The Oklahoma City Thunder are about as “it” as it gets. Kevin Durant is the season’s hot new trend, and his style boasts only the latest in aesthetic and material innovation. They’re young, they’re hip, they’re cool, and they’re underground enough to play in a place like OKC while still hitting the mainstream airwaves hard.
And it’s all thanks to Ron Adams. From Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus:
Defense has been a mantra for the Thunder since Sam Presti’s arrival
as GM prior to the 2007-08 season. In remarking Oklahoma City’s
roster–only Nick Collison
remains from when he took over–Presti has emphasized youth and
defensive ability, and the coaching staff has been on board. But things
really seemed to click midway through last season with the arrival of a
pair of imports from Chicago–assistant coach Ron Adams and perimeter
stopper Thabo Sefolosha.
Adams, like Tom Thibodeau in Boston, has been given significant
responsibility for implementing the Thunder’s defense. While the team
saw improvement in the second half of last season after Adams joined
the coaching staff on Dec. 31, he’s had a better chance to implement
his philosophy with a full training camp this year. The key isn’t
anything exotic Oklahoma City does. In fact, it’s the opposite, an
approach reminiscent of Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers or USC’s
Student Body Right: Do one thing well.
“We don’t really change what we do,” explained Collison. “I’ve been
on a lot of teams where game to game we try to change how we’re going
to guard the pick-and-roll, whether we’re going to rotate to a certain
guy. We do the same thing, but we really work at it. I think a lot of
teams try to win with Xs and Os instead getting good at what they do.
We do fundamentals all the time – closeouts, for example. It’s almost
like basketball camp. I think with a young team that’s a good way to
go. We’ve been real solid.”
Kevin Durant isn’t simply one of the most exciting players in the NBA — he’s one of the best. But without defense, the Thunder are a sub-par team at best. Without the impressive win-loss record in a very difficult Western Conference, Durant is merely a more efficient Monta Ellis, putting up impressive numbers on an unimpressive team. Instead, the Thunder are 5th in the West, the Durantula is a legit MVP candidate (even if LeBron is the MVP candidate). It’s what Ron Adams and Scotty Brooks have done with OKC’s defense that’s the real story here, not Durant’s inevitable climb to stardom. That was a given. But a young team playing great defense is anything but. Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green may provide the ticket draw, but it’s the defensive schemes and instruction of Adams, Brooks, and the Thunder coaching staff that makes OKC relevant.