5 ‘Last Dance’ lessons OKC Thunder can use to build title team

OKC Thunder huddle (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder huddle (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder center Steven Adams defends Karl-Anthony Towns (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder system must remain focused on defense

Michael Jordan was a talent that may never have a comparable rival. A player may eventually score 55 points or more in five playoff games because this generation places so much emphasis on the 3-ball.

Yet, what made the Bulls so difficult to beat was their otherworldly defense. While Rodman was a defensive specialist both Jordan and Pippen were top tier two-way players with their defense of the elite variety. MJ won the 1987-88 Defensive Player of the Year, led the NBA in steals on three occasions, and was a nine-time All-Defensive team member.  Pippen led the league in steals one season and was a 10-time All-Defensive team member.

During the series, Jeff Van Gundy appeared on First Take to discuss the battles his Knicks faced against these Bulls. It wasn’t their offense JVG cited as the reason they couldn’t beat the Bulls – it was their defense. Van Gundy called it the primary deterrent noting the size the Bulls had at every position and their rebounding prowess.

Again, for the OKC Thunder, the defense has always been a primary tenet of their identity. Presti is notorious for drafting players who possess strong defensive acumen. A great example this season, is the ascendance of Luguentz Dort. A primary reason he broke into the starting rotation is his defense.

Two keys which ring true through any era of the NBA is ‘defense travels’ and ‘defense wins championships’. After 64 games this iteration of the OKC Thunder ranked in the top-ten defensively (9th) and their clutch time defense is stellar.

Again, don’t expect the Thunder to shift gears when it comes to adding strong defenders. In fact, the key may be adding more two-way players as the team builds into the future.