Find the Shot, Catch a Rhythm

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Digital Reporter | mailbag@okcthunder.com

With peculiar lineups and player groupings on the floor, it’s hard to say that anything concrete that an NBA team puts together during the preseason is guaranteed to carry over to the regular season, but some of the more subtle aspects of the game can be developed during exhibition time.

During the Thunder preseason slate, core players who were healthy like Paul George, Steven Adams and Dennis Schröder were able to take charge and get into top form, and role players were able to get a sense of where they fit in.

“Mostly what you get out of preseason games is a rhythm and a habit,” George noted. “That’s what you try to find, a habit that you can build off of.”

As the team uses this week in between the end of the preseason slate and Tuesday’s opening night at the Golden State Warriors to sharpen up, much of the conversation has been about identifying and creating optimal shot attempts on each possession.

During the preseason, Donovan was pleased with the percentage of shots that came in the deep paint, at the rim, from behind the three-point line and at the free throw line. Whether they go in is another matter, but as long as the team is orienting the offense towards creating the right shots for the right guys, the Thunder’s head coach will be content.

“It’s the kind of shots you’re getting is the important thing. And who’s taking what shots and what areas of the floor and how efficient of the shot is that for a particular player,” Donovan explained. “Guys need to be comfortable and understand where their shots will be coming from so they can work on those situations.”

Watch: Camp Report - Oct. 12

In order to actually take those shots, the Thunder has to do its work early off the ball, and through screening, to actually receive the ball in a shooting pocket. There’s no one better on the Thunder roster at creating the wide receiver-type separation from his defender than George, who is a master at curling around screens, fighting off latching defenders and darting to an opening.

George takes advantage of moments when his defender isn’t body to body with him or isn’t paying attention to the ball, but the Thunder All-Star also uses his own wits to recognize where screeners are set up for him and what angles to take. As long as George has multiple avenues to work with, he’ll be able to make the catch.

Anytime you give him multiple ways to move, that’s the best way for him, because he can get his length, his size and his intelligence into the game,” Donovan said. “He can make reads from there. He can get a lot of his skills into the game because of that.”

“Anything the defender gives me,” George said confidently. “I’ve seen every defense in my career and every defender. There’s not much you can do to stop me from getting the ball or getting off a pin down.”

Injury Report

-       Russell Westbrook has been able to work in limited contact situations in practice and is continuing to progress according to the original timeline from his arthroscopic knee surgery in September.

  • “He’s been in controlled situations that the medical staff has allowed him to do,” Donovan said of Westbrook. “Hopefully with the way he responds physically after going through a contact, he’ll be able to add a little bit more.”

-       Terrance Ferguson is still in concussion protocol and is going through the individual steps to clear what the NBA requires. He has been able to do some non-contact work on the side over the past few days.

-       Abdel Nader has done a little bit more in practice each day and completed a “good portion” of practice on Friday but as of yet is not fully cleared to participate in 100 percent of practice.

  • “He really wants to be out there and you feel bad for him because he’s such a hard working guy,” Donovan said of Nader.

-       Andre Roberson is still a little less than two months away from his re-evaluation timeframe after his recent knee procedure to remove a suture.