One thing is clear three games into this Thunder season. Scotty Brooks does not have a concrete idea yet on how to set his rotations.
It’s been fairly push-button the last couple of years. You knew who was coming in and when. Barring foul trouble, you could set your watch by it. And if this team had simply traded James Harden for Kevin Martin, it might have the same neatness. But with three members of OKC’s second unit — Harden, Nazr Mohammed and Daequan Cook — gone, and with Eric Maynor back as the backup point guard, Brooks is still experimenting.
In the inexplicable 104-95 loss to Atlanta on Sunday night, Brooks used 10 lineups, including four lineups twice. Here they are in terms of frequency:
1. Starting lineup of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Russell Westbrook. They played 8:32 to start the game and 9:47 to start the second half. That’s 18:19 total. And were outscored 35-41 in those stints — 16-20 in the first half, 19-21 in the second half. The starting unit has to play better.
2. The finishing lineup of Durant, Ibaka, Martin, Perk and Westbrook. They played the final 5:11 of the first half and the final 5:49 of the game. It’s clear that for now, that’s who Brooks wants to finish with. This fivesome outscored the Hawks 15-5 to close the half, the best part of the game for OKC, but was outscored 13-18 to finish the game. Still, that’s a combined 28-23 advantage.
3. The true B team of Nick Collison, Reggie Jackson, Martin, Eric Maynor and Hasheem Thabeet. They played 4:40 to start the second quarter and outscored Atlanta 9-8. That’s a little encouraging, for such a dud game. Brooks last year seldom brought the B team back intact for the second half and didn’t Sunday night.
4. A mix-and-match of a second-team backcourt and first-team front court. Nick Collison, Durant, Ibaka, Martin and Maynor. They played 1:05 together in the first half (and outscored Atlanta 6-3) and 2:13 in the second half (were outscored 7-4). So that was a wash.
5. An offense-enhanced lineup, with Collison replacing Perkins, Martin replacing Sefolosha, and Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook also on the court. They played 38 seconds together in the first half and 2:09 in the second half. In that 2:47, they were outscored 5-6.
6. A hybrid lineup of Sefolosha and Martin together, along with Collison, Durant and Westbrook. Brooks didn’t use Harden and Sefolosha together enough, in my opinion. He tried the hybrid lineup for 3:25 in the fourth quarter, and it was outscored 5-6.
7. KD and the B team, one of Brooks’ favorite moves the last couple of years. Durant played with Collison, Martin, Maynor and Thabeet for 1:45. It was outscored 0-5.
8. A hard-to-describe lineup of Collison, Ibaka, Martin, Maynor and Sefolosha played the first 1:15 of the fourth quarter and was outscored 0-2.
9. The hard-to-describe lineup was changed with Durant replacing Ibaka to join Collison, Martin, Maynor and Sefolosha. It outscored Atlanta 2-0.
10. A small-ball lineup of Durant, Martin, Perk, Sefolosha and Westbrook. It played just 38 seconds and was outscored 1-3. But I like that lineup. I’d go back to it. I like any small lineup. Durant, Westbrook, Martin, Sefolosha and any of Collison, Ibaka or Perk.
So the truth is, Brooks is still scrambling. And he didn’t get a lot of answers Sunday night.