|The Thunder will miss Harden against San Antonio. (Getty Images)|
Welcome to the 4-Point Play. Every Thursday we'll give you a look at what's happening in the league, provide some odds and ends, the best photos, and our Tweet of the Week. This week our discussion begins with the NBA's new flopping policy.
The Spurs and Thunder renew their rivalry Thursday night in the only NBA game on the schedule due to the postponement of Knicks-Nets in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. In today's 4-Point Play, we look at the Thunder and how the trade of James Harden could affect them against the Spurs.
Upon Video Review
There are any number of concerns for the Thunder after trading Harden to the Houston Rockets last Saturday. While the package the Thunder got in return -- Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first-round picks -- is very stout, they are losing their third-best player and a guy who brought an added dimension to the them offensively.
It was the Thunder's complete roster that toppled San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals last year. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins hit big jump shots, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook sliced and diced, and Harden contributed quite a bit. He averaged 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Spurs last spring, though 30 of his 111 points came in a Game 2 loss. But that loss also set the tone for the Thunder's comeback, giving them a blueprint of how to use their talent against San Antonio's porous defense.
Without Harden, the biggest impact might be that Westbrook and Durant, two of the biggest usage players in the league, might actually have to do more. Harden provided an outlet player who could create in spot-up and off the dribble off the attention drawn by the Big 2. Take a look at what I mean. In the clip below notice how the defense has to collaspe on Westbrook, which puts Harden's defender out of position when the Beardo gets around him and hits his point of attack, which is often several feet beyond the rim.
There, Westbrook's ability to draw the defense opens it up for Harden, but it's also Harden's unique set of abilities that create the score. Martin is a heck of a scorer, but we'll have to see if he can duplicate that kind of play for the Thunder.
You notice where Harden started his floater attempt from there. We see this later on, as Harden pulls of a similar move (and might have committed a charge he got away with, but the point stands):
This is particularly painful to the Spurs, because their help defense rarely stops players at the point of attack. If they can't ball pressure you on the wing, their only hope is to challenge you at the rim. Floaters kill them more than other teams, and you'll see that kind of impact in their struggles against Chris Paul.
But it's not just in finding mismatches or taking advantage of the attention drawn to the Thunders' offensive genii. Harden is a deadly pick and roll player (ask the Pistons who found out last night).
Thursday night, the Thunder will be looking for a player off the bench to fill this role. It might be backup point guard Eric Maynor back from injury, it could be Martin if he can expand his offensive instincts, or potentially Lamb, though that's more of a long-term goal.
The Thunder are still deadly offensively, but this shows you the kind of things that hurt the Spurs in that disappointing Western Conference Finals series, which aren't as much of a factor now that the Beard is a Rocket.
|I don't think we need a caption here. (Getty Images)|
|This has not begun well. (Getty Images)|
|DeAndre Jordan is showing out early this season. (Getty Images)|
|Count 'em. (Getty Images)|
Kevin Martin on joining the Thunder (via CBSSports.com's Royce Young): “I've been wanting to play on a team like this for a while with two other big time scorers,” Martin said. “I knew I'd have an opportunity some day and I'm glad it came this soon ... I was kind of thinking about it and it kind of reminds me of like a Ray Allen. Like how he was in Seattle for years and then going over to Boston and playing with two big time players. And you want to sacrifice things for wins. I've been wanting to be in a situation like this for a long time, instead of putting up numbers and being done playing in April. I've been wanting this opportunity so I'm ready to sacrifice whatever they want me to.”
Russell Westbrook on chemistry taking a hit without Harden (via Young): “You can't duplicate it, but we have a group of guys that have been here for a while. We're switching the team up a little bit but every year we've had a different team and we've found a way to incorporate guys and make sure everybody knows what it takes for us to win. So I don't think that's going to be a problem.”
Kevin Durant on losing Harden (via Young): “People get it confused. We get attached with these guys more than just basketball, and you build relationships with them and their families over these last few years. Just to leave like that, it's always tough like that if it's your friend.”
Scott Brooks on the Spurs (via Young): "We know them well and they know us well. They're very difficult to guard and stop. They pass the ball. Last year they probably had some of the best passing games I've ever seen since I started playing basketball or coaching basketball. They are so well versed. They've had a lot of games at a high level and they've been together a lot of years ... They do things that you know is coming and some of the things are hard to stop."
Brooks on it being a great rivalry (via Young): "I don't get in to that because if you do and you put more emphasis on one team, you have to have 29 rivalries and you have to really believe that. And if you don't I think it sends a mixed message to the players that this game is more important than another game. But from a fan's perspective I'm sure you can say that."
Daryl Morey on the trade:
"(James Harden's) pick and roll, shooting, passing, driving ... " Morey said. "He's pretty unguardable."
Kobe Bryant on the Lakers' opening night loss:
"You've got to put it all in the pot," Bryant said. "It's never just one thing."
Bryant on the loss to the Blazers:
"It's going to be a little edgy because I'm not a very happy camper around here right now," Bryant said, setting the tone for what the atmosphere around the team is going to be in the coming days. "Some things we have to shore up, and we gotta make sure we keep a sense of urgency."
Tweet Of The Week
Truly blessed, went from sleeping in the floor in south central and now this!!! Tears of joy!!!! GOD is GOOD— Taj Gibson (@TajGibson22) November 1, 2012
Gibson could have made so much more on the open market, so the fact that he's so grateful for this contract is pretty endearing. For more on Gibson's deal, click here.