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Thunder likely to tweak Durant’s substitution pattern

Nov 16, 2012, 1:57 PM EDT

Kevin Durant, Scott Brooks

In the Thunder’s loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Kevin Durant played 44 minutes, and Russell Westbrook played 42. That’s some pretty heavy usage for the team’s two All-Stars, and it’s something that’s not likely to be sustainable over the course of an 82-game season.

With James Harden‘s playmaking ability gone from the second unit, however, it’s tough to find ways around that, especially when you consider Scott Brooks’ propensity to almost always play Durant and Westbrook in lineups together at the same time.

The two were both absent from the lineup for just four minutes against Memphis, and Durant (obviously) played those two extra minutes without Westbrook by his side.

Those heavy minutes can’t continue, and Oklahoma City needs to find lineup combinations that maximize effectiveness, while getting its superstar players some much-needed rest. It’s something Brooks is aware of, and he’s beginning to look at changing his substitution patterns to try and help the situation.

From Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

Brooks is in the process of plotting that transformation, and he has a plan that could work. It’s an adjustment that has the potential to bring more balance to the bench unit while establishing additional harmony in the star-studded first string.

The idea is to sub out Kevin Durant earlier.

It’s a strategy Brooks told me following practice today that the coaching staff began kicking around earlier in the day.

By sitting Durant earlier, the Thunder can accomplish three things: most importantly a more sensible rotation that relies less on only Eric Maynor and Kevin Martin to create, secondly, an opportunity for Westbrook to run as wild as his heart desires for longer stretches and, lastly, more rest for Durant.

Mayberry does an excellent job of digging deeper into how this could all shake out, but the short version is, staggering Durant’s minutes is a solid solution to the issue. He and Westbrook are both capable of creating for themselves and their teammates, as well as scoring on their own and in bunches. It only makes sense to spread the wealth across multiple lineups instead of always featuring the two on the court at the same time.

There will be an adjustment period to each playing without the other for extended stretches, but it’ll likely be best for the Thunder in the long run if they want to maximize the talent on the roster and position themselves for another run at the Finals.

With Harden’s scoring and playmaking gone forever, it’s time OKC began to make the necessary adjustments.

  1. holi23 - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Scott Brooks doesn’t seem like a coach who can get this team to the next level even if they still had Harden

    • bigmeechy74 - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:20 PM

      This is coming from an okc fan…. Whenever they were having contract squabbles I was really hoping the thunder wouldn’t re-sign brooks. I think he is a terrible coach. It’s not hard to coach last year’s team with Durant, westbrook, harden, and Ibaka. Plus really smart guys like collison and sefalosha that don’t need much coaching. What was UNFORGIVABLE was when everyone on earth saw what was happening in that heat series but him. It was so obvious that the heat were going small and having perkins out there was pointless. They were playing 4 on 5. Then he insisted on playing derek fisher all series even though he was absolutely horrendous. He may be one of the worst coaches in the NBA. Plus “genius” Sam Presti made the terrible signing of fisher in the first place, traded for kendrick perkins and instantly gave him a big extension for no apparent reason. Then gets rid of harden when it was so obvious he was absolutely irreplaceable and the second most important guy on the team. I live in Tulsa so I was so excited to finally have a team to root for and Presti and Brooks and the owners threw it in the garbage. A Potential dynasty went to just another contender that has almost zero chance of going back to the finals this year.

      • Foul Dwimmerlaik - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:13 PM

        Laker fan here, and I feel your pain.

        The Thunder were already there, destiny within their grasp.

        Then again, consider it a blessing in disguise. Who knows? Maybe crap has to happen in order to get better opportunities. With the loss of Harden maybe something about Durant or Westbrook will come out that they — and us — have yet to be discovered.

        I wish your team well. You got a great player in Durant. Much respect to him.

      • bigmeechy74 - Nov 17, 2012 at 2:25 AM

        Sheesh. Thanks. But I’m just not seeing it. Harden was the one that played in control and got to the line and was always so steady. He ran a great 2 man game with collison but now that’s over and now Nick’s value has diminished too. I’d rather they kept Harden over any other player except Durant. And sometimes I even wonder about that…

  2. cmehustle - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    I dont understand why he wont play deeper into his rotation. Let some of those rookies and second year players they got to get some pt and you never know what you got. Either way, Durant and Westbrook are gonna need some help come playoffs time.

  3. iamjimmyjack - Nov 16, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    This is going to backfire. Maybe not this season but in seasons to come. Kd is going to put mileage on his legs that he’ll never get back. That will show in the form of injuries. I hope not but that’s very likely even though he’s so young. Not to mention what it does to their title hopes. Bad trade in my opinion.

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