I know this was included in today’s Bolts, but this is just too good to not put a neon sign on. Pelton wrote and awesome feature about the evolution of Kevin Durant. Just read the whole thing. It’s wonderful. Pelton says what we’ve all seen: Though P.J. Carlesimo and Scott Brooks both have the same 1-12 record, there’s a ton of differences between the results of the two.
I’ve been talking about the improvement of the team, and while it hasn’t done much in the win-loss area, the team has gotten better. It’s undeniable. Pelton of Basketball Prospectus puts together some awesome numbers and breaks down the difference between the two coaches – most notably, the way the Thunder’s stud has performed under the two.
Check this little diddy out:
Coach Pace OffRat DefRat Diff ExpW
Carlesimo 94.6 93.4 107.7 -12.3 1.2
Brooks 91.0 106.8 116.4 - 7.5 3.3
“Despite the record, it’s easy to see that Oklahoma City has played better with Brooks at the helm. Their point differential is still bad, but at least respectable. On average, a team with the Thunder’s -7.5 differential under Brooks would have won about three out of 13 games. It’s easy to see where those wins could have come; within Brooks’ first week on the job, Oklahoma City had lost a pair of home games by a combined three points on last-second shots. The team is also competing on a nightly basis: only one of Brooks’ 12 losses has come by more than 12 points.”
So there’s a few positives. I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that if Brooks were at the helm from the beginning of the season, OKC would have at least two to three more wins than it has now and a 6-18 record really wouldn’t be out of the question. But as much as the offense and scoring has improved, the defense has regressed. But it’s not all that bad of a tradeoff, considering where OKC was heading on the offensive end under Carlesimo.
“Under Carlesimo, the Thunder was threatening all sorts of league records for offensive futility. That has changed under Brooks, and impressively so. Actually, Oklahoma City’s 106.8 Offensive Rating over the last 13 games is not far off of league average for the season (108.0). The Thunder has been far more potent at late. The tradeoff has come at the defensive end, where an OKC squad that was reasonably competent early in the season has been porous since the coaching change. No team is allowing more points per 100 possessions than the Brooks Thunder, though again the league-wide shift inflates the magnitude of the change.”
Pelton has Durant’s numbers under P.J. and under Brooks:
Coach 2P% 3P% eFG% TS% Usage 2A% 3A% FTA% TO%
Carlesimo .447 .438 .462 .513 .294 .712 .055 .088 .145
Brooks .476 .500 .532 .592 .271 .613 .156 .124 .107
“Durant has improved virtually across the board. The most telling numbers might be the rightmost series, what I group as player tendencies–the percentage of possessions used on two-point and three-point attempts, free throws and turnovers. The two most efficient ways to score are on threes and at the free-throw line, and Durant has improved his sum of the two categories from 14.3 percent of his possessions under Carlesimo to 28.0 percent under Brooks. Quite simply, Durant is playing a different game. It’s also a much better one, as reflected in the massive spikes in his effective field-goal percentage and his True Shooting Percentage. Durant has gone from a low-efficiency, volume shooter to the kind of lethal, highly-efficient scorer he was in his lone season at Texas. And he’s done it while slashing his turnovers as well.”
Pelton doesn’t really buy into the whole, “Oh, well it’s because KD moved to small forward” argument. He said after reviewing a Thunder game, he didn’t really see any difference between the way Durant is being used between Carlesimo and Brooks. But he does see what I’ve said I see – improved spacing, freeing up KD’s jumper and his driving ability.
Pelton wraps up with this:
“There’s one final factor, one which should be disconcerting for the Thunder’s opponents in the long term. Durant is still a babyfaced 20-year-old, and he’s figuring out things all the time. The development of his game from where he was at the end of his rookie season was obvious against the Spurs. He has become much more accurate from the perimeter, most notably from three-point range. Because of his low percentage, Durant gradually phased the three out of his game near the end of last season, continuing that at the start of 2008-09. However, when Durant started making more of his infrequent attempts, he began ramping back up. Under Brooks, he has been hitting at an even 50 percent clip from long distance while making nearly two threes a game. A long 6’9″ player who can gets shots off against any defender while hitting almost effortlessly from range? That’s the Durant everyone envisioned coming out of the University of Texas, and slowly but surely–with the assistance of the Thunder’s coaching change–we’re starting to see it at the NBA level.”
If that doesn’t help sway you a little to the “optimist” category then there’s not much hope for your sad self. I understand the reason to see the future being a tad dim, but there’s a lot of upside for this group. And it all starts with Durant and so far, under Brooks, it’s starting to look better.