The Oklahoma City Thunder were second in the league last season in offensive efficiency behind only the San Antonio Spurs. They did this despite finishing last in the league in assists and turnovers per game.
The Thunder are returning essentially the same cast of players from last season that earned them a trip to the NBA Finals. There has been some talk of changing up a few things on the offensive end this year.
“There’s been a ton of talk about playing [Kevin] Durant and [Russell] Westbrook in the post more. That alone should open up a lot of options,” Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman said during a chat. “[Coach Scott] Brooks also has talked about getting [Serge] Ibaka more involved, and [Nick] Collison says he wants to be more aggressive with his shot. Now, all of those things are goals rather than plans. It remains to be seen how the Thunder will actually implement those things.”
We’ve always heard and seen Durant posting up more and more. That is a pretty obvious progression in his game and for the Thunder. The more interesting note here made by Mayberry is the idea of Westbrook going into the post more.
Westbrook barely posted up last season, just 5.3 percent of the time on offense, and he scored 0.77 points per possession, which isn’t very good. He shot 35.4 percent on shots from the post and drew a shooting foul from the post 9.6 percent of the time, which is above average.
That is a small sample size and nearly all of Westbrook’s post-ups were not designed plays. In the Thunder offensive sets, Westbrook is never designed to go into the post, he just ended up there 5.3 percent of the time.
The closest thing to designed plays having Westbrook go to the post come off sideline and baseline out-of-bounds plays for the Thunder. Every now and then Brooks gets Westbrook in an isolation spot on the left side of the floor after these inbounds plays. They are quit hitting designed to catch the defense off guard as a lot of times when inbounding from these spots, there is less time left on the shot clock.
Westbrook is always a load to handle on offense and especially in these spots, although the numbers don’t exactly back it up. We know Westbrook will always have a significant athletic advantage over anyone trying to guard him at his position. Posting him up and starting him with the ball closer to the rim is a more efficient way to take advantage of Westbrook’s superior athleticism.
The next step to making this work is having Westbrook work on his game from these areas more. Westbrook is one of the hardest workers in the NBA and every year since coming to the league he has improved his game.
The Thunder need to go into the post more to get offense and that will start with Durant. But Durant isn’t on the level yet where he can carry a team’s entire post-up offense. Westbrook would be the perfect complement to also start posting up more.
We will get out first look at the Thunder tomorrow night at 8 p.m. EST as the Thunder open up their preseason vs. the Houston Rockets.