The end of the Thunder's game against the Raptors was a positive sign of the continued growth of Russell Westbrook and the Thunder offense. After receiving much criticism for events that led to a loss against the Bulls, Westbrook came back and executed some beautiful late game offense with both of his big men Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka.
One play in particular caught our attention because it is a new and nifty wrinkle on Westbrook's typical post-up strategy. For years we have argued that Westbrook needs to play out of the post more often because of his physical advantages over every other guard in the NBA. Returns have been mixed, mostly because the play often simply has Westbrook dribble down the court and straight into the post without any sort of additional passing or screen, and then he goes to work backing up the defender until he can either spin to the middle or fade into a bank shot.
Against the Raptors, we finally saw a more dynamic set-up that could yield massive returns if they run it well. As you can see in the video above, this post play starts in a modified HORNS set with Westbrook feeding the high post, which is Enes Kanter. Westbrook rubs off of Kanter, heading straight into the post. Now the play formation is inverted: Kanter is throwing the entry pass while Westbrook is holding the left block.
Even this simple wrinkle added to Westbrook's post-up would yield positive returns, but to our delight, the Thunder have a second step to this play. Kanter continues to play the Westbrook role, coming down to set a screen on Westbrook's man. Kanter then slips the screen as Westbrook curls into the middle of the lane, and at this point Toronto is dead. Westbrook has either an easy shot in the lane, or in this case, Kanter rolling perfectly to the rim as 3 players commit to Westbrook.
What makes the play potentially devastating is the options that become available when Kanter (or Ibaka) are used:
- If Kanter sets an initial screen instead of Westbrook simply moving to the post, Westbrook can either fade to the corner for a three or cut hard to the rim.
- If the screen is set and the defending big helps on the baseline, Kanter/Ibaka can simply face-up for an 18 foot jumper.
- After the Kanter screen is set, Westbrook has easy access to the lane and a relatively easy 8 foot jumper if he wants it.
- OKC could easily add an even more lethal option by positioning a shooter at the top of the arc (Durant, Morrow). By positioning him there, it protects the Thunder from having a help defender crash down from the perimeter, and if the help does come, it leaves a shooter wide open for the 3-point shot.
*Thanks to Kevin Yeung for creating the video clip