The Thunder overwhelmed the Portland Trail Blazers for much of the night in OKC's dominant win. While much of their success can be attributed to solid defense and superior shot making, I did notice one well-crafted play set that they ran late in the first half that might make the basis for future offensive focus. While we have seen stretches of clever play crafting from Scott Brooks and the old regime, we're also seeing this Spurs-esque type of play becoming more of the normal repertoire.
Here is the play:
What I like most about this set is that, with the personnel of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, and Steven Adams, you can no longer say for sure what the play's true intent is. Every one of those players have proven in this early season that they can finish the play. Let us break it down further.
1. The double screen.
The initial set-up utilizes Adams as the high screener, 28 feet from the rim, with Ibaka setting up for a secondary screen at the top of the key. In past versions of this set, Westbrook would likely be heading straight for the corner of the lane to take his 'cotton shot.' An interesting side note - we're seeing more and more that it is Adams that sets these high screens instead of Ibaka. I think it is because Adams is quicker and has deft footwork, which enables him to get in and out of screens more cleanly, something that he has exhibited almost from day 1.
2. The decision.
Now that the action has been set up, look at all the decisions that Westbrook has at his disposal. If anything, it's almost too many. He still has his shot available, or he can challenge the defense at the rim, which we've seen many times in the past.
However, Westbrook is committed to the action. His two big men, now standing side by side, go into motion. With Westbrook's gravity now occupying 3 players - his own man, Ibaka's man, and Adams' man, his next pass will be easy. Ibaka slides to his favorite spot at the top of the key for his makable 18 footer. Adams begins his roll to the rim where he will often receive the lob pass.
Meanwhile, if Westbrook can actually convince Dion Waiters' defender to sag off another step, then Waiters is wide open in the corner for a 3-point shot (Dion is shooting a not-terrible 34% from the corners).
3. The secondary action.
Westbrook drops the pass to Ibaka, who has the jumper if he wants it. But wait! There is secondary action! Ibaka defers his own shot to Durant on the wing. Ibaka then fakes a middle screen, while Durant threatens to go baseline.
Once again, Durant has choices at his disposal. He has that 15 footer any time he wants it, and one might argue, doesn't take it enough. If Adams, now sitting under the rim, sees his own defender help on Durant, Adams has an easy layup.
Instead, Ibaka's man pursues Durant to the corner, so Ibaka slides into the lane for a wide open 8 footer.
With this type of play set, the important phrase is that the Thunder's two primary ball handlers have many options at their discretion, and all of them can lead to positive results. However, what they are disciplining themselves to do is bypass the first ok option and keep working until the best option arises. Furthermore, they can run this same play set again and again and get 5-6 different results, all depending on how the defense reads it and where they find the seams.
In fact, in the very next play set:
We see just that. Durant, Waiters, and Ibaka all trade places, but it's the same set. This time, Westbrook attacks the rim instead of giving up the pass early, which creates a wide lane for Adams to roll to the rim. He misses the shot, but this is the kind of play that the Thunder can continue to get as long as they commit to creating multiple options per play.