The Oklahoma City Thunder are not the same team they were a year ago. Yet, we are seeing a very similar rotation for them.
The Thunder second unit is being relied on in the same way it was last season when James Harden was leading it. That hasn’t worked out too well for the Thunder whose second unit of Eric Maynor, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and Hasheem Thabeet have been outscored by a point while on the floor together this season.
The Thunder coaching staff is looking into changing up the rotation somewhat and it would involve sitting Kevin Durant earlier.
It’s a strategy Brooks told me following practice today that the coaching staff began kicking around earlier in the day.
By sitting Durant earlier, the Thunder can accomplish three things: most importantly a more sensible rotation that relies less on only Eric Maynor and Kevin Martin to create, secondly, an opportunity for Westbrook to run as wild as his heart desires for longer stretches and, lastly, more rest for Durant.
This is an interesting idea that seems to make sense for the Thunder. We’ve seen Durant and Westbrook have to play the entire second half in the past two games mainly because their second unit wasn’t getting the job done in the first half. If the Thunder can avoid this by giving Durant more minutes in the second quarter, it could be huge.
This issue is that it will be hard to imagine taking Durant out during the first quarter when he has almost never done that over the past few years. It’s not as if the Thunder have been getting out to great starts this season either. Imagine OKC getting behind by 5-7 points after eight minutes and then taking Durant out. That seems like it would be a problem as well.
Really, it’s the philosophy that needs to be tinkered with the Thunder players this year. Since they are a new team in a sense, they can’t approach the game the same way they did last year. Changing up the substitution pattern will be a good way to start this.
Durant can go back to scoring more. He’s scored over 30 points just once so far this season while he has instead tried to focus on becoming more of a playmaker.
Even Westbrook is being a little too passive when he would be better off doing what he does best and shooting the ball. It has led to Westbrook trying to pick and choose his spots a little more and that has led to him struggling from the field.
The Thunder don’t have a Big 3 anymore. They have a Big 2 with a lot of good role players surrounding them. And the Thunder are not in good shape when neither of their Big 2 is on the floor.
“Obviously his points are going to go up,” said Kendrick Perkins of Durant to The Oklahoman. “And his shot attempts. I mean, anything can help. I just feel like at this time we can’t afford not to have Russ or Kevin on the court.”