At the trade deadline, the Thunder managed to secure Doug McDermott from the Bulls in a move that was largely seen as a “no-brainer” for a team that needed floor spacing like Russell Westbrook feels the need to demolish the rim on every dunk. This is Part 2 in a mini-series about how the “new guys” might affect the Oklahoma City Thunder’s young talent. Part 1 on Domantas Sabonis can be found here.
It’s no secret – the Thunder really don’t shoot the three-ball very well. At all. They launch a large quantity, but connecting on them is a different story. During the off-season when “that guy” left, he took a large portion of outside shooting with him, and gutted the very core of the Oklahoma City Thunder game plan. While Russell Westbrook has been unleashed since “the guy they call Cupcake” departed (and “the unleashing of Russ” needs a dedicated piece in and of itself), OKC’s offense was based around floor spacing, which allowed Russ and Steven Adams to go to work in the high PnR. While the fact Westbrook has put up historic numbers is even more impressive considering this, it’s not a championship formula.
So, before the season started, Alex Abrines decided there was now a clearly defined role for him in the NBA and he brought his talents to Loud City. This was an attempt to help provide Russ with wing-targets that could penalize any opponent who would dare try to clog the lane and sag off the perimeter. Abrines has been a breath of fresh air and has really stepped up to the plate during Victor Oladipo’s absences, but how does the addition of Doug “McBuckets” McDermott affect the smooth-shooting Spaniard?
Abrines has been used sparingly so far this season – playing under 15 mins per game throughout his 48 appearances, but we must remember that he wasn’t brought in to make an immediate impact - he was brought across to groom for another title run with Russ at the helm. This means, Abrines can take his time in developing and adjusting to the speed and game style of the NBA, which is vastly different to European basketball (as we’ve seen during International play over the past half a dozen years). On occasion, he has shown glimpses of true NBA potential and other times he seems a bit “at sea” with the structures.
It’s definitely a work in progress.
The addition of McDermott won’t directly impact Abrines in that AA has spent the majority of time at the shooting guard spot, whereas McDermott is largely a small forward who can shift to the four spot in small ball line ups. Unlike the Gibson/Sabonis situation, it’s not really a “like for like” addition. However, there will still be an immediate impact and long term effect with the inclusion of the scoring phenom from Creighton.
While McDermott is just in his third NBA season, that’s still two more than Abrines, and therefore the opportunity for learning and improvement is terrific. Having a natural shooter in your squad every day at practice is only going to aid and improve the quality of guys around him. Also, unlike Morrow, who was quite a one-dimensional marksman, McDermott can put the ball on the floor and is a more natural “scorer” than Morrow; this is where Abrines can really learn to add some strings to his bow. Getting open, using screens, fighting for position on the floor – all tools that are used by Dougie McBuckets to score 10 points per game.
As discussed in the first part of this series, we have yet to see what Billy Donovan does with the starting unit, and also where he is going to allocate the minutes for the shooters and floor spacers. Will Oladipo continue to start or will they use him and his ability to handle point guard duties to anchor the second unit now that Cameron Payne is in Chi-town? The key players in this puzzle are Andre Roberson, Alex Abrines, Victor Oladipo and McDermott – and we won’t know until we have them all healthy and available to play. However, we can see situations where Abrines and McDermott will play alongside each other, and that is pretty exciting for Thunder fans. As we can see in this clip, the threat of having legit 3-point shooters balancing the floor enables Semaj Christon to run a high PnR with Enes Kanter, and Kanter has no trouble finding the wide-open Abrines for the jumper.
While this isn’t as clear cut as the Gibson addition, it’s pretty safe to say that McBuckets and Abrines are going to be able to co-exist and work together to form a formidable wing tandem. They might both have a slightly different poison to pick, but it’s going to be deadly for Thunder opponents. Considering the age of the duo (Abrines is 23 and McDermott is 25) – the future is very bright for the Thunder.