Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Offense and The Offensive...

Over the past few seasons, as the Thunder have have risen to the elite ranks of the NBA, a common point of detraction has been the Thunder's offensive strategy, structure, or lack thereof.  Thunder fans have evolved from wondering if Russell Westbrook would contend with Kevin Durant for the alpha dog spot, wondering if he'd pass the ball, to watching the Dynamic Duo transform into a blood curdling, fear inducing element for opposing defenses.  Russell has continued to improve each year, while Durant extends his dominance beyond scoring.  We've come from questioning the number of shots Westbrook takes compared to Durant, and Durant's perceived ability to pass up shots that he'd have taken 3 years ago, to a new era of watching Russell fine tune his mid-range game, teleportation-like drives to the basket, as Kevin continues to garner NBA scoring titles.  

As fans, we've always focused on the Dynamic Duo, and wondered if the other Thunder players will ever become a part of an offensive system that keeps coaches awake at night...generally arriving at the conclusion that KD and Sasha Fierce are our primary offense and there's little hope for a Spurs well organized guerrilla attack offensive that involves every player on the floor in a lethal way.  

Away from the Thunder's primary guns, we've watched Serge Ibaka continue advancing to his ultimate potential as a big man, gotten over the Harden trade (almost), and witnessed the maturation of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb surprise us to no end.  Still, many fans still cling to the idea that the Thunder have a "willy-nilly" concept of offense that relies mostly on a pick and roll setup with one or two players actually being involved in scoring attempts.  Fans long to see an offensive setup that starts a clock-work effect of passes, picks, and cuts resulting in open baskets, or strong moves inside the lane for easy points.  I'll gladly admit that I've shared this, it's time to look at this in a different light, and pick it apart a bit.

The majority of well run offensive sets are generally based upon two elements, player movement away from the ball, and ball movement, with ball movement generally equating the number of touches by players in any given possession.  We watch the Spurs, or the Heat repeatedly pass the ball around and find an easy bucket.  However, the flip side of the "touches equals good, organized offense" theory, focuses on the scoring efficiency of the offense in general.  Keep in mind the fundamental elements of basketball, each pass poses a risk, and a single player scoring all your points can be double or triple teamed.  

The question becomes:  Is there a balance, and do the Thunder have that balance?  

Could the theory of the Thunder's lack of offensive organization and method, be a mis-perception of the style of offense the Thunder rely on to win games?  I don't recall anyone really criticizing the Jordan-Pippen era Bulls as having an unbalanced offense...Championship trophies silence most, if not all critics.

So, about that offense, touches, and on whether the Thunder have it together offensively, or just make it up as they go along, knowing that KD and Russ are there to score...Let's look at a drawring, as Simon would put it.

Graphic pulled form:

As you can see from the chart above, the beloved Spurs rank a highly efficient ratio of high-touches to high-points.  Whereas the Thunder rank lower in touches, but still have a highly efficient points per possession.  The key to look at here, are all the other teams... 

Charlotte achieves a high number of touches per possession, but can't score.  Golden State relies on Stephen Curry with the lowest number of touches per possession.  So, what can we pull from this chart?  Is there a balance?

Highly efficient scoring NBA teams have differing styles of offense that can still rate highly efficient, with fewer, or more touches per possession.  Interestingly enough, the lower right quadrant represents the majority of the clustering of teams, with 12 teams achieving a high rate of touches per game, yet remaining below the NBA scoring average per possession.  More touches does not necessarily mean efficiency, or assurance of offensive scoring.

My point:  The NBA first season is about scoring the basketball on offensive end, and there are many ways to accomplish this task.  The Thunder have a highly efficient scoring per game average (currently 3rd in the league at 105.9 per game), while managing about a touch less than the NBA average.  

This year, we've witnessed the emergence of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, who have both impressed game to game, while Serge Ibaka continues to grow his game.  Meanwhile, Steven Funaki [several other middle names] Adams, has been a surprise to everyone in his ability to step into the NBA as a rookie, and play meaningful minutes...leading to an exciting buzz that, if he continues to grow, he's going to be an awesome center in the NBA.  Clearly, Reggie leads this pack of role players, largely due to Serge's improvements in shooting made last year.  However, the additional scoring threats the Thunder needed to fulfill the loss of James Harden appear not to be a manifestation of a single player, but rather a group of players, each inching along towards being excellent contributors to a team already possessing the gauntlet of Durant and Westbrook.  

I've taken to something Royce Young, who writes the posed early in the season, when he referred to the contributing troup in a singular stat...something like Reggie Funaki Lamb.  If you combine the statistics of the two or three of the secondary contributors, you begin to see the third element of the Thunder's offense.  

For instance...
  • Reggie Lamb  (per 36 minutes):  
    • 3 Pt = 36%
    • 2 Pt = 53%
    • Ast = 3.5
    • Ft = 97% (you do NOT want to foul Reggie)
    • Stl = 1.15
    • Reb = 4.8

Let's compare that with Harden's last season with the Thunder,

  • James Harden (per 36 minutes): 
    • 3 Pt = 39%
    • 2 Pt = 49%
    • Ast = 4.2
    • Ft = 84%
    • Stl = 1.1 
    • Reb = 4.7

 If we are still holding on to the James Harden trade, which has almost completely lost its grip, in my opinion, then we see that the growth of production within the Thunder's younger lineup is producing similar numbers, but with one this case, there are two of them to guard.  

What about those touches?  What about the offensive sets, and structure?

The Thunder currently sit 15th in the league where assists are concerned, which puts them in the middle of the NBA pack.  Revisiting the points per touch chart above, I think we can safely arrive at a conclusion that the Thunder have an offensive mindset, and structure that relies on less touches, while still producing the leagues 3rd best offensive production.  The main element to look at here:  while the Thunder rely on Russell and Durant heavily...they should.  If you had Barry Sanders in the backfield, you'd give him the ball, right?  So, regarding the rest of the offense, what we are discovering is that the Presti / Brooks model of using the team's developing youth for distributing the scoring responsibility outside of Durant and Westbrook doesn't focus on a specific player.  Jackson, Lamb, and Ibaka are contributing 17, 16, and 16 points, respectively per 36 minutes.  That's solid production coming from our most productive big man, and adding a powerful punch from the bench.  

One last word on assists...taken from Royce Young on KD's points:

"Assisted by numbers this season for KD: five from Nick Collison, eight from Serge Ibaka, nine from Kendrick Perkins, 10 from Thabo Sefolosha, 13 from Reggie Jackson… 39 from Russell Westbrook."  [Thru 12/9/2013]

What does this end up?

A pass to Durant, generally concludes the number of touches per possession...which for the league's scoring leader, isn't a bad thing.  Although it can reduce the overall number of touches (particularly if its the first or second pass).  The Thunder's relentless tactic of attacking the rim, most often results in a shot, or a one-pass dish for a shot...again, reducing the number of touches per possession.

Brooks continues to mature his offense, along with his players.  Fan perception can be misleading, because we certainly don't have all the information that Brooks and his staff hold.  However, if you look at the makeup of the Thunder's offensive armory, their development, and the fact that a team bent on attacking the basket will have less touches, the Thunder remain highly efficient on the offensive end. When you have the league's leading scoring champion, and a point guard that attacks the rim like a cheetah on a antelope...that pass will probably be the last of the possession.  Fewer passes doesn't necessarily equate to inefficency, or lack of offensive production.  Particularly when Durant's shooting over 50% from 2, and Russell continues to shake off the rust at 44%.  It simply means that the Thunder continue to mature their offensive attack, according to the personnel they have on the floor.

I wouldn't worry, this first season keys on redefining the chemistry of this team, realizing the potential of the younger players, and getting them ready for the playoffs...the NBA's proverbial 2nd season.  

Believe me...across the nation, coaches are unsettled in their sleep while muttering the likes of "Reggie Funaki Lamb"...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Being Torn Apart...(not about the Thunder)

"Where does the love of God go, when the waves turn the minutes to hours?" sang Gordon Lightfoot, decades ago.

Yet, there's a ring of truth for that, yesterday and today, here in the Heartland, as we reach, bend, and stretch our minds to find the love and grace of our God in the aftermath of yesterday's disaster.  

Barry Trammel wrote of the ultimate horror, "Where are the children?" 

And I wondered about the children, who cries for you?  Who cries out for you, when the things most sedentary, safe, and secure that you can imagine, are literally ripped out of your grasp?

What do you hold on to?  When you grasp a tree, a tree you couldn't fall with a car, without hours of work with an ax...and it is ripped up in seconds, along with you?

What do you depend on, when you're in a building, that in a million years you couldn't pull down with your 3rd grade hands, disintegrates around you?  You watch it being pulled apart in seconds...the roof above your head is gone, the walls rumbling and crumbling in on you.  When you see a car fly the air?

What do you do, when you are in a storm shelter, and the door is ripped open, or off?  You did what you were supposed to do!  You took cover, you got in the cellar, only to have the Beast overcome your safehold.

There are things in this life that we depend upon each and every day, things we cannot move, break, and destroy...and we learn that these things are safe.  Buildings, homes, schools, and cars...only to have that innocent perspective ripped away from us in a flash by Mother Nature.

You reach out mentally, from home, wanting to help, not wanting to watch TV, but being pulled, like a black hole to the only information source that can help you find out more....morbidly watching, rationalizing that maybe there's something good about to happen.

Because, for most of us, we understand the dangers...and then we forget.  The day before, I watched a nice and beautiful storm swirling around our heads, hoping to see my first tornado live...even as the NWS, located here in Norman stopped momentarily monitoring to seek shelter themselves.  10 minutes later, that beautiful swirl dropped a tornado that killed two.  Yesterday the Monster drove through Moore like a gigantic bulldozer...destroying everything in its way.

Then it isn't fun anymore, it isn't interesting...still fascinating, you watch the TV...literally staring at something that looks like a fake monster eating up a is surreal, and somewhere in your head, you know that not everybody is going to be ok.  You slowly make the connection from 'awestruck' to 'serious and deadly situation'...and yet you can't quite meld the two together in a cohesive thought.  "Do I turn the TV off?"   "Do I keep watching?"  

I sent the kids outside, in the immediate aftermath...because of a quote I once heard..."you cannot unsee what you've seen".  Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but I'll let a bit of their innocence escape to be stolen a bit later in life.

Then you realize it hit a school....two schools...and you see the pictures, and you hear the newscaster say "Oh NO...No....Oh my God"...and you do the same math in your mind...Not everybody will be ok.  There are people's children...that will no be ok.

My son forgot his lunch today, and I was barely able to hold it together as I walked down the hallway of his school to his room...imagining the walls being pulled, twisted, broken, with shit flying everywhere...I had to shut off for a minute.  I made it to my car, before I started to cry.

We ask "What do we do?  To cope?  How many times does the same damn town have to get hit?" a sense of relief that it wasn't your city or town...Guilt, shame, angst, and amazement swirl around as you sit in your home, nice and safe.

You volunteer.  You give blood. You donate.  You see who you know that's affected, and help.  You move, that's what you do...numb with disappointment, grief, and serious violation of personal safety...yet spurned on by a sense of compassion, community and identity as an Oklahoman, or as most of our country today, an Oklahuman.  

Last night, before I went to bed...I watched as rescuers continued to dig through the rubble, looking for children and teachers.  I hoped...but, eventually you have to go to bed...there's another day to live tomorrow.  The practicality of life smacks you in the face, your kids have to go to school, you have to work, the world continues to turn.  It makes you want to scream "Stop for just a damn minute, World!!  Something very wrong just happened, and I'm quite ready to move on just yet!!"

As I tucked my kids in, they both told me that they no longer liked storms, and that the Joplin tornado hit in the middle of the night.  I told them that it was my job to keep them safe, and that I would be watching the weather, and that my phone beeped really loud when a warning came on....but, I was never able to shake the dad on TV, saying his daughter was still buried out there was his job too.

Frail, our grasp on life is...and control can be a serious illusion.

I don't know if the God I believe in hears tears as prayer, or if it even helped...but last night, and again today...

Who cries for the children....I do.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Ok, we lost.  Everybody get their "not suprised" look wiped off their face.  We had hope, we had heart, we just didn't have enough to do it without Russ.  

Which is a good thing, because last year, and the year before, there was a lot of talk about trading Russ...(courtesy of Uncle Skip), heck even I wondered two years ago if he'd ever settle down...

He didn't settle down, he just got more accurate...and lethal...and faster...and better.  

He'll still drive you nuts on days, but hey it is the NBA.

So, we lost, and here's a few things we're NOT gonna miss from this season:

- That sinking feeling of the end of the world, when Perk gets a long rebound and starts to lead the break.

- That idiotic notion that it would only happen to you once, when Kevin Martin catches a pass for a wide open 3...with his foot on the line.

- Wanting to throw a skillet through the TV when Serge makes his first three shots, gets 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the 1st quarter and then takes the next two quarters off.

- Biting the pillow in anger because Nick Collison got another foul for breathing on someone.

- Wondering who Ronnie Brewer pissed off to go from 700 minutes in the first half of the season to 114 in the second half.

- Checking to see who got the Pike Pass tonight.

- Seeing KD and Perk both shoot the ball with the opposite respective notions, "We know where this is headed".

- Wondering if Serge's girlfriend is jealous of the game ball.

- Trying to imagine how KD can have 55 points when it seems like he's missed every shot you wanted him to make.

- Checking the bench to see if Ronnie Brewer has any sharp objects or firearms pointed at himself.

- Trying to maintain your love of Scott Brooks, while at the same time trying not to cuss in front of your kids, "Scott, for the love...why the *&%$ is Nick on the bench?"

- Listening to any announcers but BD and Grant talk about missing Harden.  In fact, pretty much listening to any announcers but BD and Grant...because it seems nobody likes the Thunder, except for Hubie Brown and he's like 112.

- Wondering if Scott Brooks is ever gonna break his composure in a press conference and say something like "listen here, Perk's the best post defender in the NBA and if he never scores another point, I'll still play him".

- Wondering if Perk's ever gonna score another point.

And the last one....

- Watching Serge, Kmart, Reggie, and KD pass up a wide open 3 point shot, in lieu of giving to DFISH who's 5'4" and shoots over a 6'10" guy guarding him from 40 feet.

I'm probably done for the summer, but come draft time, or move time, keep a look out...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What we already know...

I promise this won't be long...  there's just no reason for it to be...

The Thunder closed out the Rockets, which was an excellent thing to do, and which was expected of them.  Kevin Martin stepped up, Derek Fisher played as he was intended to, when he was acquired a year ago...and all was good in the world.

Now we see Memphis, trading away one of their best scorers, (like OKC), to save $$$ in a small market team environment.  

We see a post-Westbrook Thunder team working through the playoffs.

Here's my take:

  •  Since February 19, 2008 only 3 games between the Grizzlies and Thunder have been decided by more than 10 points.
  •  In the first game, Rebounds, Assists, Steals, and Turnovers were very close.  In the second game, The Thunder were Rebounds -8, Assists -5, Steals -10, Turnovers +10.
  • Kevin Martin had 25 points in the first game, he had 6 in the second.
  • Thabo had 3 points in game 1, and 7 points in game 2.

The Grizzlies were simply scrappier in game 2.  Rebounds, assists, steals, and turnovers.

If the Thunder simply play hard, and up to their potential, they can win this series...and possibly the next.

However, they simply aren't.

  • Guys are taking nights off...and by that I mean they aren't producing their averages.
  •  Stop blaming Perkins for anything.  I intentionally put none of his stats here.  Why, because if Martin, Ibaka, and Sefalosha simply get 10 points a game...there's nothing to talk about.
  • Rebounding, Rebounding, Rebounding.  Offensively and Defensively.
The Thunder must realize that no play is over until it is either in the net, or in someone's hands.  Too many times this season, and particularly last night, we played awesome defense for 20 seconds, or got a block, or got a steal....and then we didn't chase down the ball with the very hard work we preach each and every day.  

Fast break...Durant comes out of nowhere to block the layup.  Martin and Jackson watch as Randolph grabs the block and puts it in...they quit at the freethrow line.  The play IS NOT OVER until the ball is in the net or in someone's hands...preferably our own.

We quit 2 seconds too early, we didn't follow through, and key players didn't drive hard enough to get points, or make up for points in the stat columns...and I'll include Perk in that category.

It's about work gentlemen, not awesome plays...and if Durant can get you 30-45 a night, you get paid more than well enough to step up, and dive for a ball, or pay a little more attention to blocking out...  

We've always scrapped against the Grizzlies...check our playoff records...this isn't about blowing anyone out, it's about rebounds, assists, and sticking with the plays on D until they are done.

Or we are...

Friday, May 3, 2013


The Second Season.  The Playoffs.  Go big or go home.  This is what they play for...

We can say it 15 different ways, and remain just as excited, nervous, scared, or depressed about it.

I spent the last two games on the edge of my seat...on the edge of a knife, slowly accepting the fate of a playoff run aborted.  Culminating in a partial self banishment as I watched the Thunder drizzle through game 5.

Thank you Beverley.


I've said those words probably a hundred times in the last week, out of the blue, for no reason.  

I don't hate the kid, he was making an aggressive play, trying to have an impact.  

Unfortunately, he had an impact.  I'm not gonna judge him anymore...unless I change my mind.

So, as we process the post-Westbrook Thunder NBA Playoff run of 2013, here are some thoughts.

- Danny Lee was injured.  Changed the Warriors...unpredictable.  They responded.

- Danilo Gallinari, gone for the season.  Warriors responded.  Denver, responded a bit, but like the Thunder, they were stunned, still are, and they are done.

- Bulls lose Hinrich and Deng, and without Rose, are still fighting.

- The season is unpredictable.

- It is still unpredictable.

I've heard many people, including myself discuss the Thunder's ability to get through Rounds 1 and possibly 2, but with no real potential for threatening the Conference Title or beating the Heat without Russell Westbrook.

I have awoken this morning with a different perspective.  Perhaps, it will help.

In our unpredictable post-season play, we have been very predictable in our assumptions.  We assume the Heat will win, we assume the Thunder will struggle in the next two rounds...all of which COULD HAPPEN, but we, of all fan bases should learn not to count our free-throws until the net whips.

There are no guarantees, for any team.  We need to remember that.  As to why the Thunder can't still make it to the Finals, and potentially win...  why not?  

Well, because the other teams are good.  This is true, but in an unpredictable game, you can't give up just because other teams are good and you've sustained a major blow due to injury.  

If Russell can take a hip check and be of the toughest players we've seen, with the longest consecutive playing streak...anything can happen.

So, as we look at our Thunder and our frustration with our lack of offensive efficiency and our defensive concerns...I'll point out the following...take it for what it is, I'm not even looking at stats this time.

- Scott Brooks needs to give his team confidence, from himself.  No more, "just get out there and try hard", but more like "we're going to stop them like this, and we're going to score like this...and if that doesn't work, we're going to do this"...specific coaching and leadership.  The team must know that he's got it in his head at a detail level and that he's leading them.

-KD  first things first.  On offense, do not create until you have to...  you have so many shots in your bag of tricks.  Every time, first time, see what they are giving you.  Game 3, KD got 21 in the first half, if you re-watch it, he simply took what they gave him...which was 5-6 17 footers in a 2 dribble pull up.  FACT:  Nobody in the league, much less the Rockets can defend two hard dribbles to the bucket and a pullup from Durant.  If they can't stop Russell, who's a foot shorter, then KEVIN, hit that sh*t all damn day.  We don't need dunks and don't need passes if they give you a 80% shot you can hit.  

-KD step II:  install a point guard floater.  One step into the lane, jump straight up and float it in...again, only Hasheem Thabeet is tall enough to go get that, and he's on your team.

- KD step III: passing, do it when you have to.  I don't need you to have confidence in KMart to finally hit one when he's 0 for 9 when you could do one or two of the previously mentioned moves.

-Everybody else:  just play ball.  Don't over-pass, it is cool to look like the Spurs, but Martin, you need to shoot it when you catch it in rhythm.  Twice the other night you caught the outer swing pass in shooting rhythm, but passed to someone more open than you.  Stop it.  Shoot the damn ball in rhythm.

- Fisher:  I know, I know, he's the DFish, loved, hated, decrepit, no defense...  stop feeling about Derek Fisher and just realize he's not a super star, he's just a dude that has rings and experience.  Experience that appeared to help us stay in a game we were desperately trying to lose.  I don't know if anyone noticed, and there weren't any box scores here, so yes, I'm preaching intangibles...Reggie got frustrated in the 3rd, then got tired...missed two shots, and threw the ball away in a 4 trip sequence...Fish took the ball and walked it up.  He just gave Reggie a break.  He didn't score, he didn't turn it over, he didn't save the day...he gave our point guard an on-court breather to calm down.  That's why he earns a paycheck.  That and the fact that he actually watches the shot clock and yes will jack up a 55 footer when it hits 2...unlike his team mates the other night who just passed on more time and let the buzzer sound.  He's not magic, but he's what we've got.  I wish we had Chauncy Billups too, but he didn't call with a low ball contract amount and say that he loves our team and wanted to be a part of it.

- Serge:  I've checked your HR records, you have no sick days, and no personal you cannot take anymore days off...offensively or defensively.

- Perk:  Enjoy the first 5 minutes of each half, we've reached the part of the season where most fans think you should be wearing a suit on the sidelines, because they think Orton's a better choice than you.  Just do what you do...and keep Serge's head on straight. 

Here we go into the wild blue yonder...I hope the Rockets learn a few things tonight about resiliency...courtesy of the Rumble's Rowdies.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Thunder vs. Spurs (a trip to the statistical Wabac Machine)

Sherman:  Mr. Peabody, you know the Spurs take on the Thunder on Thursday night, and with the Thunder only being a game behind, how big a game is this?  And, how can we tell who's going to win?

Peabody:  My dear boy Sherman, the Thunder are currently 1-2 against the Spurs this season, with only one of those games being decided by less than 10 sounds like we'll need to go to the Statistical Wabac Machine to answer your question, Sherman.

Durantula:  Hey, what's the Statistical Wabac Machine?

Peabody:  Well, Mr. Durantula, it is a version of the original Wabac machine that looks at a statistical analysis that can help us answer Sherman's question.

Durantula:  Ok, does Kalamian and Trakh know about this?

[Wabac noises...]

Sherman:  Wow Mr. Peabody, what are we looking at...there are so many numbers, what do they mean?

Peabody:  Whatever we want them to mean, Sherman, so let's take a look.

So far, the Thunder are 1-2 against the Spurs this year, which we already know. But, there are a number of things we need to look at for this contest tomorrow.  

Statistically speaking, we will look at the Thunder's home record (32-5) , and how they've played against the Spurs this season.  Now, Sherman, my boy, this is a limited statistical analyis, to be sure, so keep in mind there are only 1,000 other relevant statistics that should be combined here for an accurate analysis, but we simply don't have the time, or want to put in the effort.

- The Thunder average 109.1 points per game at home, while the Spurs average 102.5 points on the the Thunder almost a 7 point advantage.

- The Thunder and the Spurs have both averaged 94.7 points per game, during their 3 meetings thus far this year, so that's pretty...well, exactly even.

- The Thunder's home averages, against their games with the Spurs look like this:  +2.4 FG, +1.3 3ptFG, +10.7 FT made, +10.6 FT attempted, +6.6 Total Rebounds, -2.3 Assists, +4.7 Blocks, +.5 Turnovers, and +.5 PF...again, advantage Thunder.

Well, Sherman, that's the quick breakdown of what's happened this year for the Thunder at home, and how they've played against the Spurs.

Sherman:  Golly Mr. Peabody, it sure looks like the Thunder should win the game somewhere by something like 14.4 - 16.2 points.

Mr. Peabody:  That's my boy Sherman.

Sherman: But, Mr. Peabody, what about those 1,000 other things you said could affect the game?

Durantula:  Yeah, what about those?

Mr. Peabody:  Well, Sherman and KD, to touch on a few:

- Manu Ginosebleed is out with a "sore hamstring" meaning, he's either truly old now, or Popp's sitting him.

- Tony Parker still has a sore left ankle, but apparenlty he's playing tonight against the Orlando Magic, but rumor has it that the ankle will be "sore" tomorrow against the Thunder and that Popp's gonna sit him.

-Tim Duncan has a sore knee, which could be true, he is older than Gandalf, but, again, Popp's could sit him as well.

Sherman, KD, it really comes down to a couple of things...The Spurs, as an older and more mature team than the Thunder, are more interested in getting healthy for the playoffs, and not as interested in winning the Conference Title.  However, even if the Thunder win tomorrow, that only creates a tie with the Thunder and the Spurs, and as my source, Royce Young points out, the Thunder would win the Conference Title, based upon the 2/2 record tie break going to the conference record.  But, that still doesn't take into account the fact that there are more games to play, meaning that the Thunder would still have to maintain the tie, or outright lead to win the Conference, and home court advantage throughout the first 3 rounds of the playoffs.

Sherman:  Golly Mr. Peabody, that's a lot of information and some heresay, how do we know for sure what's going to happen.

KD: Yeah, Mr. Peabody, how do we know what's going to happen?

Mr. Peabody:  Well, Sherman and KD, that depends on a few things: 

1. Will the Thunder play their average home game?

2. Will Popp sit his stars?  And, if he does, can the Spurs bench own the Thunder like they did last time they played?

3. KD, much of this is up to you...will you be Durantula, or Drunken Giraffe?

Durantula:  I resent that last comment, it's not my fault my arms and legs flail when I turn the ball over.

Mr. Peabody:  KD, keep doing what you're doing, but remember...when you catch the ball from downtown, look for the catch-and-score first, then drive.  Take a note from Mr. Jordan, assess your options before hand, and execute immediately.

Durantula and Sherman:  Sure thing, thanks Mr. Peabody.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Doing more by doing less?

I'm hard-pressed to figure out what's different about Kevin Durant in the past few months...

It is sort of driving me mad...

Really mad when we lose, and maddening when we win.

Back to stats to see what Eastern Mysticism we can dream up with some stats about the current state of the Thunder:

(Discounting last nights game, we glance into the Crystal Stat-Ball covering the Thunder's last 5 wins, over a week or two, and the last 5 losses, over a month.)

When the Thunder win:

- KD makes at least 2 three pointers, while averaging 3.6 attempts from dowtown p/game.

- KD turns the ball over an average of 4 times p/game.

- KD averages 25.2 points, on 50% shooting from inside the arc, and has 2.8 assists p/game.

- KD averages 8.4 total rebounds with 2 steals and 1 block p/game.

- KD averages 36 minutes.

When the Thunder lose:  (watch this closely now)

- KD makes 1 three pointer, while averaging 3.6 attempts from downtown p/game.

- KD turns the ball over an average of 5 times p/game.

- KD averages 30.6 points, on 50% shooting from inside the arc, and has 3.8 assists p/game. 

- KD averages 8.4 total rebounds with 1 steal and 2 blocks p/game.

- KD averages 42 minutes. the mist emerges and a solid conclusion forms...

He's pretty much doing the same things statistically, with very minor differences in both wins and losses.  If anything he's pretty much a model of consistency for doing the same things day in and day out.

So, if we wanted a not-so-solid-why-the-hell-are-you-showing-us-this type of conclusion, I'll be absolutely forced to tell you what I think:

The Thunder do not, yet, have the system down that San Antonio has...regarding sharing the ball, in efficient and dominating fashion amongst the greater population of the team, such that Scott Brooks gets any credit for Sam Presti trading James Harden, and yet having a better statistically performing team...(see here).

However, these stats pretty much tell you that it ain't KD doing this winning and losing by himself.

Remember, this post is about whether KD is himself being himself, or himself being his new, not nice self...which is funny, because his new not nice self, is actually nicer with the ball than his old self...shooting less, but just as efficiently, passing the ball more, increasing assists, increasing rebounds, and unfortunately increasing turnovers a bit as well...from last year.  

Perhaps, he's just not singularly dominating games by scoring like he was last year, but is having just as big an impact on the game, or even greater impact by being a better all-around player.

And...just to let us "KD ain't right" thinkers have a solitary smidgen of credibility...

I have noticed that the 3 point ball remains a key.  Not just for the points, but the offensive system itself.  My observations are as follows, take what you will from it...

Kevin needs to make that second 3 point shot...every game.  He's not jacking 3's like he did last year, but shooting at a higher make percentage in 2013.  He's driving more, and dishing more.  I think he's a bit easier to guard on his drives, because he's not throwing daggers in as often from downtown.  He appears, (no fact yet to back this up, I need time to research this part), he's not catching and shooting from behind the arc as he did last year.  He needs to do this more...  when he catches and shoots from 3, he forces the defense to be up on him all the time.  When he catches and drives, the defense tends to lay off him a bit more... and his turnovers increase.  This will get better, I'm sure, as will the offense, but look at how this played out last night...

Scott Brooks calls a timeout with 8 1/2 minutes left as the Thunder went down by 5.

In a move that Royce Young ( tweeted about, and I agree completely with...the Thunder came out of that timeout and absolutely destroyed the Bucks in less than 3 minutes.  It took less than a minute for the Thunder to regain the lead, starting a 12-0 run.  Something that (according to Royce), the Spurs' Pops would have been given Coach of the Year for, on the spot.   But not Scotty...he's an inept coach with a lot of talent, if you listen to people talk in the media much.

What I just said:  The Thunder ran the pick and roll all throughout the second half, with different personnel...scoring effectively the entire time.  Ibaka had 10 points in the 3rd, Nick Collision had his share...all coming off of a direct pick and roll, or some derivation thereof.

The Dagger came when Westbrook ran the pick and roll, top of the key...and Serge took off at a dead sprint as Russ passed him.  Russ's defender was picked and trailed Russell, usually predicting a teleportation move to the, Ibaka's defender has to split the difference between surging Serge, and rocketing Russell.  Same thing we'd done all night...except, for one tiny little thing called coaching.

Durant had been purposefully moved to the right side of the court, after a cross-court cut opened up the wing (courtesy of Derek Fisher, moving without the ball, getting no credit on the deal whatsoever).  

Durant, on the right wing, sits low...and outside...where a few minutes before, he'd taken two guys baseline for a dunkish-type-layup thingie.  His defender is wary...very wary.

Back to rocketing Russell and surging Serge (I know this is long, but you've pulled up the mental replay by now, so hang with me).

Durant's defender has to move on Ibaka or he'll be hanging from the rim....AGAIN!

So, KD, the NBA's reigning 3 time scoring champion, is left on the right wing, with nobody around him but Milwaukee fans that suddenly feel ill and don't know why...they think the Buck's D is about shut down Ibaka.

Russ hits KD, instead of time travelling or passing to Ibaka...who catches, and shoots.  No thinking, no dribbling, and no air in the building... it is a commercial coming true in real life...We indeed ALL KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING...boom.  

Milwaukee gives up.

Scott Brooks moved his chess pieces, controlled his uncontrollable point guard, distracted the defensive world with Harden's exchange player, and Air that Kevin Durant could tie his shoe, download DoodleJump, and nail a shot to kill the Bucks.

(On a side note:  that gave Russ his first triple double in 2 years...interesting...and in other news, Uncle Skip had sudden explosive diarrhea for no apparent reason.) 

So, shoot more, shoot less...dribble more dribble less...or let the coach move the guys around a bit and keep putting it all the right time...

You decide.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Better Than Last Year? (Stats Edition)

I do my best not to listen to Skip Bayless, but just like Jim Traber, just can't avoid him.

I wish I could quit you...

I recently heard Skip and Stephen A. Smith discussing the Thunder.  Skip's mouth was flowing like a fire hydrant, and I couldn't help but think the following:

Disclaimer:  Philosophical soapbox coming...

In day to day speak, we use our opinions to discuss things we enjoy.  Those opinions are sometimes loosely based on facts, and sometimes very based on facts...depends on who you are and what liberties you take with reality.  However, in the end, journalism isn't supposed to be two friends forming their opinions based on information extracted from their rectal areas...that would be irresponsible journalism.  I had an intuitive feeling that Skip was doing this very thing...letting his emotions overshadow the facts.  Words mean things, and journalists are supposed to be the leaders of our media world with the best use of information, real information, put together with meaningful words to represent a meaningful opinion.

If you know Skip, then you know he can't stand Russell Westbrook, and believes that Sam Presti should be committed for trading Harden, and that Scott Brooks's goal in life is to keep Maurice Cheeks from shining.

So, I thought to myself..."Self, why don't we look at the statistics of this clearly inferior Thunder team without James Harden, to see why Skip-Bo thinks they suck so bad and should be dismantled managerially from the top down." is what I found...  

Disclaimer:  statistics taken from, and stats don't lie, but they don't always tell a clear story either.

Through 67 games this season, as compared to the 66 game season last year:

Thunder - scoring 3.6 more points per game (103.1 to 106.7), while allowing only a .3 increase in opponents scoring (96.9 to 97.2)...Margin of victory is 9.5.

So, the Thunder appear to have expanded offensive capabilities, while still defending very well, but at a slightly less effective level...I mean .3 more points per game is not really a mountain to overcome.

However, we have Uncle Skippy to deal with on the Devil (Russell Westbrook) and the Jail-break (Harden vs Martin), let's see how the Thunder are accomplishing this increased offensive effort.

2012 Harden vs 2013 Martin (NBA Death Match)

- Martin has played 111 less minutes than Harden last year.
- Martin has 10 less makes with 40 more shots, and a shooting percentage of 45% to Harden's 49%.
- Martin has 23 more 3 pt makes over 32 more attempts than Harden, Martin's 3pt shooting is at 42%, whereas Harden's was 39%.
- Assists and points make up the largest margin of difference.  Martin has 141 less assists than Harden did a year ago, and has scored 117 less points than the Beard dropped in last year.
- Harden pulled down more rebounds (103 in fact), and had more blocks, but also had more turnovers (48 more) than Martin.  Martin also has 3 more steals, while committing 34 less fouls.
- Harden has 120 more made FT's than KMart has this year.

Overall, a couple of factors need to be blended in here...KMart isn't running the point for the B team, like James did...Reggie takes care of that now.  Also, KMart's role is more a defined 2 guard, rather than the "save our ass" jack-of-all trades  role that Harden played.  And, if these two represented the entirety of the difference between last year and this year, we could end up with an efficiency rating based on points per minute that might tell us something (actually, no...KMART = .5 and HARDEN = .53)...

[Paul Harvey enters the conversation, a true journalist, back from the grave and the vault]

What about the Rest of the Story?

Kevin Durant (2012 vs 2013 to date)
  • 30 more minutes played
  • 25 less made FG's on 7 less shots
  • 13 less 3pt's made on 52 less 3pt attempts
  • 139 more FT's made on 127 more attempts than last year, with a 4% higher 90% FT's percentage.
  • 4 more rebounds p/g
  • 72 more assists
  • 12 more steals
  • 46 more total points
The Devil (Russell Westbrook)
  • 45 more minutes played
  • 21 more 3pt attempts at 33% (+2% from last year)
  • 38 more FT's made on 58 more attempts
  • 49 more rebounds
  • 147 more assists
  • 9 more steals
Air Congo (Serge Ibaka)
  • 272 more minutes played
  • 107 more FG's made at 57% shooting
  • 16 more 3pt makes at 36%
  • 47 more FT's made at 75% (+9% from last year)
  • 26 more Def Rebs and +16 Total Rebounds
  • 10 more assists
  • 277 more points
The Game Chose Me (Thabo)
  • 975 more minutes played
  • 120 more FG's (48% @ +6 from 2012)
  • 54 more 3pt makes at 41%
  • 29 more offensive boards
  • 104 more defensive boards
  • 59 more assists
  • 51 more steals
  • 22 more blocks
  • 300 more points
(Note: Thabo was hurt a bit last year, but this is ridiculous)

Big Perk
  • 80 less minutes
  • 24 more assists
  • 12 steals
  • 26 less TO's
Nick Collision
  • 26 less minutes
  • 29 more FG's at 60% shooting
  • 5 more FT's, but at 79% (up 8% from last year)
  • 17 more Def Rebs
  • 17 more assists
  • 9 more steals
  • 63  more points
Reggie Jackson
  • 191  more minutes played
  • 50 more FG's at 46% (+14% from last year)
  • 63 more Tot Rebs
  • 19 more assists
  • 116 more points
The Thunder have have committed only 4 more fouls through 67 games than in the 66 games they played last more game...4 the math.

Opponents fouls are 1415 up from 1322 last year.

The Thunder are shooting better FT% this year (82% vs 80%).

So, what am I trying to say to Uncle Skip and friends...


When the Thunder traded James Harden, it wasn't only about a contract negotiation for a high profile / allstar player.  

It was about the maturity process of a team.  

Last year, many fans, including myself were upset because our 4th quarter offense consisted of James, Russell, or Kevin setting up an isolation or catching a pass and taking on the entire defense.  It's ok, you can admit it...that feeling of your blood pressure rising when one of those three just dribbled out front for 10 seconds, letting the shot clock drip away, then taking the entire basket of eggs into the lane, or pulling up for a shot.  We wanted change.  We wanted to see the Spurs wearing Thunder faces and uniforms...Making Hickory's patented 5 passes before a shot went up.

Well, this year, the scoring load, and offensive load has changed dramatically.  On the surface, you may not feel as though we look like the Spurs, or dance as pretty as the Heat...but, statistically, we are outperforming last year's Thunder.  Sure, Offensive rebounding is down, but so are turnovers (52 less TO's for the players listed above).

The key point in looking at this year's team, from last year, isn't to look at KMart vs Harden...rather it is to look at Harden vs KMart, Thabo, Serge, Perk, Nick and Reggie.  We already know, intuitively and through observation that Russell and KD have taken on added responsibilities, but the burden of success has come on the shoulders of the rest of the team...starters and bench players combined.

The Thunder have 348 more assists this year than they had a year ago (for the players listed above...again need to qualify).  Three Hundred Forty Eight...3-4-8...that's 348 made baskets that were not coming off a pass last year.  That's moving the effing franking ball around!  

So, Skipper, how did we replace Harden?
  • The Devil passes the ball a lot more.
  • KD passes the ball a lot more.
  • Serge makes more shots, from everywhere.
  • Perkins passes the ball effectively with less TO's.
  • Thabo has increased every positive stat category across the board, with only more fouls as a negative.
  • Nick, passing the ball.
  • Reggie, passing the ball.
  • KMart passing and scoring efficiently.
I know Uncle Skip, you need to have an argument, I honestly understand that...but, try as I might, I just couldn't create a Hasheem Thabeet'esque blog entry in ALL you could make it an argument...

Because...there's not one.  This team is better than last year's, the stats show it.

Now, in the midst of your emotional breakdown...please don't let facts and statistics stand in your way...I'm sure Russell is indeed the a blue dress anyway.

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Watching the Magic slowly eat a way a 27 point lead, became exciting.  More exciting than many of us truly wanted.  When a game gets set on cruise control, with your team up big...the last thing you want is a creeping uneasy feeling of becoming "that team".  There are many ways to make SportsCenter, but dropping a 27 point lead, not in anyone's top 50.

Personally, I wasn't truly bothered until we put the starters back in, and still the lead cut to inside 5.  I never felt like we were in danger of losing the game, but I knew it was a possibility...the NBA is funny like that.  

Many times, in our own sports careers, or work, for that matter, we are faced with such daunting tasks that seem completely overwhelming, and you'd rather just concede the situation and move on.  Sometimes the NBA plays out like that...other times, it becomes a thing of inspiration.

To say it another way, the Magic figured out a way to inch back into a game that was gone...get on the flight home gone.  They had their a**e* whooped by everyone who stepped on the court in the first half.  Leading to a new Thunder record for points scored in the first half.

But, in the NBA, and sometimes in other sports, the game plays out like this:

- team gets up big, or half big (15-30 points) early.  
- other team either folds, or goes on life support.
- other team searches for some way to stop the bleeding, and start to crawl back in game.
- time outs are called...which can literally kill the crawling back process.
- other team gets on a roll and makes a run in the mid 3rd quarter to 4th quarter.
- team either puts down the run, as lead gets cut to reasonable striking distance, or allows it to slowly eat the lead.

End result:  many NBA teams show tremendous maturity and resilience when down by a lot.  A combination of coaching, basketball IQ, falling shots, and energy tend to blend together in some sort of function for comeback victories.  

I'm not talking, really, about the Thunder /  Magic game, but about the NBA in general.

The tough part is...with this being a trend we've all seen...spawning the moniker, "I only need to watch the last two minutes", it becomes difficult to figure out if this the law of historical averages, or due to a flaw in your team's performance.

The Thunder put down the rally, taking longer than we'd have liked, and won the game.  Extending our insane home court record...much to our pleasure...and setting us up for an OU football-type letdown sometime next year, or the next, when we drop 3-4 straight at home...I'll just call it now.

Other Things of Note:

- PJIII:  Got some great minutes, and improved his stock in his performance.  The athleticism and NBA IQ is coming along just fine...he knew where to be, where to cut, and hit the boards...along with making the shots given to him.

- Collision:  Great job moving off ball, dishing and scoring...nice to see the Collison grit applied on offense and pay off with some points for the Dirt Worker.

- Everybody else:  Simply showed up and did their job...even proud of Perk getting the accidental technical and moving on.

- Ronnie Brewer:  kept his sweats on the entire game...wife believes this is becoming a form of protest.  Up 27, you say...who else didn't get in the game...uhm...nobody.  (Liggins and Lamb had PikePasses for the evening)

I said it, as farfetched as it sounds, each game he gathers rust, is a game lending credibility to the most far-fetched conspiracy theory filled with absolute lunacy...he was traded to kill his career.  Maybe he shoved Presti's wife once, who least they could buy him some pom-poms and a recliner.

Next Up:  Dallas on Sunday @ 6:30pm