Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder endured their first loss of the season, losing to the Houston Rockets in a close 105-110 battle. The loss was mainly due to the Thunder's 24 turnovers on the night. Those turnovers created a lot of fast break opportunities for Houston, whom thrive in such situations.
On the season, the Thunder are now averaging 21.7 turnovers a game. This is good for first in the league, and would have been good for first in the league at the end of last year as well. In other words, turnovers are becoming a very serious problem for Oklahoma City. If the Thunder don't find a way to cut down on the lost possessions soon, they could undermine all of the Thunder's offensive advantages.
So I decided to do a little investigative work and take a look at every turnover the Thunder committed last night. I split them into three categories. The first category, unavoidable turnovers, are just turnovers that happen due to bad luck. In other words, the coach ran a good play, the players tried, but something just didn't click. The second category is turnovers I blame on players' decision making. The third category is turnovers I blame on the coach's play call.
Obviously, my categorization is all subjective. But it should be helpful in figuring out what the Thunder need to do moving forward. Let's get started!
Unavoidable Turnovers (7)
KD looks to find a cutting Westbrook in the post with a pass here. But KD hits the net, and Dwight catches it. Good look, bad execution.
On a drive to the basket, Russell Westbrook looks to Serge Ibaka in the post. But Harden is tracking Russ and steals the pass. I can forgive Westbrook here, because the shot clock is down to two. Besides, the other two options, Roberson and Adams, aren't in ideal scoring position.
I can't fault Enes Kanter for making this pass out of pressure. It was a solid postup attempt, but the Harden double-team forced the pass. The only problem is that Kanter threw the pass a bit wild, and Lawson ended up picking it off.
Simple error here by Steven Adams. Westbrook spitballs a pass to Adams in the post, and Adams loses the handle out of bounds.
This was a really good look to an open Dion Waiters in the corner. Unfortunate that DJ's momentum carried his pass out of bounds.
Kanter was open in the lane, but he fumbled this bounce pass from Westbrook. Any spot in the paint is great for Kanter to score from, so I love the pass. Just poorly executed.
Hard to fault Kanter here. Kanter got the ball on an offensive rebound, after KD was stifled on a layup attempt. There wasn't a lot of space for Kanter to go, and there were no quick passing options. As a result, Thornton was able to slide in for the quick steal.
Turnovers I blame on the player's decision making (14)
As Westbrook tries to cruise around this Adams screen, Ty Lawson reaches around and picks his pocket. Agh. Completely avoidable.
Serge Ibaka tries to score in transition, but ends up shuffling his feet under the basket. Just a simple, regrettable mistake.
Really don't know what Russ was trying to do here. Around an Ibaka screen, Westbrook dribbled straight into Clint Capela. Predictably, Beverley stole the ball.
Augustin was trying to find Singler on the far baseline. Brewer would have caught up to Singler by the time the pass got to him, so I don't necessarily think this was a good pass. I like how D.J. is trying to get other players involved, but there were a ton of safer passes to make.
Against the smaller James Harden, KD has to take it all the way here. And if Harden wasn't going to affect that pass, than the trailing Marcus Thornton certainly might have.
I understand wanting to attack the basket before Dwight Howard gets down the floor. But this drive by Westbrook was too hapahazard, and too early. Also, if Westbrook had slowed down, he could have made a pass to Ibaka in the post.
Yikes is all I have to say about this one. KD almost got free, but he stepped out of bounds around the screen.
Comeon, KD. No need to give Ty Lawson free possessions. (Sorry about the bad angle, the TV broadcast didn't get the full steal.
Can't blame this on anything other than a lazy pass by Augustin. Really disheartening to see DJ and KD struggle so much when passing to each other.
I understand that this is a mismatch for KD. But I don't get why he was trying to dribble-drive on Corey Brewer. Just put your butt into him and use the dirk leg!
I don't blame Augustin for this turnover, because the possession left him stranded with the ball and no time. But I blame the Thunder players as a collective. KD allowed the initial play to be broken up by letting Ariza tip a pass. Then, nobody ran anything for the last 14 seconds or so. I do think that the Thunder could have used the KD mismatch on Ariza, but Waiters elected to pass the pass to D.J. instead. Just a bad, bad possession.
Harden definitely sold this call, I'm not gonna lie. But it's clear that Augustin was trying to clear space for KD to drive to the hoop with an illegal screen. You can't just bump Harden out of the way with your feet moving. It was a slick move, but this turnover is definitely DJ's fault.
This came as a result of a Singler-Kanter pick and roll. Kyle Singler should never handle the ball out of the pick and roll, ever. Singler is just not a threat off the dribble, so I don't ever see this play working well. Still, the coaches didn't draw this one up. The play was originally a Kanter-Waiters pick and roll, but Kanter inexplicably canceled the play. The result is poor spacing, as all of the Thunder's players are on one side. In any case, the fault definitely lies with Kanter and Waiters here.
Obviously, it's bad that Waiters allowed himself to lose the ball in a 1 on 1 situation. Those situations are precisely the reason Waiters is on the team. But even worse is the fact that Beverley had double-teamed Waiters before he lost the ball. Waiters should have recognized that and moved the ball to the open man.
Turnovers I blame on the coach's play call (2)
Augustin had to pick up his dribble around a prior Kanter screen. This allowed Lawson to take Augustin's vision away. As a result, the speedy Brewer was able to swoop in and pluck the ball. There's not a lot of great options in D.J.'s position, which is why I fault the coaches for this one. I'd switch Waiters and Roberson's corners, so Augustin has the viable pass to Waiters. Roberson can't really do much in this situation, so I don't blame Augustin for making the risky pass.
There were three defenders between Westbrook and Ibaka here. KD is also behind his man, not ready for a pass at all. Even Adams is in a completely untenable position. Really, the only thing Russ could have done is lob it to Roberson in the far corner. And that's a really risky pass. We've gotta give Russ a better bailout option on his post ups.
The Thunder's primary source of turnovers came from bad decision making on the player's part, in my opinion. This bad decision making came about because the Rockets are just so good at pressuring the perimeter. KD is really slow, so it's easy to hassle him in the backcourt. Meanwhile, D.J. Augustin can be trapped into making bad passes if you take away his perimeter shot. Russell Westbrook had a high number of turnovers as well, but a lot of his just came down to bad execution.
In general, the Thunder just did an awful job of getting any sort of movement going away from the ball. There would be pick and rolls, but the other three players would all just stand rooted to the spot. If the Thunder are going to live in today's NBA, they can't rely on such simplistic playcalling.
That kind of playcalling might have worked a couple of years ago under Coach Brooks. But in today's NBA, teams can force you to go small. And when you have a small lineup, much better ball movement is necessary in order for the offense to work. Small lineups rely on spacing, and in order to find players in space you need good passing. So the Thunder are going to have to work some wrinkles into their scheme moving forward.
In the end, there's no one reason for all the turnovers. Some are just fate, because turnovers are going to happen in a fast-paced game. But the other turnovers are a result of simplistic playcalling by the coaches and risky decisions by the players. There needs to be a collected effort from both the coaches and players to make safer entry passes and run a greater variety of plays.
We all knew there would be a period of growth with the new team finally coming together. If that period of growth means that OKC can go 3-1 while averaging almost 22 turnovers a game, than I'm feeling exceptionally positive about the Thunder's future.
What do you think of the Thunder's turnover problems? Sound off in the comments below!