For as historically great as the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs have been this season, I would still take Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka over any combination of three players from either team. You can make the argument for Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and take your pick of any of the other Spurs players, but the Thunder have as star heavy a roster as any team in the NBA. The question for Oklahoma City has always been how to build around such transcendent talent and whether they have the supporting cast that will allow them to win a championship.

With Leonard and Curry muscling their way into the argument for the top player in the league, Durant has managed to slip somewhat under the radar this season. He is fully healthy after missing most of last season with a foot injury and he is playing at as high a level as ever, averaging 26.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game on 50.7% shooting. He can do just about everything on a basketball court and he is just as unguardable as Curry in a 1-on-1 situation.

Westbrook has maintained his incredible level of play from last season, when he almost single-handedly carried the Thunder offense following Durant’s injury. You can make the argument that he is Oklahoma City's best player and he is averaging numbers that we haven’t seen since the heyday of Oscar Robertson - 23.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 9.7 assists and 2.5 steals a game on 45.2% shooting. He’s one of the most physically dominant players in the league and there’s virtually nothing an opposing defense can do to stop him beyond hope he misses.

While Ibaka doesn’t have the gaudy individual numbers of his two MVP-caliber teammates, his skill-set is the perfect complement to such ball-dominant players. He’s everything that Kevin Love is not, an uber-athletic 6’11 rim protecting machine who can defend either frontcourt position at a high level, protect the rim and get out and slide his feet 25+ feet from the basket. It’s almost unfair that one of the best shot-blockers in the NBA also shoots 39.2% from 3 on a fairly high volume (2.0 3PA).

With their Big Three in the game together, the Thunder post efficiency statistics every bit as impressive as San Antonio and Golden State. In the more than 1,100 minutes they have played together this season, Oklahoma City has a net rating of +16.7 points. Compared to their opponents, they shoot a much higher field goal percentage, they get to the line much more often, they rack up more assists and they dominate the area around the front of the rim - cleaning the glass and blocking shots at a much higher rate. If the NBA was a 3-on-3 league, the Thunder would be the favorites to win it all.

The question is what combination of players makes the most sense next to their stars. That’s what rookie head coach Billy Donovan is going to have to figure out as the playoffs approach and that’s what’s going to determine if they can give either Golden State or San Antonio a run. When the games get close in May and June, who is Donovan going to trust with crunch-time minutes and will they be able to bring enough to the table (or at least not take enough off it) to give the Thunder a chance? He has a lot of options but no easy answers.

Andre Roberson

Roberson has been their starting SG for the last two seasons and his three-point shooting has marginally improved in that span (27.4% on 3.2 3PA this season), but not enough to where other teams feel the need to guard him. While he has the 2nd best net rating of any player on their roster when paired with the Big Three (+19.6), it’s hard to see how he can get big minutes late if he’s going to destroy their spacing. Oklahoma City’s inability to find a true 3-and-D wing next to their Big Three might be the biggest failure of their front-office over the last few season, especially considering how many assets they had to use to potentially find one. They have three lottery picks in their supporting cast and none of them really fit that mold.

Steven Adams

The best two-way player on their roster outside of their Big Three, Adams has turned himself into one of the better starting centers in the NBA in his third season. At 7’0 255 with a 7’5 wingspan, he is a freakish athlete with fairly high skill level for a guy with his immense size. He fills his role well - banging in the post, playing above the rim on both sides of the ball, cleaning the glass - and he is steadily expanding his game, posting the best free-throw percentages and assist-to-turnover ratio of his young career. The question is whether he can defend in space well enough to stay on the floor against Golden State when they go small. One of the reasons OKC matches up better with San Antonio is that Adams has guys he can guard in their closing line-ups.

Dion Waiters

Maybe the most divisive player in OKC’s supporting cast, Waiters has never been able to outlive the reputation of a selfish gunner that he developed in Cleveland. He still takes some unconscionably bad shots and his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.25) isn’t very good for such a ball-dominant player, but he is shooting the highest 3P% of his career (34.6%) and he has the sturdy frame (6’4 225) that should allow him to match-up with a number of different positions on the perimeter. The concern is that the Thunder play better defense when he is off the floor and a perimeter player next to Durant and Westbrook has to be able to help out on that side of the ball.

Kyle Singler

Singler has only recently emerged from a disastrous season-long slump where it seemed like he had lost all his confidence and forgotten how to play basketball entirely. It remains to be seen whether he has refound his form, but OKC desperately needs what he can provide, as he’s a 6’8 combo forward who can do multiple things on offense without getting killed on defense. They haven’t had a player with his skill-set since Jeff Green and rehabilitating his game has to be one of their biggest priorities before the playoffs begin.

Enes Kanter

The most one-way of OKC’s seemingly never-ending phalanx of one-way players on their bench, Kanter combines elite post scoring and rebounding with rim protection and perimeter defense that is very far from elite. The problem is that line-ups with such great offensive weapons don’t need Kanter’s shot-creating abilities and they can’t make up for his defensive deficiencies. He has the worst defensive rating of anyone on their roster (-7.4) and it’s almost impossible to hide a big man who can’t protect the rim or move his feet on defense in the modern NBA.

Cam Payne

A late entrant to this competition, Payne has moved ahead of DJ Augustin in the rotation and established himself as a legitimate NBA player in his rookie season out of Murray State. His on/off numbers aren’t good on either side of the ball, but he’s also Westbrook’s main backup and his role is to run the offense on their disastrous all 2nd-unit line-ups. While he can shoot off the dribble and run the pick-and-roll, those are two skills that guys playing next to Durant and Westbrook don’t need to have and it seems unlikely that a rookie guard with a slight frame and without elite speed will be able to match up with guys like Steph Curry and Tony Parker at the end of games.

There a ton of different combinations that Donovan can use and he has already cycled through a bunch during the regular season:

(w/Big 3)


Offensive rating

Defensive rating

Net rating

Adams + Roberson





Adams + Waiters





Kanter + Waiters





Kanter + Roberson





Roberson + Waiters





Singler + Waiters





Payne + Kanter





Adams + Singler





The starting line-up (Adams + Roberson) is their most used duo (and their best defensive duo) next to their Big Three while the best offensive duo in terms of shot-creating ability (Waiters + Kanter) has been their most productive. The problem, as it is with everything Oklahoma City tries to do, is that their best defensive line-up doesn’t space their floor while their best offensive line-up doesn’t play a lot of defense. When you’re playing Golden State and San Antonio, you really can’t afford to be balancing one side of the ball off the other.

That’s why rehabilitating Singler is so important for them, especially in a potential series with the Warriors where they would have to play smaller. Singler is their best combination of length, athleticism and shooting ability and he gives them another wing who can match up with guys like Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston without killing their offensive flow. My guess is they would end up going Singler + Waiters against Golden State while Adams would get one of the two crunch-time spots against San Antonio.

What they will have to decide over the next month is whether or not they should pull the trigger on a trade to potentially upgrade their supporting cast. There may not be a lot of potential sellers at the deadline, but they have a very intriguing trade chip in Mitch McGary, a talented young big man who hasn’t been able to find the floor this season. They have traditionally been one of the most patient franchises in the NBA, but there’s no time to waste in Oklahoma City and there’s no front office with more reason to be aggressive.