After stringing together a few inspiring defensive performances, Oklahoma City’s team defense is turning into a point of weakness rather than a strength. At this point, the Thunder’s defense, or lack of defense, is becoming hard to ignore.
The Thunder currently rank 20th in the NBA in defensive rating right behind the Charlotte Hornets. Oklahoma City ranks in the bottom three in both opponents second chance points and opponents paint points. The Thunder have been torched on the perimeter lately, giving up massive single-quarter outputs and dropping the Thunder’s ratings down across the board.
The last time Oklahoma City held an opponent to less than 120 total points was nearly two weeks ago against the Raptors. The Thunder has played five games since.
Part of the reason OKC continues to drop so many close battles is because the young team runs out of steam at the end. After fighting so hard to claw back into the game all night long, it makes sense that the group tends to run out of gas. Big first quarters have become an unfortunate trend for this Thunder squad.
In the previous two contests, shockingly enough, Aleksej Pokusevski’s absence has effected Oklahoma City’s entire game plan, including defensively. Poku has developed a knack for blocking shots, and was one of Oklahoma City’s most effective front court members before twisting his ankle. His absence was clear, as both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Julius Randle had 25+ point double-doubles.
As the Thunder continue to try new lineups and rotations on the floor, the defense is sure to show potential. Generally, this has been a scrappy, young team that tries hard to win. Giving more on-court opportunities to lengthy defenders like Aaron Wiggins, and even potentially Ousmane Dieng, could be an immediate solution to Oklahoma City’s struggles. The interior deficiencies were expected, but at this point it seems like the Thunder is daring opponents to shoot open 3-pointers.
Once Mark Daigneault’s defense is back in order, the offensive improvement will seem that much more impressive. So far this season, the intensity just hasn’t really clicked on that side of the floor.