Advanced Scouting: Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs
Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs 6:00 CST February 23, 2011
The Spurs take on the explosive, youthful Thunder in San Antonio tonight. The Thunder are currently 4th in the Western Conference standings and could meet up with the Spurs sometime in May. The Spurs would welcome that matchup if it plays out like the season series thus far. The Spurs won 117-104 on November 14 and 101-74 on New Year’s Day. However, despite these results, Oklahoma City possesses a talented team with two legit stars and a quality supporting cast. Check out my advanced scouting report on the Thunder if you haven’t done so already.
The first game saw Matt Bonner drain all 7 three point attempts, while Westbrook converted only 5 of 17 field goals. In both contests, Durant managed only 2 made free throws. The Spurs combined to outscore the Thunder 35-21 in the fast break after numerous missed opportunities for Oklahoma City. San Antonio found success running isolation sets, scoring 31 points in 27 plays over the two games.
The Thunder have one of the most efficient shot creators in the NBA in Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook has maintained his substantial improvement from last season. Westbrook leads the NBA in self-created shots scored at the rim (according to hoopdata.com):
Player – Unassisted Close Field Goals
Russell Westbrook – 167
Tony Parker – 151
LeBron James – 148
Derrick Rose – 144
Dwyane Wade – 143
All of these players are speedy ball handlers who excel in the open court. It’s ironic that Parker might be considered the “non-athlete” of the bunch at this point in his career. However, he is still able to create what is possibly the most difficult high percentage shot with remarkable frequency.
Oklahoma City: 2.39 (8th)
San Antonio: 6.87 (2nd)
Since basketball-reference updates on a daily basis and basketballvalue updates every other day or so, I may as well also provide a summary of the Spurs player statistics:
In addition to player season summary statistics, I wanted to present a barometer for player trends. I temporarily settled on Efficiency per 48 minutes over the team’s last 10 games from hoopstats.com. I wish they used a metric other than efficiency to evaluate players, but hopefully I’ll soon be able to automate a new statistical estimate of value (or predictive value) based on this data. Any way, here are the hottest players on the Thunder based on efficiency per 48 minutes:
Cook has only played 15 games this season and his performance has understandably improved after acclimating to the new environment, but Durant’s improvement might be more significant (since he’s also playing more minutes.) Durant started this season productive, but with efficiency figures far below his figures from last season. In the last couple months, Durant has returned to form and perhaps even improved from 2009-10.
Here is a look at the Spurs trending players:
A quick look at this chart might indicate that the Spurs are falling fast. However, Efficiency and most other statistical estimates, do not adequately value defensive contributions and the Spurs defense has improved throughout the season enough to largely make up for the offensive declines. (Although 7-3 in the last 10 is below the Spurs 2010-11 standards.)
Besides the shift from offense to defense, this chart doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t know. Blair continues to improve and Ginobili has hit a rough patch lately.
Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Krstic -6 in 517 minutes (-0.9 per 100 possessions)
Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green, Ibaka 0 in 244 minutes (+1.0 per 100)
Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Krstic +24 in 122 minutes (+9.9 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +119 in 616 minutes (+9.1 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +63 in 89 minutes (+37.5 per 100)
I definitely wouldn’t expect another beatdown for the Spurs, but rest and home court should do them some good. Matchups against playoff teams will result in more hiccups, but the Spurs should win; especially if they win the transition battle again.