Carmelo Anthony has the solution to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s crunch-time struggles on the offensive end: Paul George, Russell Westbrook and himself need to be more selfish.
He expanded upon these sentiments, per the Norman Transcript‘s Fred Katz:
“Too timid, we’re thinking too much,” he said. “Russ, PG, myself, we have to do a better job of being selfish in a way of playing our game and being aggressive on the basketball court. Not thinking about it. I don’t know if selfish is the right word. We play off of instincts. We’re very instinctive players. Now we’re not playing like that.
“When we’re playing like that in the first two quarters, we’re up 20 to 25. Towards the end of the game when we start thinking about it and we want to get somebody going or get somebody a shot, that’s where the games get confusing.”
Anthony has a point. Many of them, actually. The Thunder have the NBA’s fifth-best net rating, yet they sit one game under .500, in large part because they’re 1-7 in games that enter clutch play—defined by NBA.com as the final five minutes of contests in which no team is ahead or behind by more than five points. The Thunder also rank 17th in offensive efficiency during this time, and 16th overall on the season—piddling placement for a squad with so many offensive stars.
Identifying increased selfishness as a potential remedy feels disingenuous, but Anthony isn’t wrong. The Thunder need more structured selfishness. There have been moments in which everyone’s pressing. Westbrook doesn’t know whether to attack or defer. George stands off beyond the arc, out of the play almost entirely. Melo looks off Westbrook or isn’t aggressive enough with the ball in his hands.
Warts like this bog down their offensive flow, and where head coach Billy Donovan can stagger minutes throughout the early parts of the game, he cannot do so down the stretch of tightly contested tilts. He needs to have all his stars on the court unless he wants to risk ruffling feathers and egos. All of which creates a balance problem for the Thunder, one they can only help works itself over time, as Melo, Westbrook and George become more familiar with one another.