Movement off the Ball Crucial in the Half Court

Coming into the season, much of the Thunder’s offensive game plan has circled around executing its sets, spacing the floor and not playing in traffic. There’s one other element that is crucial to success in the half court, player movement off the ball.

Making sure that each player is set up in their spots to start each possession is important for the Thunder, but over the past month the Thunder has also been working on staying in motion during the course of the play. Relocating along the perimeter, sprinting into screens and popping between the dunker spot in the short corner and the high post are different ways the four Thunder players who don’t have the ball can help create easy offensive opportunities.

“Playing with pace and getting to our spots early in the possession is big for us,” forward Nick Collison explained. “If we can get to our spots early and then start the movement for whatever the play is, we’re in much better shape. The spacing is better, the decisions are easier, there are less turnovers and better shots. All of those things go into getting a good shot on the offensive end.”

Head Coach Scott Brooks’ team has typically been one of the league’s premier offensive teams over the past five seasons, ranking in the top three in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage last season. One of the keys to success has been the gradual evolution of the team’s offense to become less isolation-oriented and more ball-movement based.

The most essential factor, however, has been the work the team does on the defensive end in order to create offense. By forcing turnovers, where the Thunder currently leads the league with 21.0 opposing turnovers per game, and contesting shooters, Brooks’ club can turn defense into offense.

“It’s always important to have ball movement and player movement,” Brooks said. “At times we can do a much better job with that. We’re all aware that when we play our best basketball it’s at the defensive end when we create opportunities to score in transition where we can beat the defense down before they get set.”

Getting out into transition and scoring fast break points is the highest efficiency offense the Thunder can have, and it wants to balance that by still being able to execute when defenses are set. Over the coming weeks and months of the season, as rotations, player combinations and roles continue to be defined, it will be essential that the Thunder maintains its level of focus and work ethic with regard to the fundamentals that are key to its success.

That player movement off the ball is an integral part of what the Thunder does in the half court, and in order to remain sharp, the team must stay on top of its execution through its work at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center. There will be natural slippage that occurs during the season, but if the players bring the correct mindset to practice each day, the team has the chance to be a contender once again as one of the NBA’s best offenses.

“Each day we need to come in with the sense of we have to get better today,” Collison said. “That’s the mindset we have to have all year. We’ve always had that, and that’s why we’ve had success here. We’ve shown a lot of improvement over the years, so this year is no different. We need to come in here each day and focus on every aspect of our game and get better at all phases.”