Practice Roundup – Jan. 10, 2017

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

Once again on Monday the Thunder dominated one of the most crucial aspects of the game – transition.

Head Coach Billy Donovan’s club outscored the Bulls 25-4 in fast break points on the night, bringing its season margin to an average of 17.3 to just 10.7. Those fast break points allowed is good for fourth in the NBA, while the Thunder ranks third in its own fast break points scored.

Even though it is getting out and running at a high level, the Thunder is managing to grab 77.9 percent of available defensive rebounds, seventh-best in the league. And equally as impressive, the Thunder is limiting opposing fast breaks despite grabbing 26.0 percent of available offensive rebounds, also tied for seventh best in the league.

With Steven Adams and Enes Kanter down on the block, and Russell Westbrook attacking the paint it’s no surprise that the Thunder has been one of the best offensive rebounding clubs. Westbrook’s ability to be a one-man fast break explains the Thunder’s own transition scoring. But the reason for the Thunder’s strong transition defense is a bit more complex.

Besides simply being focused on getting back, the Thunder also typically has some of its very best athletes hanging out in the corners on offense – the spots on the floor that are first to get back and into a play. Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson and Jerami Grant are often the players who are charged with blowing up opposing fast breaks, and their combination of length, size, speed and athleticism are daunting to opposing guards on the attack.

“We just have the personnel for it,” Grant said. “We have a bunch of athletic players who can run the court.”

Thunder Talk: Jerami Grant - Jan. 10, 2016

- Towards the end of the 2015-16 season, the Thunder showed off a new weapon – Andre Roberson at the power forward spot on offense. Finding ways to utilize players’ strengths in creative ways has always been one of Donovan’s strong suits, and in a crucial juncture of postseason basketball, Donovan utilized his athletic wing as a screener, under the rim stalking at the dunker spot and even as a roll man who could put the ball on the deck and find an open teammate after the ballhandler was trapped. Roberson has done more of that this season, but it can be done most frequently and effectively when the matchups and opposing defensive schemes work out.

  • “Andre is a smart player. He’s very cerebral. He understands plays and concepts,” Donovan said. “He has a very good feel. When you have a guy like Andre, you can move him around.”
  • “A lot of it is based on who is guarding him, matchups and how teams are guarding certain kinds of actions through scouting and preparation, trying to watch film,” Donovan added. “Then it’s trying to utilize and find ways to put him positions that he’s talking about where he can roll, or catch on the run and put it on the floor, back cuts and those kind of things.”
  • More from Donovan: “When you’re a good passer if you can put the ball on the floor and force help it can create and generate extra passes. Last year as the season progressed he got better and better handling the basketball and it was something he put a lot of focus on this summer. He’s gotten drastically better. You’re seeing him handle the ball more on the break and in the half court. A lot of it has to do with the amount of time he’s put into it.”

- Adams and Kanter combined for yet another incredible tandem performance up in Chicago – putting up 42 points on 20-for-25 shooting to go with 16 rebounds. The most impressive part of their recent performances, however, has been the way they’ve operated out of double teams to kick the ball out to open teammates. Kanter had two excellent assists and a few other slick passes that freed up teammates for shots on Monday.

  • “They’re really showing their presence and being a force down on the low block,” Roberson said. “We’re going to need them to continue to dominate.” 
  • “It makes the game easier on everybody. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along with Russ, put two on the ball and find the open man,” Roberson continued. “That’s how the game is played. They’re doing a great job of passing out of the double team and taking advantage of it.”

Thunder Talk: Andre Roberson - Jan. 10, 2016

- The poster hasn’t been printed yet, but Jerami Grant was all grins on Tuesday when asked about his emphatic slam dunk against the Chicago Bulls the night before. Throughout the season Grant has stunned Thunder fans with his bouncy athleticism and once again showed it on Monday in Chicago. This time, as he’s done on a handful of occasions this year, Grant’s head nearly hit the rim.

  • “It felt good, going out there and be able to do what you do,” Grant smiled. “When it gets to that point I just have to watch out for myself. I guess you could say I have gotten used to it, not hitting my head on the rim. It’s kind of instinctual.”

And then there was this....Jerami Grant.

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