Oklahoma City Thunder: Assists have become bigger than ever for Thunder

Kevin Durant's first triple-double included elusive 10-assist plateau.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 19, 2012
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photo - Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) passes around Detroit's Rodney Stuckey (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 105-94. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant (35) passes around Detroit's Rodney Stuckey (3) during an NBA basketball game between the Detroit Pistons and the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. Oklahoma City won, 105-94. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

As Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden monopolized possessions last year, the Thunder's offense turned into a predictable set of isolations. OKC tallied at least 18 assists in only 60.6 percent of its games last season. This year, however, with Durant, Westbrook and even Kendrick Perkins currently averaging career-highs in assists, OKC has topped 18 assists in 90.9 percent of its games.

Behind that improvement the Thunder has shot up from 30th in the league in assists a year ago to 11th at 22.4 through Sunday's games.

“Our unsung heroes are always our bigs,” Brooks said. “They make the offense go. We have some dynamic players on the wing and at point guard, but what makes it go are those big guys are setting screens every time down court.”

With better ball movement, the Thunder is now benefiting more than it ever has from nearly everyone being a threat to score. For the first time in the franchise's Oklahoma City era, four players are averaging at least 14 points. Before this year, the Thunder had never had four players average at least 10 points for a full season.

A byproduct of the ball movement has been pinpoint accuracy from 3-point range. With the ball swinging from side to side, players are getting wide open shot attempts on the perimeter as the defense is forced to rotate. It's led to a league-leading 43.5 percent clip from behind the arc.

The Thunder had never ranked in the top third in the league in 3-point shooting before this season. Last year's ranking, 11th in the league, was previously as high as OKC had been.

Martin has made opponents pay the most. He's connected on 53.6 percent of his 3-point attempts, and his 30 made 3s rank him third in the league behind Dallas guard O.J. Mayo and Portland's Nicolas Batum.

“Our team is growing up,” Brooks said. “We understand what's needed out there and how we need to play.”

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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