Thunder Offense Will Change And Not Just Because Durant And Ibaka Are Gone

Thunder players and coaches working at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center on Sunday. (Photo By Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com)

Thunder players and coaches working at the INTEGRIS Thunder Development Center on Sunday. (Photo By Randy Renner/InsideThunder.com)

By Randy Renner, Senior Writer

The automatic assumption when the Thunder traded away Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant walked away from the organization was that the team’s offense would change.

And that’s correct, it will, but not just because those guys are gone.

“I think offensively you have to keep constantly evolving and changing, I think that’s a never ending process,” said head coach Billy Donovan after Sunday’s practice.

So at least subtle changes were going to come anyway. Now, Donovan and his coaches will take the opportunity of wholesale personnel changes to alter things even more.

“You always have to change based on your personnel,” Donovan said. “I think you always want your personnel to play to their strengths. We’re gonna have a base system of how we wanna play but you’re always looking to evolve where everybody on the floor in a given situation is playing to their strengths.”

Donovan believes most of the significant changes will be on offense and not quite so much at the other end of the floor.

“Defensively I think as an identity is concerned you may have to make some tweaks and some changes based on personnel” but Donovan indicated the basic defensive principles won’t be different.

One aspect of the Thunder offense that Donovan seems very excited about is the new-look frontcourt featuring 9-year veteran Ersan Ilyasova, 3-year man Joffrey Lauvergne and rookie Domantas Sabonis being added to Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Nick Collison and Mitch McGary.

“I think the versatility of the frontcourt players, different guys being able to play with each other, figuring out things offensively where they’re put in situations where they’re complimenting each other, so some of that will be different (from past seasons). I think it could be a real positive for us.”

Donovan hinted that Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will get more time on the floor together and and various other combinations will get long looks.

Adams figures that’s a natural progression with the skill level of the big men in camp now.

“With what we have the bigs stretch out the floor and give us different opportunities and that’s really quite good," he said. "It’s comforting that we can go inside-outside with the new bigs.”

Ilyasova is a career 37.0 percent 3-point shooter and he hit 45.5 percent from beyond the arc in the 2011-12 season for Milwaukee and 44.4 percent the next season for the Bucks.He’s by far the most accomplished long range shooter among the bigs but coaches also have high hopes for Lauvergne and Sabonis, if not all the way beyond the arc at least out beyond 15-17 feet.

“Right now we’re just trying to get a base system in defensively and then start to build offensively,” Donovan said. “But as we get all that stuff in we’ll start to look at different combinations of players and start to figure out ways to utilize those big guys.”