Thunder in the news: Original OK3 Harden, KD get heat for too much iso-ball

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 17: Kevin Durant #35, James Harden #13, and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Western Conference All-Stars take a photo before the 2013 NBA All-Star Game on February 17, 2013 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Bruce Yeung/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 17: Kevin Durant #35, James Harden #13, and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Western Conference All-Stars take a photo before the 2013 NBA All-Star Game on February 17, 2013 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Bruce Yeung/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Former Thunder players Kevin Durant and James Harden come under fire for iso-ball overuse.

As fans of the OKC Thunder it’s hard to forget there once was an iteration of this franchise which featured three young stars. Russell Westbrook is the lone remaining member of the trio in OKC. Harden exited in the trade of 2013-14. Durant followed suit on his own volition, leaving in 2016 free agency.

After this summer’s NBA Awards it’s likely all three will also own MVP Awards. And, while there is an argument to be made the trio would dominate if still all in OKC there are those who say there wouldn’t have been enough ball to go around. Part of the reason why is each of the three tend to perform best when they are the key ball handler and distributor.

Harden Isolation:

When Chris Paul joined Harden in Houston that was the argument, and yet the pair have been highly successful. Still, the Rockets despite their vaunted offense primarily occurs via isolation. Granted, in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals (WCF) Houston focused on ball movement. That’s not typical of the squad though.

An article by writer Ally Gwidt of isportsweb compares how similar Harden and Westbrook‘s games are. Moreover, Gwidt cites the isolation and lack of ball movement issues.

"The Beard has failed to generate much for his team in Game 1 and 2, as he religiously resorts to his overused isolation drive or step-back jumper from beyond the arc. Many could argue that this is just his and Houston’s game, but in the end, when you are facing off against one of the most adaptable franchises in the league, you cannot have just one game."

The Rockets dished 23 assists in Game 2, but that is the exception rather than the rule. In season Houston ranked 27th in assists with 21.5 per game. This postseason they are averaging 20.6 per game. Arguably the lower amount of assists in the postseason is tied to the top defensive squads Houston has faced. Particularly the Jazz and now the Warriors.

If Houston wants to win the series they’ll need to replicate the ball/player movement in the remaining games. That might be a tough task since they don’t naturally do it, as the in season numbers show.

Shade thrown at Durant (by Draymond Green’s Mom!):

Unlike the Rockets the Warriors are used to ball movement ranking first in assists per game both in season (29.3) and in the postseason (27.8).

So it was pretty funny when Durant received shade following the Dubs Game 2 loss. Worse, it came from teammate Draymond Green’s Mom!  Hey, for as much as Russell Westbrook took his share of heat over the Game 6 and Game 7 losses to the Warriors in 2015-16 the truth is KD was equally at fault.

This season, Durant is leading his Warriors in the WCF as the one of the Hampton 5 to consistently score. At issue however is his single assist through two games (none in Game 2). Even Draymond’s Mom was calling for more ball movement.

CAUTION – following tweet includes language which may offend some. And, in fairness Mary Babers (Dray’s Mom) is awesome and shows no favoritism. Babers is just as likely to call out her son for playing poorly. Still, it points to KD’s normal tendency under pressure — which is to play in isolation.

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More from Thunderous Intentions

OKC Thunder fans constantly hear Russell Westbrook has the ball in his hands too much. And, Russ receives shade for playing isolation ball predominantly with an extremely high usage rate.

Based on the original OK3 trio however, is seems like each of their tendencies leans toward isolation ball. Sure, KD has adapted to the Warriors pass friendly system. Yet, when Durant is put in high pressure situations the natural tendency emerges.

Perhaps the bigger question is did the first OK3 learn in a system which focused on isolation ball and because of it can’t easily transition out of it?

More likely, is each of these generational stars is an alpha dog. And, given that fact it’s expected the stars would be the guy with the ball.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, see you back here tomorrow.