The Substance Report is an official rankings that I thought was necessary to come up with to determine which players throughout the league are most valuable to their team. Each day, for the next week or so, there will be an article dedicated to a single player that demonstrates both his value to the league, but more importantly, the weight on his shoulders on his own team.
An example of the rhetorical questions to ask yourself throughout the readings of the ranking is something along the lines of, "What would the Warriors look like without Stephen Curry? How much worse off would they be as a team? Could they still win an NBA Championship if they just released him to the depths of a fiery hell? Would Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's efficiency go up because they would have more shot opportunities with Steph out of the rotation?" and other important meditations similar to that nature.
This is what the rankings look like so far.
30. Lou "Two Girls and They Get Along Like I'm Lou Will" Williams
29. Domantas "Arvydas's Son" Sabonis
28. Montrezl "Holy Shit That Guy Tries Hard" Harrell
27. Mike "Never Leaving Memphis Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M.!" Conley
26. Klay "Not Just Steph's Sidekick" Thompson
25. Trae "Ugliest Player in the League" Young
24. Ben "Kendall Jenner's Bae / Fresh Prince" Simmons
23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic
22. Karl-Anthony "Who Was the Last Good Player With Two First Names?" Towns
21. Blake "Pray My Knees Will Be Okay Come April" Griffin
20. Devin "Should I Just Become a Point Guard?" Booker
19. Anthony "'I'll Tell On You To Rich Paul!' / AD" Davis
18. Russell "I Didn't Know a Professional Could Take Their Job Too Seriously / Why Not?" Westbrook
17. Joel "The Cameroonian Clown / The Process" Embiid
16. Bradley "Will Somebody Please Trade John Wall Already?" Beal
15. Donovan "Still Salty About His 2nd Place Spot In The ROTY Contest / Spida" Mitchell
14. Kemba "Can Do Cool Crossovers But May Never Win A Playoff Series" Walker
13. Luka "Thick and Slick / Halleluka" Dončić
12. Kawhi "Typically Silent, But Mostly Deadly / Klaw" Leonard
11. Kevin "Will Tell You He's Not Going To New York, But He's Probably Going To New York / KD" Durant
10. Stephen "How Does The Greatest Shooter Ever Not Have An Actual Usable Nickname Yet? / Chef" Curry
9. LeBron "Will Trade You In a Heartbeat / King" James
8. Rudy "Frenchman Who Looks Like He Can Lay Some Serious Pipe / The Steiffel Tower" Gobert
7. D'Angelo "Instagram Is My Second Profession / Loading" Russell
6. De'Aaron "Now You See Me, Now You're Admiring My Luscious Hair" Fox
5. Paul "Smoother Than Silk Until The Playoffs / PG-13" George
The Thunder have just been eliminated from the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the third consecutive season largely in part to Damian Lillard's brilliance. The dynamic duo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook couldn't overcome their tradition of faltering to a team that they were expected to breeze by, and Westbrook once again showcased his innate selfishness more than ever in this series.
The Thunder's eventual surrender in this series was not Paul George's fault, he was the one driving force that actually allowed the first round "upset" to be competitive. George scored 36 points on 14-20 shooting, while his supposed counterpart Russell Westbrook shot 11-31 from the field in a win-or-go-home elimination game. For the millionth time in his career, Westbrook refused to defer to his superstar teammate, and Oklahoma City had to face the consequences that come along with that selfish stat padding style of play.
PG had been brilliant all season long, having arguably the best year of his up-and-down career and performed like an eligible MVP candidate. He finally looked as if he'd returned to form for the first time since that brutal injury he experienced in an exhibition game prior to the Olympics (I still remember watching that, my stomach turned inside out and my prayers immediately went upwards).
If Oklahoma City had put a plan in place that actively involved one of the world's most talented scorers more often than they involved a rambunctious energizer bunny of a point guard who shoots the basketball as if he's Stephen Curry and not himself, then they might've had a legitimate chance in this series against Portland. But they didn't. And now Portland is moving on with a heap of momentum, and a whole lot of pettiness.
The question for Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder moving forward is whether or not their future is brighter with or without Westbrook. As a devout Westbrook hater, I would highly recommend to General Manager Sam Presti that it would be best to get rid of the one guy who can single handedly shoot you out of a playoff series, but that's just me. They have a certified superstar in their hands in Paul George, and I believe that it's time for OKC to move on from the stat-padding Westbrook era, and transition into building around one of the best 3-and-D players of the last several decades.
Standing at nearly 6'11" George has limitless range. He can shoot from nearly everywhere on the floor with impeccable accuracy and a release that is extremely difficult to contest. If Kevin Durant is a classic Coca-Cola can, then Paul George is Coke Zero. The biggest issue with George is that he's far too humble to ever refer to Westbrook as anything other than "the team's leader," "the heart of the city," or "my brother for life: win or lose,". What I'm suggesting is, is that it may be time for the silky smooth forward to take control of the franchise that needs him now more than ever, because he has the skillset for that responsibility.
PG-13 is an underrated playmaker. He averaged a career high 4.1 assists this season for the third time in his career, and has proved that he has the ball handling ability that very few near-7-footers have ever had.
Oklahoma City may have not even made the playoffs if it weren't for George's extraordinary season, but this is also true as well: Paul George will probably never win an NBA Finals (let alone make one) as long as Russell Westbrook is the alternating Batman-Robin to George's Batman-Robin. Until Westbrook accepts that he's the second best player on that team, and not the best player in the world, the Thunder will make a significant dent in the postseason. #TradeRussellKeepPaul