This season, the Thunder has had 23 lineups appear in at least 10 games together. Of the top six from a plus/minus standpoint, four are without a traditional center.
The best of those five-man groupings has been Westbrook, Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha, Durant and Serge Ibaka. In a limited sample size, it averages 123 points per 100 possessions and has outscored opponents by 44 points in 44 minutes.
And the unique part of that cast is the frontcourt, with Durant at power forward and Ibaka at center. Over the past couple seasons, Durant seems to be getting more comfortable playing the four.
In those rare situations, it creates a matchup nightmare for opposing teams. Because of his length and increased strength, Durant is able to hold his own against opposing bigs, like he did for a stretch against the Clippers’ Blake Griffin on Sunday. But teams are wary to cross-match the Thunder in that scenario.
“It forces other teams to put a perimeter guy on him, because there’s hardly any bigs that can guard him,” Collison said. “It’s good. We’re used to playing that way.”
Brooks doesn’t typically keep Durant at the four for large chunks of the game, likely because he wants to avoid foul trouble and fatigue for his best player.
But in the coming weeks, you’ll likely see more of that, as well as some other unique combinations. Brooks has the available tools. And now, with Perkins’ injury, he has less lineup congestion.