Russell Westbrook had the ball the majority of the time for the Thunder, when he was on the court. And if Westbrook didn’t have it, Kevin Durant did.
Of course, Westbrook doesn’t have it at all now, since he’s sidelined by a knee injury. Westbrook was one of the NBA’s leaders in turnovers. Fifth, actually, with 273 this season. The top five: James Harden 295, Jrue Holliday 292, Kobe Bryant 287, Kevin Durant 280, Westbrook 273.
Now the Thunder has played six games without Westbrook, and what’s your guess: Have Thunder turnovers gone down or up? Does losing Westbrook, which cripples the Thunder in a variety of ways, actually help in ballhandling? Or does it create extra pressure for guys unaccustomed to handling the ball so much.
In the regular season, the Thunder averaged 15.2 turnovers a game. Through two games of the Houston series, the Thunder averaged 12.5. The rest of the Houston series, without Westbrook, OKC averaged 13.0 turnovers. Through six playoff games without Westbrook, the Thunder has averaged 13.8, despite the 21 committed in a Game 2 loss to Memphis on Tuesday night. So OKC turnovers are slightly down without Westbrook.
Probably not a big enough data base to make a determination. But nothing out of the ordinary there. The Thunder is committing more turnovers (15.5) so far against Memphis than it did against Houston (13.0 without Westbrook, 12.5 with him) mainly because the Grizzlies are a much better defensive team.
But how have the Thunder individual responsibilities changed? Has Westbrook’s void causesd certain Thunder players to play under more stress and thus make more mistakes?
I looked at each Thunder player’s turnovers during the regular season compared to his turnovers in the playoffs since Westbrook went out. And I adjusted for playing time. Reggie Jackson, for instance, is playing way more than he was when Westbrook was healthy. So I looked at turnovers per 36 minutes played.
Kevin Durant: 3.6 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 3.2 in the regular season. Durant’s turnovers are up. But that’s to be expected. His ballhandling responsibilities are way up. I’d estimate Durant has the ball in his hands 30 percent more than when Westbrook was on the court. The Thunder just has to live with Durant’s increased turnovers.
Reggie Jackson: 2.4 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 1.9 in the regular season. Jackson’s ballhandling responsibilities might have decreased. It’s possible he’s playing more off the ball (thanks to Durant running the offense quite a bit), accounting for increased playing time, than when he was the backup point guard. Jackson clearly has increased his mistakes. Which is to be expected. There was no other outcome possible. He’s also making more excellent plays. That’s what happens when you’re learning how to play.
Kevin Martin: 1.5 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 1.7 in the regular season. Not a big difference. But still a little impressive. Martin is actually putting the ball on the floor more without Westbrook. If he’ll put the ball in the basket more, the Thunder will be in much better shape.
Derek Fisher: 0.9 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 1.2 in the regular season. Fish did very little point guarding in the regular season. He’s doing a little bit in the postseason. And he’s taking care of the ball. That strip by Tony Wroten in Game 2 was an aberration. Fisher has played great.
Thabo Sefolosha: 1.0 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 1.0 turnovers in the regular season. Thabo doesn’t get enough credit for his consistency. You always know what you’re going to get from Sefolosha. And if you’re surprised, it’s always pleasant.
Kendrick Perkins: 4.5 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 2.0 in the regular season. And Perk can’t blame Westbrook’s exit. Perkins averaged 4.5 turnovers per 36 minutes in the two playoff games in which Westbrook played. Wonder if NBA teams are strategizing to pressure Perkins more? The common strategy would be to back off him and dare him to shoot. But maybe defenses believe he’ll cough up the ball if given the chance. Whatever, the Thunder has to have him against Memphis, so Perkins has to play. But maybe his orders should be strict. If you get the ball, get rid of it to a teammate at first opportunity.
Serge Ibaka: 0.7 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 0.6 in the playoffs. A surprisingly low number, but then again, why should it be a surprise? No one ever thinks of Ibaka as turnover-prone. He doesn’t pass all that much, which helps.
Nick Collison: 1.9 turnovers per 36 minutes in the playoffs, 1.6 in the playoffs. Collison’s numbers are a little up, and his four turnovers in Game 2 against Memphis didn’t help. Collison obviously is weary of battling the likes of Zach Randolph.
So I’d say the Thunder has fared well without Westbrook in terms of ballhandling. Westbrook committed his share of turnovers. The Thunder still is committing turnovers, but not an inordinate amount, compared to what it was doing.