Friday, July 8, 2016

Statistically Speaking

We could go over statistics all day...and some of them might make sense, while others don't.

In the aftermath of #KevinDunRan, I just want to review the team that Durant left, on some key statistics and how this team lined up with the other top teams in the league.  Average margin of victory shows how top tier teams fared against their opponents over the course of the season.

Average Scoring Margin

Rank Team  Margin
San Antonio
Golden State
Okla City

Average Biggest Lead

Rank Team Margin
San Antonio
Golden State
Okla City

By Quarter Margin, OKC, San Antonio, Golden State and Cleveland were all basically in the top 5, with the Thunder in the Top 4 for all but the 4th Quarter...(which wasn't a big surprise that we came in 14th).

Average Margin First Half

  Rank       Team   Margin
San Antonio
Golden State
Okla City

Average Margin Second Half

  Rank       Team   Margin
San Antonio
Golden State
Okla City

Even with the 73 win season, the Warriors didn't own the league when looking at competitive statistics against other teams when it came to scoring.  Sure they blew the doors off a bunch of teams and shot lights out, but competitively speaking, San Antonio owned the league...with Golden State and the Thunder still in the top 4 of each category.  These statistics account for how teams competed against each team they faced over the course of the season.

While there are many statistics that can assess the quality of a team, there are a few primary aspects that are generally focused upon:  Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), Turnover Percentage (TOV%), Offensive Rebound Percentage (ORB%), Free Throws per Field Goals Attempted (FT/FGA), Offensive Rating (Ortg), and Average Points (PTS).


The Thunder dominated Dallas, simply put, outpacing them in all but Turnover %.


The Thunder simply figured out a way to beat the Spurs, the team that dominated competitive gameplay on a day in, day out basis.  Giving up 4 of 6 categories, but still coming away with a victory.  How did they do this?  3 ways, Offensive Rebounding, Freethrow (getting to the line), and Defense.  On the defensive side, the Thunder allowed 105.6 in the regular season, but only 101.3 against San Antonio, which increased their defensive points per game by -4.3.  The Spurs on the other hand, allowed only 99 points per game, but gave up 100.8 to OKC, a +1.8 change.  Meaning, the Thunder simply played better defense than they did in the regular season, and the Spurs played worse defense.


Game 6 was the season, why?  I'm not sure.  The statistics certainly don't reflect it.  Playing 4-5 more games against the Warriors certainly would have benefited the Thunder, if the key factors held steady.  The Thunder outplayed the Warriors in 5 of 6 categories.  If you look at defensive rating, the Thunder allowed 106.1, a mere .5 rise off their season average, whereas Golden State gave up 3.3 more points in the series to the Thunder than they did in the regular season.  The difference here?  A poor 4th quarter showing and 2 key turnovers late in game 6.  The key point being that the Thunder matched up well with the Warriors, regardless of how many games they won.

Let's look at one more, for posterity's sake.


Same basic line as the Thunder vs. Golden State.  What was the difference?  A key block, by LeBron James and a key shot at the end by Kyrie Irving.

Statistics don't tell you everything, and the human factor certainly represents a major factor in games.  However, these statistics really don't tell you any other story, than the fact that the Oklahoma City Thunder were most certainly one of the best teams in the league.  Beating statistical leaders, and outplaying teams that were better than they were, on paper.  

I have loved Kevin Durant, the entire time I have watched the Thunder, which started when they arrived...I remember the day they received their name (I'm so glad it wasn't the Barons or Bison).  I do not necessarily blame Kevin for leaving OKC for another team.  I just simply don't agree with his rationale.  I don't think the statistics show that Golden State had a better chance of granting him a ring, if things held the same...and we know they don't.  Adding Durant, means losing his production and leadership, that's obvious.  

There's a good chance the Thunder won't be able to put up the same type of numbers as they did this year.  There's a decent chance the Warriors could put up better numbers than last year.

My take:  Curry made 805 field goals this year, Thompson 651...Durant made 698, and Russell made 656 (just for comparison).  The Warriors are banking on shots coming from somewhere, and one will have to ask just who's going to give up their shots for Durant...especially on a team that does pass the ball well...but isn't known for their humility.  Even with all the passing, the scoring distribution of the Warriors was the same as the Thunder, with Curry and Thompson shouldering the load. So, if Kevin thinks he's getting away from a point guard that "likes to shoot and dribble around", one has to ask why the hell he went from the frying pan, into the fire?  Particularly with the two time MVP, who also happens to currently be the 5th highest paid player on the Warriors.  That's a lot of money, and a lot of shots, and I'm not sure if there's enough shots to go around per dollar.

The Thunder on the other hand, have to replace Ibaka, who may have been a casualty in the effort to keep Durant.  He also may not have been a casualty, with his role continuing to look awkward, his on-ball defense lacking, and his stats dropping this year.  It may have been time to realize that Serge wasn't going to get a more complex offense, and still hadn't learned how to play defense.

Oladipo will add some solid scoring power, and defense.  Compared with Durant, Oladipo had 79 less assists, but 47 more steals.  Of course, he also made 273 less shots than Durant.  Certainly, he's not a replacement for Durant, but he gives the Thunder scoring power, and better defense.  He's also a lot cheaper.  

Replacing Ibaka, as much as we loved him, might be much easier.  This past season, he was 3rd in blocked shots, but didn't break the top 20 in any other category (rebounds or points).  In the NBA, that's replaceable.  Particularly when Kanter was 5th and Adams 13th in Offensive Rebounds.  Kanter was 18th in total rebounds.  The bottom line:  Adams and Kanter became who Serge was supposed to become under Perkins tutoring, but never did, that's why he was moved to a Stretch 4 (which didn't go well).  

I've been intentional about not getting into relationships, chemistry, or clubhouse issues in this post.  There's been enough anecdotal information flying around the radio and TV already.  This is simply a statistical review of the OKC Thunder this year, and looking at how they fared under Kevin's rationale for leaving.  

I told my wife, and also had a friend bring up the same story, as to how I feel about Kevin leaving.  As a kid, on the playground, the taller and older kids liked to make sure they were all on the same team.  In high school, as a Sophomore, we always played against the Varsity. There's no joy when the Varsity beats the JV.  However, there were days when we won.

That's why we play the game.

In closing, the Thunder need to replace:

512 Fieldgoals, 186 3-Point Fieldgoals, 447 Freethrows, 589 Rebounds, 361 Assists, 69 Steals, and 85 Blocks...while keeping it under a whopping 250 Turnovers.

We can do that.  We have the money.  The players are out there.  If only we had a GM that knows moneyball...

The future isn't as dim as it seems, Thunder Up!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

...And they're off, and on...and off again...and on again...can somebody tell me what to think?

So, two weeks into the season, and we find our regular, some of the time, once in a while blogger discussing the Thunder's current season with himself while looking at various and sundry statistics.

Today, the blogger has been seeking to answer some questions, but has decided to back up and actually frame the questions he's trying to answer.  

This is mostly because he's tired of hearing (and saying) things like:

1. And Waiters for another jump back 2 pointer with 17 seconds on the shot clock which will be a two pointer, with his foot on the line....WORST SHOT IN BASKETBALL.

2. Why is Kyle Singler from Duke, yet he's such a paperweight?

3. Didn't Anthony Morrow play on this team last year?  Did we trade him?

4. Does Donovan know that McGary was little-big Jesus 2.0 last year?  Why isn't he starting?  

5. Well, it's time for the flip of the coin in tonight's game...heads "Ibaka rocks", and tails "Ibaka's in the Congo".

6. Yes, yes, yes, We know Kevin and Russ can blow up a team in 2.5 minutes...but if we don't play defense in the last 5 minutes, what exactly are we getting?  

7. So, team's are starting to figure out Russ can do 3-4 things, but at light speed, and if you choose correctly, you can defend him and Kanter, and Durant, all at the same time...Step 1: Make Russ go to rim, Step 2 have all 5 guys meet him there.  Step 3, wait for him to pass to Kanter or Durant and double them.

I'll stop myself there, because you see where I'm going...there haven't been any magical Billy D fixes that make the Thunder look, well like the Warriors at 8-0.  

So.....let's take those remarks and see if the blogger can't identify some real questions, pump out some theories and really take this blog up a notch from almost a waste of your time:

1. What do we really want to see on Offense?  

Short Story, for backsetting...

- KD and Russ:  4th and 5th in Field Goals made in the NBA
- Russ and KD:  3rd and 8th in 2 pt field goals in the NBA
- KD:  5th in 3pt field goals in the NBA
- Russ:  1st in Assists (by 12), and tied for 7th in Steals in the NBA
- Serge:  5th in Blocks in the NBA
- Kanter:  18th in total rebounds...really 12th because of ties, as a second teamer
- Russ:  2nd in Turnovers in the NBA

Why the backstory...because we still don't suck.  That's an important point.  What we're trying to figure out, focuses on how we score our points and why we don't seem to spread it out a bit more, include other players, and be more consistent when it seems we need to score...rather than blowing up 12 in a row every 4-5 minutes and then going another 4-5 without scoring...right?

Irrelevant sidenote:  James Harden shooting 24% from 3pt and 37% from the field (we got 99 problems folks...).

Point:  The Thunder are going about business, as they usually do, with our two primary All-Stars doing what they do, very efficiently,  There are no worries about if the Thunder are going to A) get better at this mode of play, and B) continue to deliver day in day out.

Drummed up theory:

Watch the Spurs.  In going through the shot selection heat maps of our bench, and role players, I believe I've hit on a good insight.  The Spurs have Manu Ginosebleed and Matt Bonner.  Manu shoots 3's from the 45-50 degree angle, and Bonner shoots from the baseline to about 33 degrees.

Guess where those guys get the ball when they run a play and they're open?  Right on those spots.

Anybody Remember Robert Horry?  Dude made a career getting 7 rings from 3 different teams by doing one thing...hitting the corner 3, whenever, however the team needed it. know where he was?  You know where he got the ball?  Yep, in the corner wide open...Bang!  Ring!

The Thunder have a complex problem on their hands.  They need to leverage the shot and play making abilities of their role and bench players, in an offense that creates shots for those players, in a consistent and routine way.  Easy enough?  Right?  Well, that offense also has to support the basic pick and roll, isolation and dribble, drive, shoot, dish chemistry of Russell and Kevin Durant.  

If you get the baking powder wrong, by just a little bit, the brownies will suck.

If you make the same recipe, perfectly, at a different altitude, the brownies can suck.

This is a complicated problem, which won't be solved overnight.  But, understanding the problem may help set some context and perspective:

Billy Donovan has to win games (currently with the big two scoring a crapload of points), and continue to work on evolving an offense that's versatile to get the right guys the right shots in their spots, at the right time.  And that's even if we have guys that know their heat maps well enough...Morrow, good heat map, knows his NOT getting the ball in those spots currently...(mainly because he's on the bench, but that's beside the point).  This is a work in progress, and may help lend an understanding as to why Morrow's sitting right now, and we've seen odd substitutions so far.  Hopefully, Billy D will see what he wants to see and starts with a more productive offense outside of KD and Russ.

Irrelevant sidenote:  Jeremy Lamb has 76 less minutes than Dion Waiters, but shoots a better percentage, and has the same number of total points.  Relevant note:  Jeremy's heat map shows he's getting the ball more often in the same places he made shots last year... 

2. Once upon a time, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...weren't we good at Defense?

I don't feel like looking it up, but we all remember when the Thunder were in the Top 5 of the NBA in Defense, made it to the Conference Finals, the Finals....and then it seems we decided not to play defense.  The blogger doesn't have as much to say on this topic, because defense with the Thunder really does get better as the season goes on.  The Thunder may have to rely on outscoring opponents more often than not, but don't be surprised when the defense starts to kick up.

What does good defense really mean?  

Here's what good defense means to the blogger in the NBA:

- Contested shots by opposing playmakers, not open, not at the rim.
- Stop dribble penetration.
- Make passing the ball difficult for the opposing team.
- Block out and rebound, no second chance points.
- Nobody goes through the lane without a body on them...(watch what teams are doing to KD).
- Don't get lost...ever.

What does playing good defense look like:

- Shots from opposing teams with less than 5 on the shot clock.
- One shot, one chance, Thunder rebound.
- Knocked / tipped balls on passing lane passes.  
- Point guards going all the way under the rim and back out again with nowhere to pass.
- Making the opponent reverse the ball...this is effective when you see the point dribble and back up to reset....not a Spurs lightning reversal for a wide open 3 on opposite side.
- Pick and Roll defense that results in a 5-10 footer, rather than a layup or dunk.

Point:  Thunder defenders are getting beat, they are inconsistently stopping the ball penetration and not hedging the pick and roll well at times.  BUT, at other times, there are flashes of excellent defense. This needs to improve.  Remember, this is the first go-round for playing each team this year, and every time we play a team the second time, we'll get better.  

Final Point:  Russell Westbrook leads the NBA with 10.9 assists per game, that's an easy double double per game...exactly where are the comments (cough Skip Blameless cough) about Russell not being a true point guard?  He's also 51% on assist percentage, meaning every 2nd pass results in an assist.

Stats and heat maps taken from 

Thunder Up!

Monday, October 26, 2015

On your marks...get set...stay.

This Wednesday, the OKC Thunder will open the 2015-2016 season against the San Antonio Spurs.

This Wednesday, could be the last first game of Kevin Durant as an OKC centerpiece.

This Wednesday, we see what Billy D brings.

This Wednesday, I'll be there...that's gonna be cool, with Dr. Wife.

But, before I get into that, some housekeeping...

New URL, since Scotty Brooks has moved on, I needed to update the URL, since I'm now the Thunder's only Scotty. will be the new address...anybody see what I did there...thunderocity (ferocity), Thunder O City...(I'm so subtle, I crack myself up).

One more thing before we get into the season...

In the NBA, which I've never been in...has to shrink your world.  As a player, you are insulated every 7-8 months a year.  Fans aren't friends, sometimes friends aren't friends, and I would take a solid bet that over the years, coaches become true friends to many players.

It was just the other day, I read that Flip Saunders wouldn't be on the sidelines for the first few games of the season, due to his battle with cancer.  I was going to write something about what a loss that would be for the T-Wolves...

Flip lost that battle today.  Here's a memorial from Kevin Garnett...a player I love to love and love to hate.

Embedded image permalink

On to the season...what's up?

We know a lot about what we don't know...but, if you even pulled up the box score of our last preseason game, you know at least this much:

1. Russ got a triple double.
2. KD had 17 points with about 4 minutes to go in the 4th...ended up with 29.
3. Enes and Steven had a lot of fouls.
4. CamPayne...who is that guy?

It will be interesting to see what happens this year.  I believe that Billy D has worked on a couple of things that we'll see early in the season, as a work in progress.  He's overhauled the offense.  It may look the same, because...well, it's the NBA and they all look the same.  However here's a few things I've caught on to that'll be good to look for:

1. Spacing.  In the past, Brooks put the guys into sets, and let the offense flow from there.  Which was good, when it was good, and stagnant when it wasn't good.  When executing a pick and roll, the floor spacing has to be enough to give the play time to develop.  If the spacing is too tight, then the defense can shade into the play area and hose it all up.  Last year, this resulted in Russell's teleportation to the rim play.  A good play, when it's there, but when it's not, it's rough...don't worry, we'll still see quite a bit of this.  On the other hand, with correct spacing, the defense will have to either hedge with the offside post or wing defender...which will give strong cut capabilities to guys that never got buckets last year.  Without Perk, the offside big will get dunks...instead of lay-ins, and Roberson, Singler, Morrow, and Durant will get slicing options from the opposite side of the key down the lane.  Spacing will also help with Morrow and Durant (and hopefully Novak) on the spot up three, as the defender has to drop to keep Russ from hanging on the rim.  Spacing will bring more guys into the mix for team created shots, instead of just one on one playmaking.

2. Defense.  We used to have a killer defense...I think we'll be better this year.  The key will be ball-side pressure, with back side defenders being smarter and aware.  They'll have to figure out our weakness last year where drives to the bucket drew the offside big (Ibaka, Kanter, and Adams) which resulted in a block, or foul, or a bucket.  More times than not, it was a bucket...Serge leaving his man to protect the rim gives an easy dish.  Kanter, much maligned for his defense, actually stayed home, as the anti-Ibaka...until it was too late and many times just gave an And One.

3. Russ not running point.  In the preseason, this happened a few times, which translates into a solid experiment.  Westbrook's strength and quickness make him an excellent post player in certain situations...(I know, but it happens).  When defended against a smaller, or slower player, look for Russ to be lower on the baseline and have an opportunity to post up.  Another option will be for him as the 2, which has meant that Kevin was running point.  With other options at point (Augustin, CamPayne and possibly Waiters), Westbrook and Durant will be loose on the floor with two bigs...this could be fun to watch, if there's some structured movement.

4. Staggered lineups.  I still think we'll see a lot of Russell and KD on the floor at the same time, but staggering their minutes, as Brooks did, will continue.  The upside on having at least one of them on the floor, then overlapping with both, and rotating to leave the other as lineups change give the Thunder an all-star scoring option on the floor.  They can't both score at the same time (as in one bucket can't go to both of them), so staggering their time creates an upside to wear down a defense and maximize scoring opportunities.

5. 3 point shooting.  I don't have much to say here, except that with KD back, I hope it gets contagious.  If we can shoot close to 35-40% from 3, we should be fine.  Anything better than that, and the Thunder will  be incredibly hard to stop.

On the Tweetgram and Instabook

I'm not the best on the Tweeter.  However, I am @xray9378 on Twitter.  Dr. Wife and I generally have the Tweets open during the Thunder games, unless we're behind, or there.  There's a bunch of great, awesome and hilarious folks out there to follow.  So, follow me and you'll get access to Dr. Wife who knows all the cool kids to follow.

Once in a while I'll tweet, but generally my daughter yells something like "Ghheeeeez, Dad why do you have to be so old and last year in your tweets".

I do facebook most of you know, so I'll be there as well.

Why care?   You may not, but there's this whole internet connection thingie that people talk about.  For me, staying in touch with you through the interwebs still makes me feel like we're having a beer and watching the game that's that.

Thunder UP!