The Thunder has yet to play a regular season game. But Russell Westbrook quickly established himself throughout training camp and the preseason as perhaps the most improved player on the roster. His improvement has been quantifiable, as seen in his increased assists and decreased turnovers, and unquantifiable, displayed in his patience and confidence on the court.
But one small development in his game has stood out and could have a major impact on the Thunder this season. Westbrook is now coming to get the ball following defensive rebounds rather than relying on a risky outlet pass in traffic. It’s a small quirk Westbrook didn’t exhibit last season but one that could cut down on turnovers this year.
"I learned,” Westbrook said. "Last year, I was running out and things like that. And after watching other point guards, you’ve got to come back and get the ball and run the team. I watched a lot of film of myself this summer and it’s just me seeing what I can get better at.”
DEFENSE IMPROVING SLOWLY
Despite taking a few steps back defensively in the last three preseason games, the Thunder has used the past few days of practice to shore up its shell defense philosophy rather than ditch it.
"These last three games, it broke down a little bit with (opponents) 3-point shooting, but you can’t waver,” said guard Kevin Ollie
"Our defensive system is evolving. We’ve got a unique team where we’ve got Jeff Green
at (power forward), and we can do a lot of switching. We haven’t put that in yet, but you can do certain things and kind of junk up the game a little bit.