough to be an NBA PG.

Overview- Collins has received the balk of minutes so far as the back up PG and has been given more than enough time to prove himself. D not be surprised to see Livingston take over the second string PG duties once healthy. The PG situation is no sure thing for the Bobcats after Augustine. They desperately need someone who can lead the second unit if they hope to return to the playoffs.

Javaris Crittenton (17 min, 0-2 FG, 2-2 FT, 2 reb, 4 ass, 2 st, 3 TO, 1 blk, 2 TP)

Strengths- Did a nice job of leading the break and made a nice pass to Brown for the dunk. Does a good job of attacking the rim.

Weaknesses- Needs to improve shooting. Has very slow feet on defense. Westbrook drove by him several times for the dunk. Needs to improve PG skills.

Overview- Crittenton is playing for a roster spot after cutting ties with the Wizards following the gun incident with Arenas. He could be a 3rd string PG or a 3rd string 2G- not good enough shooter but has good size for the 2- not good enough dribbler and does not have the speed to guard a 1. It will be interesting to see what happens. My prediction is that he makes the team.

Tyrus Thomas (20 min, 7-10 FG, 7 reb, 4 TO, 16 TP)

Strengths- Nice 15’ jumper with high release. Very long and athletic. Good rebounder and active defender.

Weaknesses- Forces the issue sometimes.

Overview- If he can stay in good favor with the coaches, Thomas will be the key and the X factor on whether the Bobcats return to the playoffs. Will be asked to take on the main scoring load for the second unit.

Boris Diaw (20 min, 6-6 FG, 2-2 3pt, 2 ass, 14 TP)

Strengths- looks trimmer and in better shape than the end of last season. He is running the floor well. Has a great spin dribble move. Takes good shots and is a great passer.

Weaknesses- Needs to make a bigger impact on defense and on the glass- 0 rebounds this game.

Overview- If Diaw can stay in shape- he is a still very underrated forward in this league, because of the matchup problems he causes. He can hit the 3 as well as put the ball on the floor and create. He has several unorthodox moves and loves the pump fake- very tough player to guard.

Matt Rogers (5 min, 0-4 FG, 0-1 3pt, 1-2 FT, 5 reb, 1 blk, 1 TP)

Matt Rogers is also fighting for a roster spot coming from Southwest Baptist, a D-II school. He had a nice block in the 4th quarter and is a decent rebounder, but other than that he did not really impress me.


Kevin Durant( 17 min, 5-10 FG, 2-6 3pt, 1 reb, 2 ass, 2 st, 12 TP)
Strengths- Great shooter with a high and quick release. Very long and athletic, with a quick first step. Quick hands on defends. Very composed player.

Weaknesses- Sometimes he looks a little too relaxed. Dribbles too high. Has slow feet on defense. He forces some shots on defense when he does not need too because his teammates do a great job of dribble penetrating to get him open shots. He sometimes holds the ball too long and plays 1 on 1 and then shoots a fade away with a hand in his face. Needs make himself more involved when he does not have the ball.

Overview- Great scorer and player- in my opinion he is a top 3 player in the world. He needs to realize that this years Thunder team is a lot more talented than the teams from the previous 2 years. He does not have to force shots and do it all himself as he used too. I agree with the GM’s and I think he will win MVP.

Cole Aldrich( 19 min, 1-5 FG, 7 reb, 2 ass, 2 st, 1 blk, 3 TP)

Strengths- Great rebounder on both ends- always grabs the ball with 2 hands. Boxes out well and sets good wide screens.

Weaknesses- Raw offensive game. Slow getting up and down the floor. Not the most athletic- but knows his limitations.

Overview- Big man, with good size who had a nice career at Kansas. Has skills that will translate to the pros. Could find his way into the rotation as a 2nd string C, with Collison out with injury.

Elijah Millsap (13 min, 0-5 FG, 6 reb, 1 ass, 1 blk, 1 TP)

Strengths- Athletic, hustles at both ends, good defensive player. Good rebounder.

Weaknesses- Has a lot to learn to make an impact at the NBA level. Not a great decision maker.

Overview- Rookie out of UAB. Good kid with a good work ethic who will be find a job in this league. I just don’t think there are enough roster spots on this deep Thunder team.

Jeff Green (27 min, 9-14 FG, 5-7 3pt, 4 reb, 1 st, 25 TP)

Strengths- Good scorer who reminds me of Carmelo Anthony in the fact that he can score from anywhere- off the dribble, shoot the 3, athletic player who will dunk on you. Well rounded.

Weaknesses- Needs to improve passing skills

Overview- Will be one of the top scorers behind Durant this season. He is a player Durant trusts. Will have another good year for a deeply talented Thunder squad.

Russell Westbrook (21 min, 2-8 FG, 6 ass, 6 TO, 9 TP)

Strengths- Very explosive and athletic. Reminds me of Derrick Rose.

Weaknesses- All right handed- no left. He is out of control going left. He needs to improve jump shot.

Overview- The Thunder have 2 great PG’s with Westbrook and Maynor. Westbrook continues to be overlooked as one of the games elite PG’s in the west.

Serge Ibaka (26 min, 5-13 FG, 11 reb, 1 blk, 12 TP)

Strengths- Is a BEAST on the boards. Has developed a nice 18-20’ midrange jumper that he can knock down with consistency.

Weaknesses- Raw back to the basket game- either a dunk or a mid range J.

Overview- Ibaka is going to surprise a lot of people this season. He has worked hard this summer and will make GM’s wish they had picked up this PF/ C in the 2008 draft.


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By James Blackburn

James continues his scouting of the NBA summer league games in Orlando, where many rookies are getting their first chance to prove themselves in the NBA.

Thunder (2-1) vs. 76ers (2-1)
Thunder win 89-80
Box Score


• Thunder playing great team defense.

• James Harden is sporting the Mohawk, with the beard and the headband.

• Eric Maynor hurt his hand in 3rd. quarter and did not return.

Evan Turner Summer League

Scouting Reports

Eric Maynor (23 min, 3-7 FG, 1-3 3 pt, 3-4 FT, 2 reb, 5 ass, 10 tp)- Great passer, was able to change shot in air one time and still put it in. Able to maneuver way to basket. Can shoot the 3. Very controlled/composed player.

James Harden (32 min, 3-10 FG, 0-4 3pt, 15-18 FT, 5 reb, 3 ass, 2 st., 6 TO, 1 blk., 21 tp)- Needs to improve jump shot- again he is TO prone- had a really rough first half- second half was able to get to the line- very good FT shooter. He uses his body well to shield defender- showed off nice footwork with a Euro step.

DJ White (22 min, 3-5 FG, 2-4 FT, 4 reb, 3 blk, 8 tp)- Great defensive player, runs the floor. Played great D on Speights. Defends pick and roll well. Also showed some nice post moves.

Latavious Williams (15 min, 4-5 FG, 2-3 FT, 5 reb, 3 blks, 1 ass, 10 tp)-Best game so far- looked a lot more comfortable on the floor. Has ability to finish at the rim. Plays game above the rim. NBA ready body. Great defender- displayed good timing with shot blocking. Has big hands. Still very raw- but has good potential.

Mustafa Shakur (25 min, 4-10 FG, 2-4 3 pt, 1-2 FT, 2 reb, 6 ass, 11 tp)- Best game yet for the guard out of Arizona. Led the team in assist and +/- score of +22. Looks composed at all times. A very willing passer who can see the floor and create. Very quick, can get to rim and pass to open big man. Good shooter with 3 pt range. Can shoot off dribble and can create own shot. Plays good good- has long arms. Very dangerous in the open court.
Byron Mullens (24 min, 7-8 FG, 2-6 FT, 6 reb, 16 tp)- Another solid performance from Mullens, who has really developed and gotten better since his Ohio State days. One year in the league has helped him immensely. He is very strong and runs the floor well for his size. Sets solid screens and rolls well. Has a nice hook shot and keeps the ball high on rebounds.


Jrue Holiday (33 min, 7-15 FG, 3-5 3 pt, 8-12 FT, 1 reb, 5 ass, 3 st, 6 TO,25 tp)- Another good PG from Holiday- who is looking more and more like the PG of the future for Philly. Has the best defense in the Summer League for a PG. Has quick hands. He is very strong in the air and can finish with contact. Has a slow release on jumper, but is a decent shooter. Needs to continue to improve consistency of jumper. Good passer.

Evan Turner (27 min,1-6 FG,2-2 FT,8 reb, 2 ass, 2 st, 4 tp)- Rough shooting day for Turner. He is able to still impact the game when shot is off. Is a good defender. Had a nice steal and pass to Holiday early in the game. Good rebounder. Showed a lot of frustration and displayed bad body language this game, especially after TO’s. Sometimes gets mixed up/lost on P and R defense.

Jodie Meeks (30 min, 4-14 FG,8-8 FT, 6 reb, 4 ass, 16 tp)- Runs off screens well and is ready shoot on the catch- good shooter, who can also get to the rim.

Marreese Speights (27 min, 9-19 FG, 2-2 FT, 9 reb, 20 tp)- Good scoring game for Speights. Should be getting to line more- does not bang enough down low. Settles for 15-18’ jumper too much- but he is showing the ability to make that shot. Needs to stay down on defense- goes for every ball fake/head fake. Good footwork in post.

By James Blackburn

James continues his scouting of the NBA summer league games in Orlando, where many rookies are getting their first chance to prove themselves in the NBA. Kevin Durant Summer League

Game 2- 3:00 game
OKC (1-1) vs. Charlotte (2-0)
Bobcats win 86-85
Box Score

• Bobcats offense looks out of sync in first half, none of the PG’s for Bobcats look comfortable.
• Bobcats played great team defense- forcing the Thunder to the end of the shot clock several times.
• S. Ibaka did not play because of yesterdays injury.
• Jeremy Pargo won the game for the Bobcats with a turn around jumper in the lane as time expired.
• Funny exchange between D. Brown and A. Ajinca after a Ajinca foul late in the game. Brown said, why did you foul him Lexy, you already have 8 fouls. Lexy responded, “I didn’t mean too – I’m not trying to foul!”.

Scouting Reports

Derrick Brown ( 30 min, 6-12 FG, 2-3 FT, 8 reb, 14 tp)- Another great game from Brown, who continued to attack the basket ferociously. He has a quick first step and can go to his right or left ( he is left handed). Has strong moves around basket, also displayed a nice 1 dribble jumper. Had a crazy athletic put back dunk attempt that missed, but continues to wow people with his athleticism.

Alexis Ajinca ( 27 min., 5-8 FG, 4-6 FT, 6 reb, 8 fls, 14 tp)- Up and down game from Alexis. Did some good things on offense today, but 8 fouls with out 1 block on defense is not a good line. He struggles in the post with double teams, obviously not used to them. He needs to become a better passer. Displayed good touch on his outside jumper.

Gerald Henderson (34 min., 5-11, 1-1 3 pt, 10-11 FT, 8 reb, 4 ass, 21 tp)- Another great game from Henderson, who is trying to earn himself some PT next year. He lead the team in points in assist and also showed he can hit the 3. Is an excellent rebounder because of his athleticism. Had another big dunk in traffic, because of a lighting quick first step. Played excellent defense on James Harden today. Good lucking jumper displayed, and he is good at curling screens and making the right play, whether it be shoot, or dump it to the low post for assist. Is also good at drawing fouls, where he takes advantage at the line.

PJ Tucker (21 min, 4-5 FG, 2-3 FT, 3 reb, 1 st, 10 tp)- Very productive game from Tucker, who recorded a DNP yesterday. Tucker recorded the highest +/- on the team with a +13. He is very strong and physical which makes up for his lack on height. He played solid D on Harden and has quick hands for a forward. Very active in the post- sticks with it, very hard worker.


Eric Maynor (35 min, 5-9 FG, 1-2 3 pt, 7-10 FT, 4 reb, 5 ass, 2 st, 18 tp)- Maynor continued his solid play, and keeps himself in the running as best PG in league. Displayed a nice little floater in the lane. He is a good decision maker and an excellent dribbler. Good shooter and a good passer. He can throw the lob, and had a real nice no look drop pass for a dunk. Makes good reads with ball and anticipates well on D. Also showed ability to split double team on P and R.

Byron Mullens (28 min, 2-10 FG, 8-12 FT, 3 reb, 2 st, 2 blks, 12 tp)- Rough shooting day for BJ, but he made up for by going to the FT line 12 times. Had an athletic block on Ajinca, blocking his high hook shot. Does a great job running the floor for a big man. Is very strong and physical.

James Harden (34 min, 4-11 FG, 1-5 3 pt, 10-10 FT, 5 reb, 2 ass, 5 TO, 19 tp)- Harden showed some weaknesses today. He did lead the team in scoring and again showed he can get to the rim and finish through contact, but was sloppy with the ball today. He tries to force the issue a lot and takes bad shots or tries to dribble through people. The Bobcats did a great job defending him today by making him shoot more jumpers, an area where he must improve. He did still manage to get to the stripe 10 times where he is an excellent FT shooter. He needs to improve his dribbling, especially his R hand, he loves to go left, where he is very explosive.