One Team, One Stat: No passes, no problem for Oklahoma City Thunder

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann NBA.com

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Oct 5, 2016 8:29 AM ET

 

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 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 have flourished offensively despite a lack of ball movement.

THE STAT

According to SportVU, the Oklahoma City Thunder averaged just 2.67 passes per possession last season, the lowest mark in the league.

Fewest passes per possession, 2015-16
TeamPass/GPass/Poss.
Oklahoma City2642.67
Sacramento2822.77
Detroit2762.84
L.A. Lakers2822.87
Houston2882.89
via SportVU

THE CONTEXT

As the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors have taught us the value of ball movement over the last four seasons, the Thunder have reminded us that you don't need to move the ball to have a potent offense. Over the last six seasons, the Thunder have had the league's lowest assist percentage ... and the league's most efficient offense.

Thunder efficiency & AST%, last 6 seasons
SeasonOffRtgRankAST%Rank
2015-16109.9255.8%21
2014-15104.51152.8%29
2013-14108.1756.2%25
2012-13110.2256.1%28
2011-12107.1249.7%30
2010-11108.6454.5%24
TOTAL108.1154.4%30
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AST% = AST / FGM

When you have two of the league's best individual talents and put the ball in their hands, it often stays there. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have ranked first and 11th, respectively, in unassisted field goals over the last six seasons.

Most unassisted field goals, last six seasons
PlayerFGMAssistedUnassisted%Assisted
Russell Westbrook3,4947992,69522.9%
LeBron James4,2721,6162,65637.8%
Chris Paul2,7565282,22819.2%
Monta Ellis3,3871,2912,09638.1%
Carmelo Anthony3,4621,4082,05440.7%
John Wall2,7707282,04226.3%
James Harden3,0981,0832,01535.0%
Stephen Curry3,3861,4021,98441.4%
Dwyane Wade3,1411,1801,96137.6%
Tony Parker2,7117871,92429.0%
Kevin Durant3,8702,0461,82452.9%
Kobe Bryant2,7471,0501,69738.2%

Durant was one of only two players with an effective field goal percentage of better than 50 percent on at least 200 pull-up jump shots last season. Westbrook wasn't nearly as good on pull-up jumpers (though his effective field goal percentage was better than the league average), but he's the most explosive player in the league. He led all guards in baskets in the restricted area by a pretty wide margin.

Westbrook also ranked second in the league with 10.4 assists per game last season. His 255 assists to Durant were the most any player had to any teammate.

THUNDER 2015-16 FOUR FACTORS
 eFG%RankOREB%RankTO%RankFTA RateRank
Own52.4%431.1%115.9%280.2928
Opponents48.4%524.0%1713.0%270.27113
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = % of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

He also recorded assists on a league-high 18 percent of his passes. According to SportVU, Westbrook passed the ball to the screener 35.3 percent of the time when coming off a ball-screen, the second highest mark in the league (behind Ricky Rubio) among players who used at least 500 ball screens last season.

His passes are effective. But his passes are meant more to create shots than they are to spur more ball movement. The Thunder recorded three or more passes on only 45 percent of their possessions last season. The league average was 56 percent and only one other team (Sacramento) passed the ball three or more times on less than half of its possessions.

THUNDER 2015-16 SHOOTING
AreaFGMFGAFG%Rank%FGARank
Restricted area1,5342,52860.7%1235.7%4
Other paint42191246.2%112.9%23
Mid-range7391,69743.5%124.0%16
Corner 320858535.6%238.3%9
Above-break 34701,35434.7%1419.1%21
%FGA = Percentage of total FGA

Westbrook probably isn't going to change who he is. But without Durant, the Thunder can't rely on individual talent as much as they have in the past. And in order to make the most of Westbrook's supporting cast and remain one of the league's best offensive teams, they may have to move the ball a lot more.

THUNDER PACE & EFFICIENCY, LAST 5 SEASONS
SeasonWLPCTPaceRankOffRtgRankDefRtgRankNetRtgRank
2015-1655270.67199.49109.92103.012+6.93
2014-1545370.54998.36104.511103.116+1.313
2013-1459230.72097.99108.17101.05+7.13
2012-1360220.73295.910110.2299.24+11.01
2011-1247190.71295.76107.12100.09+7.24
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

10 MORE THUNDER NOTES

  1. Oklahoma City led the league in offensive rebounding percentage (grabbing 31.1 percent of available offensive boards) and second chance points per game (15.8). Enes Kanter was the top individual in regard to offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 16.8 percent of available offensive boards when he was on the floor. Steven Adams ranked 11th at 12.4 percent.
  2. According to SportVU, the Thunder contested 25 percent of their opponents' jump shots and 15 percent of their opponents' 3-point attempts. Both marks were the lowest in the league.
  3. The Thunder shot 0-for-13 from 3-point range in overtime, but went 3-2 in overtime games.
  4. Oklahoma City was outscored by 10.3 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter after the All-Star break, the second worst mark in the league. It only went 3-12 (only the Sixers were worse) in games that were within five points in the last five minutes after the break.
  5. The Thunder shot 43.6 percent from mid-range, the best mark in the league. But Durant (49.5 percent) was the league leader among 86 players who took at least 200 shots from mid-range and Serge Ibaka (45.5 percent) ranked 12th. All other Thunder players shot 40.3 percent from mid-range, a mark which would have ranked 14th among the 30 teams.
  6. Westbrook led the league with 18 triple-doubles and the Thunder were 18-0 in those games. They also won the one playoff game (Game 4 vs. Golden State) in which he recorded a triple-double.
  7. Westbrook led all guards in rebounding percentage, grabbing 12.3 percent of available boards while he was on the floor.
  8. Kanter had an effective field goal percentage 58.3 percent last season, up from 52.8 percent the year before. That increase of 5.5 percentage points was the third biggest increase among 124 players with at least 500 FGA both in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
  9. Westbrook led the league in postseason usage rate, using 33.7 percent of the Thunder's possessions while he was on the floor. In the regular season, his usage rate was 29.6 percent with Durant on the floor and 36.8 percent with Durant off the floor. He was actually a more efficient scorer with Durant on the bench (55.5 true shooting percentage) than he was with Durant on the floor (55.3 true shooting percentage).
  10. Adams, Ibaka and Kanter ranked first, third and fourth in true shooting percentage among players who took at least 100 shots in the playoffs.

NBA TV's Thunder preview premieres at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

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

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