One Team, One Stat: No backup for the MVP in OKC

NBA.com Global on Oct 07, 2017 08:53 AM
One Team, One Stat: No backup for the MVP in OKC
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook walks down the court in the final seconds of Game 2 of the team's NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, who couldn't back up the MVP.

THE STAT

In the 2017 playoffs, the Oklahoma City Thunder were outscored by 58 points in just 46 minutes with Russell Westbrook on the bench.

THE CONTEXT

In their first-round series, the Thunder outscored the Houston Rockets by 15 points with Westbrook on the floor. The reigning Kia MVP had a positive plus-minus in each of the last four games and Games 2, 4 and 5 were basically lost in the few minutes that he rested.

- In Game 2, Westbrook was a plus-11 and the Thunder were outscored 27-12 in his seven minutes on the bench.
- In Game 4, Westbrook was a plus-14 and the Thunder were outscored 28-8 in his nine minutes on the bench.
- In Game 5, Westbrook was a plus-12 and the Thunder were outscored 27-9 in his six minutes on the bench.

Westbrook's regular-season usage rate of 40.8 percent was the highest since play-by-play data started being recorded in 1996. So you'd expect the offense to have issues when he sat.

But in those playoff minutes, the OKC defense was worse than the offense. Houston scored 105 points in a little less than 32 minutes with Westbrook off the floor in Games 2-5. And regarding the defense, it's notable that Steven Adams sat when Westbrook did.

Adams was the Thunder's second most important player last season and was on the floor for only eight of those 32 minutes that Westbrook was on the bench in *Games 2-5. In the 24 minutes that both were off the floor, the Rockets scored an incredible 86 points.

* Game 1 included more than four minutes of garbage time, so we're disregarding it here.

The Thunder's no-Westbrook issues weren't quite as dramatic in the regular season, but they were 12.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (plus-3.3) than with him off the floor (minus-8.9). That was the seventh biggest on-off NetRtg differential in the league and the Thunder lost eight regular-season games in which Westbrook had a positive plus-minus. As was the case in the playoffs, Westbrook and Adams usually sat at the same time.

The additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony obviously change the calculus in Oklahoma City. And just as important as the new guys' ability to complement Westbrook is their ability to keep the Thunder afloat when he goes to the bench.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan has the ability to have at least one All-Star (and maybe two) on the floor at all times. Even if you're skeptical about Anthony's ability to make a positive impact (considering both ends of the floor), the Thunder also have another impact player in Adams.

It's not encouraging that Donovan never staggered the minutes of Westbrook and Adams last season. He generally didn't stagger the minutes of Westbrook and Kevin Durant two seasons ago either, but did so in the playoffs.

Doing so again with his new big four would help make those no-Westbrook minutes not so awful.

THUNDER NOTES - GENERAL

1. Were 7.0 points per 100 possessions worse than they were last season (plus-6.9 NetRtg). That was the biggest NetRtg drop-off in the league.

2. Led the league in total rebounding percentage for the third time in the last four seasons. Were one of two teams (Denver was the other) to rank in the top five in both offensive rebounding percentage (first) and defensive rebounding percentage (third).

3. Were 9.0 points per 100 possessions better with rest (plus-1.5) than they were on the second game of a back-to-back (minus-7.6). That was the third biggest differential in the league (behind only Detroit and Indiana). Were 2-8 with the league's worst NetRtg (minus-13.0 points per 100 possessions) with a rest disadvantage, where they were playing the second game of a back-to-back against an opponent that didn't play the day before.

4. Outscored their opponents by 2.8 points per 100 possessions in the first and fourth quarters, but were outscored by 3.5 points per 100 possessions over the second and third quarters.

5. Outscored their opponents by 5.8 points per game on fast break points. Only Golden State (plus-8.2) had a better fast-break-point differential.

6. Were 33-9 in the regular season and 1-2 in the playoffs when Westbrook recorded a triple-double.

7. Have played at a faster-than-average pace in each of the last 12 seasons.

THUNDER NOTES - OFFENSE

1. Were a below-average offensive team for the first time in the last eight years (since the 2008-09 season).

2. Saw the league's biggest drop-offs in points scored per 100 possessions - from 109.9 (second in the league) to 105.0 (17th) - and in effective field goal percentage - from 52.4 percent (fourth) to 50.0 percent (24th) - from 2015-16 to '16-17.

3. Ranked last in the league in both passes per game (260.5) and passes per possession (2.63). Have ranked in the bottom 10 in assist rate (AST/FGM) in each of the last eight seasons.

4. Led the league with 49.9 points in the paint per game. Only Milwaukee (38.2 percent) took a higher percentage of their shots from the restricted area than the Thunder did (37.7 percent).

5. Shot just 32.4 percent, the worst mark in the league, on wide-open 3-pointers.

6. Only team that won multiple games in which it had an assist/turnover ratio less than 0.75.

THUNDER NOTES - DEFENSE

1. One of two Western Conference teams that have allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in at least seven of the last eight seasons. The Spurs have done so for 20 straight years.

2. Allowed their opponents to get 35.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the second highest rate in the league. Only New York's defense allowed a higher percentage of shots to come at the basket.

3. According to SportVU, the Thunder forced their opponents to take 52 percent of their shots, the highest rate in the league, in the last 12 seconds of the shot clock.

4. Ranked second in clutch defense, allowing just 96.8 points per 100 possessions with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime. No team had better improvement from their defense on non-clutch possessions (105.5) to their defense in the clutch.

5. The 18.4 second chance points per game they allowed the Rockets to score in the first round were 4.1 more than any other team allowed in the playoffs.

THUNDER NOTES - LINEUPS

1. Had two of the four best defensive lineups among the 46 that played at least 200 minutes last season. Allowed just 97.7 points per 100 possessions in 839 total minutes with Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson and Adams on the floor with either Domantas Sabonis or Taj Gibson at power forward. All other OKC lineups allowed 107.1 points per 100 possessions in 3,117 minutes.

2. Among those same lineups that played at least 200 minutes, the OKC starters with Gibson were both the best offensive rebounding lineup (grabbing 34.5 percent of available offensive boards) and the best defensive rebounding lineup (grabbing 83.8 percent of available defensive boards).

3. As noted above, the Thunder were 12.2 points per 100 possessions better with Westbrook on the floor than they were with him on the bench. Most of the difference was on offense, where they scored 107.9 points per 100 possessions with him running the offense and just 97.4 with him sitting down. That was the sixth biggest on-off-court OffRtg differential among 277 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.

4. Scored 113.7 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook and Enes Kanter on the floor together. That was the best on-court OffRtg among their two-man combinations that played at least 500 minutes.

THUNDER NOTES - INDIVIDUAL

1. Alex Abrines accounted for 44.5 percent of the Thunder's 3-pointers while he was on the floor, the third highest rate among players who logged at least 1,000 total minutes. He was one of only six rookies that played at least 1,000 minutes and had a positive plus-minus. Teammate (at the time) Domantas Sabonis was one of the other five.

2. According to SportVU, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams ran 1,308 ball screens last season, most for any combination in the league. The Thunder scored 1.08 points per possession on those possessions, a mark which ranked 38th among 67 combinations that ran at least 300 ball screens.

3. Carmelo Anthony took only 21.8 percent of his shots from the paint, the lowest rate among the 38 players who attempted at least 1,000 shots last season.

4. According to SportVU, Semaj Christon passed the ball 76 percent of the time after using a ball screen, the highest rate among 89 players who used at least 300.

5. According to SportVU, Paul George passed the ball only 44 percent of the time after using a ball screen, the second lowest rate (only Andrew Wiggins had a lower one) among 89 players who used at least 300 ball screens. George had the highest turnover rate (8.6 percent), but also the third highest drawn-foul rate (8.8 percent) among that group.

6. Anthony and George were two of three players (Stephen Curry was the other) to average at least 6.0 points per game on catch-and-shoot attempts and at least 6.0 on pull-up attempts.

7. Jerami Grant shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range last season, up from 24.0 percent the season before. That was the second biggest increase among 169 players who attempted at least 100 3-pointers both in 2015-16 and '16-17. The only player who saw a bigger increase was Grant's brother Jerian.

8. Ninety percent of Patrick Patterson's jump shots were catch-and-shoot attempts (as opposed to pull-ups). That was the second highest rate among 179 players who attempted at least 250 total jumpers, according to SportVU. His effective field goal percentage of 55.0 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers ranked 59th among 122 players who attempted at least 200.

9. Andre Roberson took 25.5 percent of his shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock, the fourth highest rate among players with at least 300 total field goal attempts.

10. Roberson had an effective field goal percentage of 36.2 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, the worst mark among 172 players with at least 150 catch-and-shoot attempts. He shot 25.3 percent on wide-open 3-pointers, the worst mark among 101 players who attempted at least 100. Domantas Sabonis (traded to Indiana) had the fourth worst mark at 30.1 percent.

11. Westbrook led the league with 31.6 points per game, 42 triple-doubles, four 50-point games, 247 points in the clutch, 6.7 fast break points per game, 12.3 pull-up jumpers per game, and 30 second-chance 3-pointers.

12. As noted above, Westbrook had the highest usage rate in the 21 years for which we have the stat. He ranked sixth in usage rate in 2015-16 (31.3 percent) and had the second biggest increase in usage rate (behind Harrison Barnes) among players who played at least 1,000 minutes both seasons.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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