The Staples "Easy" Button was quickly replaced by the "Panic" button early this season. The red phone was picked up, Batman was called, and Ish Smith arrived in a flash.
Which is a typical Thunder move, grabbing a player that nobody's heard of, and has no real upside that screams "pick me up". Except...when we picked him up, I went through his numbers and saw that he had .9 turnovers per game...and I stopped right there.
That's why we love to hate the love we have for the Thunder, Presti and Brooks, the whole gang...always making strategic long term moves, and never going for the shiny on sale trinkets sold at the register.
Hand held firmly on the Panic button, we all searched for the silver lining, which has been pointed out several times over this past week. I'll shortcut most of the blah blah part of the sports writers ability to write, and jump straight to the point.
Here's my version of the silver lining:
- Our second team has had to play against starters, and have been in most of the games they've played.
- With a full roster coming back, most all of those players have increased their ability to make plays, and to score.
- Many of those players will be coming off the bench, and not playing against starting defenses, but 2nd team defenses, which should increase their overall offensive efficiency.
For instance, last year, according to my calculations, the Thunder averaged around 11.6 points off the bench (hoopstats.com).
This season the bench players have increased their scoring averages, from last year, to date by the following:
Which adds up to 20.2 points per game. PJIII's points obviously are over-weighted with the missed games, Lance Thomas (6.1 ppg) and Anthony Morrow (11.4) push that total up to 37.7...which is quite a nice total.
Have you ever been in a basketball game, playing against players you know are better than you, and everyone on the floor is looking at you to score?
Our second team has...
Now, obviously with minutes being taken away, offensive efficiency will go down for these players. However, taking into account that they will also be playing against bench players, the reduction in efficiency will be somewhat offset.
In short, our bench has learned how to go out there and play the game like Kevin and Russ don't exist. While their offensive time, and points will go down, there's a solid chance that they've learned that ball movement remains the key to scoring points, and our 2nd team could jump up to the one of the best benches in the NBA.
The final point, which may be the most important...without Kevin and Russ, the Thunder were 3rd in Defense in the NBA, allowing around 93 points per game.
If they keep up the defensive intensity, and the bench continues to produce more points than they did last year, the Thunder will will look much like the Spurs...
But...with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
One game at a time.