Lebron killed the Thunder in last years Finals.

Does Ronnie Brewer Matter?

Ronnie Brewer
Ronnie Brewer provides a difficult Matchup for The King.

For all the hype that surrounded it, this year’s trade deadline was a
sparkler, and not the potential firecracker that many believed it
could be. Nearly all of the big names stayed put, so outside of the
Rudy Gay salary-dump at the end of January, the most captivating trade
was the Rockets hijacking Thomas Robinson from the Kings for a handful
of change and some lint Daryl Morey found in his pocket. That’s only if the
Bassy Telfair/Hamed Haddadi swap didn’t stop your heart. This left
most of us basketball diehards feeling like we had ordered caviar at a
fancy restaurant but were instead brought a week-old Big Mac,
deep-fried in disappointment.

However there was one trade that went somewhat under the radar and has
the potential to, wait for it, ACTUALLY MATTER! Ronnie Brewer, who
started 34 games this year for the Knicks, recently fell out of their
rotation, and was traded to the Thunder for a 2014 2nd round pick.
Brewer putting up career low numbers offensively, shooting just 36
percent from the field for a true shooting percentage of .432. Not
very good, but on a team with Durant, Westbrook, Kevin Martin, and
Serge Ibaka (averaging a career high field goal % and has even made 12
of his attempted 34 3s, for an efficient .35%) the shots will be
few and far between for Brewer. His role with the Thunder will
be as a high-energy defensive guy to have on the court
when Thabo Sefolosha is not for 15 to 25 minutes a night. Thabo has
had the 3rd best plus/minus on the Thunder, and when he is on the
bench, their team defense slips, all per 82games.com. Ronnie Brewer
allows them to run essentially the same lineups with Thabo sitting as
with him in the game, without seeing too much of a dramatic decrease
in either their offense or defense, as Sefolosha allows 103 points per
100 possessions, while Brewer gives up 106. Ronnie is also taller and
bigger than Thabo, which is where this trade really begins to make
sense matchup-wise, specifically against Lebron and the Heat, where Thabo has proved to small and Durant too foul prone.

The Thunder have a great chance at returning to the Finals again this
year, and if they do, the most likely matchup will be with the Miami
Heat again. One of the biggest downfalls to last year’s sweep for OKC
were the matchups the Heat could create by using Bosh at the five and
James at the four. This forced Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka to
chase 3 point shooters all day long and put Durant on LeBron,
resulting in foul trouble (he finished three of the four finals games
with 5 fouls, compared to his career average of 1.9) for Durant. With Brewer, the Thunder now have the option of playing
the Heat at their own game- small ball. A lineup of Ibaka, Durant,
Brewer, Sefolosha/Martin, and Westbrook allows them to battle the
floor spacing of Miami, with Ibaka guarding Bosh, Brewer trying to
slow down James, Durant on Haslem/Battier, and either Westbrook or Sefolosha
harassing Wade, depending on whether or not Martin is in the game. It
also takes stress off Durant from guarding the most physically imposing
and gifted player on the planet, and if both Brewer and Sefolosha are
playing at the same time, it even allows Westbrook to cover Chalmers on the defensive end. This is all contingent on if Scott
Brooks recognizes how the Heat basically eliminate any usefulness that
Kendrick Perkins has left. If he does, it turns into a game of great
athletes and 3 point shooters spacing the floor, and combined with the
interesting Durant-James rivalry/friendship, could combine for one of
the most entertaining Finals ever.

While he may not be an elite defender, Ronnie Brewer still provides
the Thunder with something they did not have last year; a solid
defender who is relatively the same size as LeBron (Brewer is 6’7”,
220, James(6’8”, 250), and whose name is not Kevin Durant. In the 2011
Eastern Conference Finals, Brewer’s Bulls played the villainous Heat
in the Eastern Conference Finals in the first year of the Big 3’s
reign, and lost to them in 5 games. Despite this fact, LeBron didn’t
have his greatest stretch scoring the ball, hitting 44% of his
attempts, compared to 47% throughout the rest of the playoffs. Now not
all of this can be contributed to Ronnie Brewer, as Luol Deng also
guarded him during these games, but when Deng was not on the floor,
Brewer proved to be, at the very least, capable in guarding LeBron,
which is about as nice as compliment you can get in that situation.
There is no stopping him. Hell, even slowing him down is nearly
impossible; However, following easy bucket after easy bucket by putting
someone too small or too slow on him isn’t the answer, so throwing a
capable guy like Brewer at him is the best the Thunder can do without
getting Durant into terrible foul trouble.

If the Thunder win the NBA Championship this year, I’m willing to bet
everything in my bank account (not very much to begin with) on that it
won’t be because Ronnie Brewer shut LeBron James down. But he offers a
much more suitable option than anyone else on the Thunder previously
had when it came to guarding the King. There are still questions
involved- Can OKC return to the Finals? Will Scott Brooks keep banging
his head against the brick wall that is Kendrick Perkins? Will the
Brewer trade prove to be beneficial, and can it help the Thunder
conquer the Heat? While all we can do is speculate now, in just a
short time we’ll know these answers. And maybe after we know these
answers, we can look back on what appeared to be an uneventful trade
deadline and see just how much it actually mattered.