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.  BUT....you 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 spots...is 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 www.basket-ballreference.com. 

Thunder Up!