I was recently able to speak with Down To Dunk and OKC Dream Team podcast host Andrew Schlecht. We talked about a number of Thunder topics including which young wing might pop, how Russell can change, how great Steven Adams is and much more! If you aren’t listening to Down To Dunk or OKC Dream Team, you need to start right now!!! It’s great content for any Thunder fan. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewKSchelcht. I hope you enjoy this!
Tyler: I noticed on your twitter account you threw a poll out asking who the best reserve wing for the Thunder will be. Abrines, Ferguson and TLC were the three guys listed and Ferguson finished last. You have been talking TFerg up on the pod saying he will shine off the bench. Why do you think people refuse to get excited about his second season?
Andrew: It’s all based on Summer League. Summer League is a tough place to analyze anybody. I mean, you can see little things here and there, and I remember the first time I thought Steven Adams was going to be good was when I saw him in summer league setting screens like he did. Ferguson not shooting the ball well played into that. They gave him a completely different role then what he will have on the Thunder, like being a facilitator, and you could just see him thinking about everything. That’s what raised a lot of red flags. We have to realize he will play the same role as last year while being stronger and having more experience. The coaching staff and the players like Russell and PG love this guy. Billy has always kind of favored athleticism, and at the end of the day I think it will be between TFerg and Abrines, and I think he will lean toward TFerg.
Tyler: Speaking of Billy, I tend to think of myself as a Billy Donovan truther. I have always tried to focus on the positives he has done. My theory is simply having continuity from one season to the next will be huge. He hasn’t had two years in a row with that consistency. Do think that will help him, and what could we see from Billy this year?
Andrew: Yeah, I think it’s a good point. Billy has been in the NBA for three seasons now and had three completely different teams. I don’t even know what kind of coach he is to be honest, and I don’t think he has been given a shot to show that yet. I have been in the locker room and have seen the stuff he has put on the board, but it doesn’t really seem like it has translated onto the court. I think we will find out what kind of coach Billy is this year. We have seen really good things from him like the 2016 run to the West Finals. As we both know they were one Klay Thompson flamethrower away from the Finals. Then onto the next playoff run. I don’t think he was good against Houston, and I don’t think he was very good this last year. I think he is a good coach. I know that Russell and Paul George believe in him, and that can be half the battle sometimes with your superstars. I think he will finally get a fair shake.
Tyler: Russ and Paul believing in him is huge, but let’s say the team underachieves this year again. Do you think their trust in him will begin to wane and you could see some potential stress on his job?
Andrew: Yeah, I think that is something you’d have to look at. He will have two years left on his contract. He is heading into that year where you have to figure it out. I know that Sam Presti loves him, and that is a big deal. If the ownership group and GM believe in the coach they usually get to stick around. If they don’t then they usually go find somebody else, but I’m under the belief that Sam Presti has found his guy in Billy Donovan and they are going to give him a real chance to prove it. I don’t think anything would happen this season unless they lost in the first round again, but I wouldn’t anticipate that. If that were to happen and they were the 6th seed and lost in the 1st round, then I think the following season he would be under the microscope. But as of right now I don’t think he is in any danger.
Tyler: Let’s talk about Russell. He is such an interesting player. At worst he is the 8th best player in the world, but he does have some flaws. I recently published an article about these and how he can improve to maximize the team’s potential. There are a couple things I want your thoughts on. There are about four or five possessions a game that Russ simply wastes rather than continue the flow of the game or get other guys involved, and we see him force a three or force an early shot. Second, when he is off the ball he doesn’t really move, but there have been instances where he will float around or come off a screen, set a quick screen and immediately go on the attack. Why hasn’t he been willing to do a little more of that in his career especially since Durant left?
Andrew: Yeah, the screening stuff has been there his whole career. I did a study with Michele Berra and Vantage Sports during the 2016 season when Durant was still on the team, and Russ just never screened at all. He would some out of timeout plays, but to me it’s just a lack of willingness. That is where it lies. Is he willing to set the screens? Billy loves off the ball movement. He values screening and Russell hasn’t really been a guy to do that at all. They do have a guy now who can handle the ball better than anybody they have had in while in Dennis Schroder. If Russell is going to change then this will be the season to do it, and we can kind of see what the rest of his career will look like if he is willing to play off ball. I think it’s really all about him being willing to shoot threes off the ball. If he can just be willing to catch and shoot more, his three point percentage will go up.
As far as the possessions he will waste or the dumb possessions. That isn’t going to go away. That is part of what makes Russell, Russell. He is a reckless player at times, but sometimes being that reckless will lead to greatness. I will just point to the 2017 season against Denver when he hit the record for triple doubles and hit that amazing shot to win the game. That same recklessness that takes dumb shots earlier at the end of the third quarter is the same that wins the MVP and that game in Denver. I don’t think the organization has any interest in eliminating that or trying to get that out of him because they know you kind of have to take the good and the bad with Russ.
Tyler: That remind me of a game that same season against Washington where Russ was having an awful shooting night, but hit two clutch threes at the end of the game. I think it was Nick Gallo that asked Russ about his mentality. Russ just gave a smile and gave one of my favorite quotes saying, “I ain’t ever gonna stop”. That’s Russell Westbrook right there.
Andrew: That’s exactly right. You want him to stop taking the dumb shots and forcing things, but that’s just Russell. In some ways the Thunder have created a monster with him, but also, they have a guy who won MVP two seasons ago and not many teams have that. It’s always going to be a wild ride with Russell Westbrook as your alpha dog.
Tyler: Is Steven Adams the greatest interview ever?
Andrew: He’s awesome. He’s really down to earth and tries to answer your question. He’s really smart, and that is one of the most underplayed things about him. He might have the best basketball mind on the team. He knows the game so well and is such a student of the game. He is incredibly funny and great in the locker room, but if you want a technical basketball question answered, he’s the guy to talk to. He will really give you an insightful answer.
Tyler: How confident are you one of the young guys is going to pop in the near future on a 1-10 scale?
Andrew: An 8. I think they have some really talented guys. TFerg is at the top of that list. The Thunder really like Hamidou Diallo, and they have him on a nice contract.
Tyler: I was surprised by how polished Diallo looked in Summer League.
Andrew: He showed quite a bit. He was impressive no question about that. You also have to take into account that he was told to just go out there and play. If I had to bet I would put him behind TFerg and Abrines in terms of who will become a top 8 rotation player.
Tyler: To close us out I have a few rapid fire True/False questions for you.
Tyler: First, OKC will finish as a top three seed in the regular season.
Tyler: Russell Westbrook will finish top three in MVP voting.
Tyler: The national media will end their irrational hate of OKC after this season.
Tyler: The Thunder’s new City Edition Jerseys will be worse than last years.
Andrew: True. I kind of liked the grey ones.
Final notes from the Interview:
- A Kyle Singler emergency pod will probably not happen if he gets jettisoned.
- I go to a University in Indiana and Andrew gave some insight in how to deal with the irrational Paul George hate. Shouts to him for that.
- The future of Abrines is quite murky with the Thunder after this year.
- After talking to Andrew I want to meet Steven Adams more than ever.
I’d like to thank Andrew for agreeing to chat with me for a while. I have been a big fan of his for a few years now, and it was great to chat Thunder basketball with him. I look forward to listening to Andrew in the future and perhaps chatting with him again. One last time, if you aren’t listening to Down To Dunk or the OKC Dream Team podcasts YOU NEED TO START RIGHT NOW!
- I love this point on Adams Summer League. It makes me wonder how many NBA dreams were crushed by a bruising Steven “Khal Drogo” Adams screen. ↑
- This is the part where I try not to cry during our chat. ↑
- Thank goodness. Any coach who casually drinks from the prop Gatorade in the post-game presser is a coach I want to have. ↑
- It’s fun and it’s about Russ. Definitely worth checking out. ↑
- Are you really a Thunder fan if that shot doesn’t give you chills? ↑
- Other favorite Russel Quotes are “Sting for Who” and “Shoes make an outfit” ↑
- It is my dream to ask Steven a question and him respond by referring to me as “mate”. ↑
- Here we learn to go to Tim Duncan before Andrew for fashion advice… ↑
- Andrew assured me he won’t be on the team come September. ↑