If you can, go back and watch the Thunder's preseason game against Philadelphia.
Pay close attention to Kevin Durant.
Watch the way he handled the ball. Controlled the pace. Picked apart the defense and made plays with his passing.
“I thought he made as many good reads as he ever has in that game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks.
You need to see what Durant did in that game to understand what the Thunder's offense very likely will look like to start the 2013-14 season.
Durant tallied 12 assists against the Sixers last Tuesday. It was one more than his career high. He finished with 21 points on an efficient 9-for-18 shooting. But when the world's most dangerous scorer began scanning the court and searching for teammates, Durant ultimately dished out 26 additional points through his passing.
He set up five players with at least one basket. Five of Serge Ibaka's nine buckets came courtesy of Durant.
“He's one of the best scorers in the league, if not the best, so he draws so much attention,” said Reggie Jackson, who Durant assisted four times on 10 field goals. “He's slowed down a little and he's finding open shooters. Unfortunately, a lot of our shots went in and out. He probably should have had around 20 assists. But he's doing a good job of just taking what the defense gives him.”
For as long as starting point guard Russell Westbrook is sidelined, the Thunder figures to use Durant as a playmaker more frequently. Think of the three-time scoring champion as a decoy.
“Obviously we got to change some things up with how we play,” Durant said. “And I think coach is putting in some great offense for us. Everybody's touching the ball. We're moving it a little bit more. We're finding the open shot. And we're just trusting our offense.”
The coaching staff has stressed ball movement throughout training camp, and the Thunder's 52 assists on 76 field goals in the first two preseason games suggests the players are listening. It's clear that without Westbrook the Thunder will try to rely on a more balanced attack to preserve some semblance of its high-scoring attack.
It's up to Durant to lead the way.
“It's by design,” Brooks said. “We want all of our playmakers to continue to look for guys that need help scoring. We have guys that can do a lot of things offensively, but they need help. And (Durant) has the ability to get shots for Thabo (Sefolosha), get shots for Serge and get shots for all of our bigs.
“Once we start knocking some of those shots in I think it's going to add to what we do offensively.”
Durant averaged a career-high 4.6 assists last season and, for the first time in his career, finished with more assists than turnovers. Brooks thinks we'll see another jump in Durant's playmaking this season.
“I never predetermine anything,” Durant said. “I just kind of play how the defense plays me. I never come into a game looking to score this many points or get this many assists. I'm just going out there and playing and trusting in the offense and my teammates and myself. Whatever happens after that then it happens.”
There is one condition.
“I've got to be aggressive,” Durant said. “It's not always aggressive to score but aggressive to make the right play. If I do that we'll be fine.”