According to Eric Horne of NewsOK, Coach Billy Donovan will be using a very different defensive strategy when it comes to defending the three point line and the pick and roll.
One of the biggest defensive changes the Thunder has made in preseason camp is in positioning. The Thunder's frontcourt players are now asked to sit deeper, particularly in defending the pick-and-roll. It's a challenge for the guards, as Donovan wants them to toe that balance between defending the 3-point line and not conceding driving gaps and opportunities at the rim.
"The guards hate it, and it's awesome for us," Thunder center Steven Adams said of the bigs sitting back, staying with their man instead of overhelping in the pick-and-roll. "We've sit back and we're trying to force different shots from the offense."
This is very, very different from the strategy frequently employed by former coach Scott Brooks last season. Brooks loved to have the big men pressure around screens. This had the effect of occasionally forcing turnovers, but it also forced OKC to commit someone else to help the roll man. As a result, OKC was prone to giving up open threes. This was evident in games down the stretch. The Spurs (2x), the Mavs, the Clippers, and the Pacers were able to shoot over 40% from three against the Thunder in crucial March and April wins. You can see some of the Thunder's bad three point defense at the time in a fanpost made by LastChance.
Donovan's new pick and roll defense is closer to ICE defense. ICE defense is when the guard comes out to prevent the shot over the screen, while the big man sinks back to prevent the roll or drive. This type of defense is very effective against the shot, and moderately effective at stopping the drive. The only thing ICE defense really gives up is the pick and pop. So Donovan will have to be careful against mobile power forwards like LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Anthony Davis.
Nevertheless, it appears as is Donovan knows where the NBA is heading. With the NBA Champion Warriors breaking a record for threes in a single post-season, it's apparent what strategy the Thunder must counter in order to be effective.
What do you think of Donovan's new defensive focus? Drop a comment and let us know!