The success of the Golden State Warriors — and the Spurs the season before that — has even casual fans calling for more system offense and less isolation.
Moving away from isolation sets to something less predictable on offense was part of the reason Scott Brooks was let go and Billy Donovan was brought in as coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s working. Last season 14 percent of the Thunder’s plays were categorized as isolation sets, this season it is down to 8.4 percent, and the Thunder are scoring about three more points per 100 possessions.
But the Thunder lean on isolation sets late in games, and Kevin Durant defended that speaking to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN after OKC knocked off the Clippers this week.
“When you have iso players and guys who can score as many points as Russ and me, you’ve got to live playing some iso ball,” Durant said on Monday night following the Thunder’s 100-99 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. “What do you want? Just pass the ball around and around and not be aggressive? If they’re looking at me and Russ is open, he gets the ball. But if I’ve got it, I’m going to work. Iso. It’s pick your poison.”
Durant is right. He scores 1.14 points per possession on isolation sets, he remains one of the best scorers the game has ever seen and in an isolation set he is nearly impossible to stop. If you throw a few players at him he can swing the ball to Russell Westbrook or find Serge Ibaka for an open midrange jumper, or maybe even find Steven Adams rolling to the rim.
The Thunder have options, but for them isolation is a good one.