Roll call on the Thunder summer.
Drafted Mitch McGary. Tried to sign Pau Gasol. Did sign Anthony Morrow. Re-signed Grant Jerrett.
Let’s see. A rookie with all kinds of offensive talent but probably not ready for NBA defensive assignments. A former superstar who isn’t the player he used to be but still has a great set of ball skills. The NBA’s second-best shooter, behind only Steph Curry. And a big man whose only discernible ability, albeit it strong, is deep shooting.
The trend is clear. The Thunder’s priority is to upgrade its offense. And the statistical trend says that’s smart.
The Thunder ranked second in NBA offense (points per possession) in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 but slipped to seventh last season. Points per possession is the best way to gauge an offense (or defense), and the Thunder slipped to 1.081 points per possession last season, after averaging 1.102 the year before.
A team with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook wouldn’t seem to have to worry too much about offense. But few NBA teams win a championship without being elite at both offense and defense. The Thunder offense needs to be at its 2013 level, not its 2014 level.
Scotty Brooks even alluded to it on June 1, during his season-ending press conference.
“We want to become a better passing team, but we have improved in that area,” Foreman Scotty said. “Sometimes, we want it now. But it takes time to get better every day. If you’re willing to put the work in, you will see gradual improvement, and that’s what we’ve had.”
Summer league seemed to confirm that desire. The Thunder wants to be a better ball movement team and stressed that in Orlando. Of course, that has to happen when Westbrook and Durant have the ball, too.
“Offensively, we have moved the ball,” Brooks said. “I think three years ago, we were last in assists. I think this year, we were in the mid (range), 13 or 14 (actually tied for 13th). We can get to the top 10. That’s something that we want to become better.”
The Thunder has moved the ball better the last couple of years. In 2011-12, OKC assisted on only 49.7 percent of its baskets. That figure has gone up to 56.1 and 56.2 the last two years. But there’s room for improvement; the Spurs assisted on 62.1 percent of their field goals last season.
Gone from the Thunder roster are three rotational players. OKC lost Thabo Sefolosha to the Hawks, Caron Butler to the Pistons and Derek Fisher to the abyss of coaching the Knickerbockers. That’s some defense lost and a little offense lost. Replaced almost exclusively by offense.
Morrow will help the Thunder immediately. Maybe in a big way. The Thunder never has had a shooter like Morrow, whose career 3-point percentage, .428, is second-best among active NBA players. McGary, a 6-foot-10 forward from Michigan who can catch, pass and shoot, isn’t like to play much early but could crash the rotation late in the season. Jerrett is a project who figures to play only in case of injury.
When you add the increased minutes for center Steven Adams, who will more and more take over for Kendrick Perkins, and the decreased minutes for the defensive stopper role vacated by Thabo and filled apparently by Andre Roberson, the Thunder offense should be noticeably improved this coming season. And that’s by design.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.