Defense a Winning Formula for Durant, Thunder

» November 18, 2009 12:53 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Mike Baldwin at The Oklahoman has the write-up:

Remember when there was concern the Thunder’s new “shell” defense might have problems defending 3-pointers after the Rockets and Spurs lit Oklahoma City up for a combined 25 3-pointers in back-to-back preseason games?

Three weeks into the season, the Thunder leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage defense.

In case you read over that too quickly, OKC leads the league.

Opponents are shooting 28.2 percent beyond the arc. Combined with being ranked among the league leaders in overall field goal percentage defense (43.7) and scoring defense (91.2), the Thunder’s new and improved defense has been drawing rave reviews from opposing coaches.

“You can tell right away (their defense is much improved),” said Miami coach Eric Spoelstra. “They’ve been playing well all season. Their athleticism is noticeable. They cover a lot of ground. They have a lot of length. They’re getting after it. They compete, are organized and are playing hard.”

Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, Houston’s Rick Adelman, Lakers’ Phil Jackson and Spurs’ Gregg Popovich have made similar comments the past two weeks.

Oklahoma City ranks a surprising third in defensive efficiency (99.5) and eighth in field goal percentage defense (.437). “After last season, we felt one area we were going to need to improve was defensive basketball,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told Baldwin. “We needed to play with a toughness and we needed to have an identity of playing with defensive thoughts in our mind from the first practice. I thought the guys really bought in.”

Kevin Durant is, at least according to adjusted plus-minus, leading the charge. Oklahoma City surrendered 7.9 points more per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor last season. This season, Durant is a staggering +10.3 — that is, his team gives up 10.3 points less when he’s on the court — which puts him in the company of Andre Iguodala and Dahntay Jones, two swingmen renowned for their defensive chops.

3 Responses to “Defense a Winning Formula for Durant, Thunder”

  1. Erick Says:

    The more I read about the Thunder, the more convinced I am that they’re the next Trail Blazers. They have young talent, are well-coached, and play hard on the defensive end. And with the team’s star leading the charge (at least according to the +/- numbers, the rest of the team will follow suit.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I like what Sam Presti has done thus far, but I’m not ready to declare their future brighter than Portland’s. Oklahoma City is the smallest NBA market, which will likely limit how much they can spend compared to larger markets like Los Angeles and Miami. They’ll have plenty of cap space this summer, though, so let’s see if they snag a dominant post player before tabbing them to pass the Blazers.

    FYI: Portland is second in defensive efficiency, thanks in part to the emergence of Greg Oden.

  3. Erick Says:

    I never said that they were actually going to be better than Portland, I just think they’re experiencing the same developmental track, one that will probably see them become very, very good. I can see them barely missing the playoffs this season, making the playoffs next year, and then based on how they shape their roster, being able to get to the conference finals 2-3 years down the road based on the strength of Durant, Westbrook, and their depth alone.

    What they do when they get there will depend on the pieces they add.

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