The Oklahoma City Thunder are a team inclined to compete at a fast pace and currently sit 5th in the NBA in that category at 99.1 according to Basketballreference. Last season, the Thunder finished 10th at 96.7. The need to speed things up became necessary when a certain player decided to take his toys away on July 4th. Now the Thunder are attempting to replace some of the half-court production they enjoyed in the past with easy fast break scoring. Thus far, unfortunately, the increased pace has yet to show up by way of points. Through 23 games this year the Thunder are averaging 17.3 fast break points compared to 17.2 last season.
Hopefully, that number will improve as the team becomes more attuned with one another. But in the interim, a team currently averaging 107 points-per-game is still 2.4 points short of the 109.5 scoring mark set by the 2015/16 Thunder — and when you include the added 2.1 points this squad is allowing this season, that is a 4.5 pt/gm shortfall.
Again, along with the fast-break production, hopefully the points allowed numbers will improve as well, but at the pace this team is playing, a certain letdown in that stat is not surprising.
That is twice that the word hope has come up. Coaches and fans, both hope this team can bridge the gap left in the wake of the July 4th decision and make another great run in the playoffs, and hope is a good thing. According to Andy Dufresne, a character in 1994 classic, “The Shawshank Redemption”, hope is the one thing that cannot be taken away:
However, there comes a point in life, and on the basketball court, when hope is not enough. There comes a point where one must take fate by the horns and fight to move forward.
Oft times, hope without action is just wishful thinking, and sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands to fulfill your dreams:
When I was a kid, my Dad used to say something every time I would say the words, “I wish...”. His response was as crude as is it was direct, but I have never forgotten it. When I was feeling sorry for myself and would decry, “I wish this..” or “I wish that..” he would look me straight in the eye and say, “Son, hold out your hands and wish in one hand while (expletive) in the other, then come back and tell me which one fills up first.”
Crude? Yes. A disgusting visual? Yes, but quite profound once you get past the stench.
One hand represented me, the other hand was life, and if I wanted my hand to fill up before life’s hand it would require more than merely wishing, or hoping it would do so. Achieving that goal would need a conscious act, and the Thunder should listen to my Dad’s primitive advice and take action to bridge the scoring shortfall this team is struggling to overcome.
I’ll let Welcome to Loud City’s Bobby Chancellor come up with a plan to plug the Thunder’s defensive holes. But while coaches and fans are waiting, and hoping, the fast break production increases, I came across something the other day that could help the Thunder’s half-court offense.
I chose the in-definitive “could” rather than the definitive “would” in this case because it will only help if the Thunder implement it, and I was genuinely surprised to discover they don’t.
It entails a simple set that BBallBreakdown’s Mo Dakhil, —former video coordinator for the Spurs and Clippers— calls “The Hammer Play” and the Thunder’s Anthony Morrow:
AMo currently sits at the number 11 spot on the NBA’s all-time 3-point shooting percentage list. Morrow ranks fourth on the active NBA list, and yet throughout this entire season, not one of his 48 three-point attempts have come off a true hammer screen. Not one. Oh sure, there are plenty of these types of bail-out attempts:
or defensive miscues like this:
The nearest set I found that even remotely resembles Dakhil’s “Hammer Play” was this:
Don’t get me wrong, I like this “reverse” Hammer Play just fine, but it lacks the options built into the genuine article:
Rather than the lottery-bound Pistons, let’s imagine the same play executed by some familiar faces:
Additionally, let’s not forget the options Dakhil mentioned:
Which could lead to this:
For an additional bonus, none of Dakhil’s examples had a point guard as dynamic as Russell Westbrook running the play. There is no telling what number 0 may come up with if options 1 and 2 are cut off.
Even with a few changes:
The “Hammer Play” Dakhil ascribes will work. And I can see Victor Oladipo subbing for Anthony Morrow and reaping additional rewards during his rotations on the floor.
Honestly, there is not a single reason that I can think of to prevent running this play at least 4 times per game. Take the Thunder’s loss to the Houston Rockets for example. Only eight of the Thunder’s final ninety-nine points came off the break. That means that 92% of the Thunder offense came from their half court sets. I fully understand that the Thunder want to set a fast tempo, but the “Hammer Play” is a quick-hitting set that sure beats this:
This needs to happen. Morrow is a career 42.3% threat from beyond the arc. Currently, he is hitting 35.4% of his attempted three’s on 2.8 attempts per game. Let Morrow up his attempts to 6 or 7 per game, with a play he can practice making those attempts from, and his shooting average should go up right along with the team’s points per game average. By my estimates, Morrow would increase his average of 1 made three per game to 2.4 which should translate into a net +3.2 points for the team... and to be perfectly honest, I like the team’s chances of making up a 1.3 point deficit to last year’s squad in the coming months vs 4.5.
To build something correctly one needs the proper tools. A carpenter would not start work on a house without a hammer and Billy Donovan should add one to improve the Thunder’s half-court efficiency.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. - Confucius