You don’t need to do much more than watch a few games of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to know how awesome each is.
STATS LLC is using a new player tracking system called SportVU that tracks everything individual players do on the court. The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of 15 teams in the league using this technology.
Zach Lowe of Grantland looked at these stats and had this to write about Durant and Westbrook:
Post-ups? Durant is 26-of-37 from the floor when he catches a pass within 12 feet of the rim, which is the current STATS definition of “post touch.” The Thunder average nearly 1.6 points per possession when this happens, a top-10 mark among camera players, and a stat that makes you think Durant should get more than the paltry 1.27 such touches he averages per game.
That’s the thing about Durant: Scroll through these categories one by one, and you’ll say to yourself, “He should be doing this particular thing more often!” Then you realize you’ve said that for every category — drives, post-ups, elbow touches — and you just shake your head.
As for Westbrook, his numbers are merely “good,” but they also contradict the (dying) notion that he’s an irresponsible ball hog. Westbrook has attempted a shot on just half of his drives, a below-average mark for a high-scoring guard (and in general), and has coughed the ball up on only 5 percent of those drives.
Here’s one that surprised me: Serge Ibaka averages only 1.59 elbow touches per game, the fourth-lowest number among nearly 90 players with at least 40 total elbow touches…But Ibaka knows what he’s there to do: shoot. He has jacked it up on 50 percent of his elbow touches, the highest such rate in the league. Ibaka has hit 41 percent from there so far, which is solid, but certainly not great.
It’s not surprising that Durant is a monster like this. Everyone is always screaming for him to get more touches and take more shots. This year when you’re shooting split are 50-40-90, it’s no surprise that means you are great from anywhere on the floor.
The Westbrook stats are nice to see too because his driving and kicking has been one of the biggest improvements in his game this year. He’s not taking as many reckless shots at the rim anymore and doing a much better job of finding teammates which has resulted in his assists going back up from 5.5 a year ago to 8.1 this season.
And Ibaka has been extremely aggressive looking for his shot this season. It would be nice to see him starting to get more touches but it’s hard to ever make him the focal point on offense with Durant and Westbrook around. Still, the Thunder are doing it a little more this season and Ibaka is taking advantage.
Lowe also noted some things about James Harden in this piece. Basically, teams score more often when “drives” take place in the offense. Harden drives to the rim almost as much as anyone in the league and when he does, the Rockets are more efficient than anyone.
It confirms the notion of getting into the paint to make things happen. Drives don’t just result in shots for the driver but they can mean kick-outs for threes, getting fouled or simply making the defense work a little bit harder. Westbrook ranks third in the league (among teams with cameras) averaging 9.3 drives per game.
These stats are cool and confirm a lot of things about how great the Thunder have been this season. We will be sure to keep an eye on them and update you on any more statistical trends throughout the season.