True Hoops

True Hoops

Friday, March 30, 2012

Durant's Diversity

I was really tempted to call this post the difference between LeBron and Durant Pt. 4
This all started as a joke, but really their differences are becoming more apparent on a nightly basis.

It has already been a week since KD matched up against LeBron and the Heat.
While I’ve always been prone to giving LeBron his props and believing he has the decided advantage over KD, my viewpoint has started to change recently, Of course, this started with a summer league game in which KD put in work and got the better of LeBron. But after last week’s much anticipated showdown turned into a one-sided affair -  in which KD clearly outplayed LeBron – it appears that perhaps KD may now be the favorite in these types of head-to-head match-ups.

Listen, it’s not a secret anymore (even for LeBron supporters) that KD is the better - and dare I say far superior - offensive player. Earlier in the year I pointed out KD’s evolved post-game. But as evidenced by OKC's games in the last week, this dude just keeps coming through with more layers to his game! 

What do you do when you have one of the best players and athletes in the game holding you? 
Let's watch Kevin Durant: 

1) LeBron, literally holding Durant.

2) Fake going over the top of a Perkins screen to set up LeBron.

3) Then run under the screen and therefore LeBron into Perkins girth, causing LeBron to fall and free yourself up.

4) Run across the baseline to the opposite side of the court

5) Curl to the opposite block, with hands ready to receive the pass

6) Footwork: plant/push off with left foot as you catch the ball. This starts to turn your body and bring your momentum back towards the basket.

7) Turn to the basket, pivoting with your right foot. Shooting shoulder is already closest to basket.

8) Elevate right into your shot before defender recovers.

My, how quick and efficient - has KD become a two guard?
Forget Durant emulating Dirk. What about him getting his Reggie Miller on?
Using a baseline screen (or two) to set your defender up in order to get enough space to get your shot off is vintage Miller (trust me, growing up a Knicks fan I saw it plenty of times). Just so happens this other tall, long, and skinny shooter is now using it in his offensive game as well. And just like Miller, once Durant gets the ball in the air - more times than not it already should be counted as a bucket. KD borrowing from Dirk and Miller? How's that for having expanded offensive options? Now contrast that with LeBron. In all fairness LeBron has added post moves to his game. And he is also allowed to have a slump or two during the regular season. But still, LeBron seemed limited offensively (and passive) during the OKC game.

Of course, these types of moves are predicated on OKC running offense sets that are actually geared towards setting screens to get Durant open. And of course running these plays just makes things easier and provides more options for KD. Most importantly, they help KD get easy shots when he is struggling. For example, he started the Lakers game last night 0-8. Then OKC ran a play like this:

1) Durant starts in the right corner, Perkins on the right block.

2) Durant runs off the Perkins baseline screen.

3) Already open, Durant continues to the opposite block with his hands ready to receive James Harden's pass.

4) Footwork: catch and pivot.

5) Elevate right into shot before defender recovers.

Yes, that play resulted in two points. As a result, after the tepid start KD still finished with 21 points. Yes it was on 10-22 shooting, but that means KD went 10-14 after starting 0-8. And that's because OKC runs these plays to get Durant "easy" scores and back into rhythm. 

Let's just say, this is not a strong point of Miami's. And with that, we have stumbled upon another not so secret disparity in style of play, this time between the teams Durant and LeBron play for. Miami, while loaded with the talent of the big three – doesn’t seem to consistently run any offensive plays. It’s a shame, but because when they do they seem to have the desired effect. Rather, they tend to rely on their individual talents and play a lot of one-on-one basketball. While this offensive non-scheme may work against a majority of teams in the NBA, it can certainly be less than efficient when defenses are fully prepared and equipped to handle what you’re bringing. Like when a team, such as OKC, can man up to match Miami's superstars pound for pound and have interior walls like Serge Ibaka and Kendrik Perkins protecting the basket.

On the other hand, actually running offensive sets (or just plain motion offense) can effectively out-manuver any defense, especially those that rely on athleticism instead of fundamentals. Speaking of which, aren't the Heat just like that one summer league team you always see destroy most of it’s opponents simply by pressing, forcing the tempo, and making the opposing teams commit tons of turnovers which lead to easy fast break points? You always say to yourself , "if only a team could just limit their turnovers and make fundamental plays, they could win." Well guess what? OKC took full advantage of Miami’s defense by taking care of the ball and making fundamental plays by not over dribbling and swinging the ball to find the open man.

What was really fascinating about the OKC/Miami game, was how the Heat's defensive strategy actually enabled KD to beat LeBron at his own game. We expected KD to be more skilled and aggressive scoring the ball, but he was also the better playmaker and finished with more assists. This was mainly due to OKC having a proper game plan and taking advantage of Miami’s overzealous defense. When handling the ball, every time KD came off a pick Miami swarmed him with a double team. Rather than forcing up a shot – KD willingly found the open man, which more times than not was either Serge Ibaka or Kendrik Perkins under the basket for a dunk (it does help when you're tall enough to see over the defense). Off the ball, OKC ran Durant off screens like the one above to get open looks. When Miami decided to help LeBron on screens and/or curls to the basket, KD found the man left open by a Miami big looking to help.

It's all about having diverse options.
And KD had many at his disposal to pick apart LeBron and Miami.

Of course, Durant and OKC match up again with LeBron and Miami this Wednesday.
Maybe things will be completely different this time around.
One thing's for sure, it will be interesting to see how LeBron reacts as an underdog.

No comments:

Post a Comment