Barons At The Break
- By Lex Gartman, Day 120, 2024
OKLAHOMA CITY -
It's All-Star festivities week in the JBL, and for Oklahoma City players, that means a week away from the hardwood for some much-needed R&R. At 26-33 and sitting in the 10th position in the Western Conference (19th in the Power Rankings), the Barons have, at the minimum, met expectations. Depending on who you ask, it can also be argued that the team has slightly exceeded expectations, as well.
Let's take a quick peek at the roster and see how they've performed when compared to the preseason outlook.
Preseason Starter: Jamar Strickland
Current Starter: DeVonte Hale (R)
The future was always going to belong to Hale - the question was simply when that future started. That was answered on Day 64 when the rookie from Purdue wrestled the job away from an ineffective Strickland. Since then, Hale has done nothing but impress the OKC coaching staff, averaging 13 ppg and 7.5 apg. While his shooting efficiency has leveled off the past month or so, he's still checking in at a 58.1 eFG%, including 40% from 3. OKC will take that all day long. And lots of years to come (hopefully).
Preseason Starter: Idris Berkley
Current Starter: Idris Berkley
After a slow start to the season, Berkley has once again flashed the mouth-watering potential that oozes out of his pores. Benefiting greatly from a tactical decision to slow the team's pace, Idris has cut down on the win-killing turnovers that was plaguing him and the team through the first 30 games or so. At 23 ppg, Berkley remains the team's primary scoring option, but still needs to improve his efficiency before taking the next step into the elite realm of JBL players.
Preseason Starter: James Livingston
Current Starter: Devearl Stoudamire
Outside of the 5 spot, the biggest question mark heading into the season was at the 3, and that has only been partially answered at the break. Livingston never impressed and Stoudamire will never be confused with Sowder or Griffin. But simply put, the team plays better when Devearl is on the court. Ellington has also seen significant minutes at the small forward position, delighting the coaching staff with his ability to knock down the open jumper.
Preseason Starter: Roy Ellington
Current Starter: Roy Ellington
After a somewhat disappointing 2023 campaign, Ellington has been phenomenal for the Barons in 2024. Averaging a career-best 17ppg, with an eFG% over 56, Roy has arguably been the team's MVP. His versatility in playing the 3,4, or 5 has also allowed Isiah Harris (currently in the running for the Sixth Man of the Year Award) to flourish at 15.5ppg and 6.6 rpg.
Preseason Starter: Preye Crooks
Current Starter: Cedric Durrant
Simply put, the trade that brought over Durrant from the Dragons has transformed the Barons. Routinely obliterated on the glass, Durrant has almost single-handedly tipped those scales back to an even state for OKC - especially on the defensive side. The emergence of Arkansas rookie Dondre Mitchell (11 rebounds per 36) has also been a shot to the arm of a position that was considered the team's weakest link heading into 2024.
REMAINDER OF 2024 OUTLOOK:
As positive as the trend for the Barons has been in the past month or so, the reality of the situation is that the team simply isn't there yet. Sitting at 5 games behind the 8th spot and the heating up Fireballs, the Baron front office hasn't been able to justify in bringing in enough talent to chase that final playoff spot. Staring at a brutal back half of the schedule, OKC brass agonized over whether or not to try and make a run this season. But as of this writing, the team is content on rolling with what they've got now and letting the current squad gel and continue to grow, pointing at 2025 as the year it makes its move. Is it the right decision? Maybe. Maybe not.
Time, of course, always tells.