15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

Let's talk about Thunder.

The Thunder's ball this season is very good-

In terms of offense, they rank sixth in efficiency, in terms of defense, they are ranked seventh, and the only three teams in the league are in the top 10 in offense and defense; in terms of stars, Alexander's color is enough, his style of play is good enough, and he is tough at key moments; in terms of newcomers, there is Holmgren, who is too mature to speak, and Jalen Williams last year.

In terms of vitality, they are the storm of youth, and in short, they are very good-looking—

So, in this article, we will mainly analyze some of the Thunder's commonly used offensive end routines, offensive and defensive structures and emphasis, as well as potential problems and adjustments.

The ace tactics are Alexander and Holmgren blocking ?—— not necessarily, and the Thunder have a special set of offensive initiations

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

One of the characteristics we can find when looking at the Thunder ball is that the Thunder are very fond of using forward players and Alexander to block and pick and roll on the line, rather than a center with projection ability, and use that to develop offense.

This is a very interesting phenomenon, and it is also a very special part of the Thunder's offensive tactics, let's take a look at the picture above:

It can be seen that when Alexander holds the ball across the half court, Holmgren, as a center forward, does not go up to cover, but sinks into the bottom corner as a space point. Correspondingly, the Thunder like to use the front liner, Aaron Wiggins in the picture, to cover the core and develop the offense.

There are 3 reasons for this –

Since last season, the Thunder have actually implemented the concept and position of 5 outside in the offense. So when we look at this shot, we can see that the placement of the Thunder positional battle can release the space of the entire middle lane very well.

Therefore, although Alexander is not the core of the ball, and because the Thunder can handle the ball a lot, Alexander's share of the ball is far less than that of the ball-holding core. However, when we look at the offensive distribution, it is clear that the concept of the Thunder is very simple -

An attacker, a screener, a clean in the middle, and a row of shooters standing outside. However, the strength of the Thunder lies in the fact that the shooters in the outside row have a strong ability to handle the ball. (More on that later)

Therefore, when the Thunder use this offensive initiation routine, in principle, they let the player who is the least able to shoot on the front line block Alexander. In this way, it is better to open up the space.

Therefore, the two players with the most inaccurate three-point points on the current court: Aaron Wiggins 35.3%, naturally became the executors of the cover.

But it's not that simple.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

Looking at this round, Jaylin Williams was present, but it was still Kenrich Williams who stepped forward to block Alexander. Kenrich Williams is shooting 63.6 percent from three-point range this season, and while the sample is small, it's clear that it doesn't fit the "cover for the most inaccurate three-point player" we just mentioned.


The reason lies in the selection of defenders, the so-called roll call tactic. That's right, generally speaking, when a team arranges defensive alignment, it will put players who are weak in defense against players who are weak in offensive ability, or engineer players who do not have many offensive roles and are not very involved.

It's not about whether the player's three-point shot is accurate or not, it's about the player's ability to handle the ball and the percentage of possession. This is what we usually call "hiding players who are weak defensively". Similarly, for many offensive players, it is often the No. 4 striker who is weak in the offensive role.

Therefore, we can find another point, when the Thunder use this set of fronts to cover Alexander + 5 outside positions + Isaiah Joe's Spanish cross-shot strategy, they tend to find the worst defensive player on the opposite side to cover.

And this will create two situations: first, the opponent changes defenses, and Alexander directly solves the weakest link of the defense one-on-one; second, the opponent strikes, Alexander shoots the ball, covers the person down, and a group of shooters on the outside.

Let's not underestimate this simple [roll call tactic], it has a lot of use in the playoffs-

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

This round came to Alexander's rotation, with Giddey/Jalen Williams (not playing in this game) leading the team. As you can see, the Thunder still use Aaron Wiggins to cover Giddey, and Wiggins is down and does a Spanish cross with Joe at the same time.

Here, Giddey's singles ability was not so strong, and the ball turned to the small lineup to face Kenrich Williams, who had a speed advantage in Vucevic, and relied on the advantage to tear through the defense and finally score.

So why is this tactic so useful in the playoffs?——

I believe that fans and friends who often read the author's articles, or who have carefully paid attention to the playoff matchup, know that there is a defensive strategy that appears most frequently in the playoffs: the principle of dislocation and defensive change at the 4/5 position——

We've already said that this thing is rotten, that is, the defender uses the No. 4 position against the opponent's No. 5 position, so as to use faster pace to deal with some of the disadvantages of the pick-and-roll attack. At the same time, the No. 5 position is used to counterpoint the No. 4 position, which lacks projection ability, and when the basket is protected when the line is off, it can better shrink the inside line.

That's right, it just fits into the Thunder's tactics.

Because of Holmgren and Jaylin Williams on the Thunder's roster, they both have the ability to shoot from the outside, which allows them to punish the opponent's crouching big center when blocking outside shots with Alexander. Therefore, at a higher level, the defensive team will definitely use the more flexible No. 4 forward to misplace the center of the Thunder.

Therefore, the remaining No. 5 position will be arranged to defend [a forward player with weak projection and lack of personal independent offensive ability or role].

(The most obvious example is last year's Lakers playoffs, after the Lakers arranged for Davis to play against Payton Jr., Payton Jr. became Curry's blocker.)

Therefore, the Thunder's seemingly highly used and relatively special way of launching in the regular season is actually perfectly suited to the more targeted offensive environment of the playoffs.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

It was the same thing in this round: Aaron Wiggins put up cover for Alexander, and 5 outside the station + Isaiah Joe raised the space point from the baseline to form a cross.

So, if you talk about the absolute quality of cover, whether it is a forward blocking or Holmgren cover, in fact, it can't be regarded as high-quality -

Due to his slender size, Holmgren's pick-and-roll is generally divided into fake screens and penalty packs, with a rapid decline, and real screens to punish big centers with three-point shots. The forward players, because they have not been in the habit of covering many times before, have some problems with their blocking and dismantling skills.

Therefore, from this point of view, the Thunder's blocking and pick-and-roll tactics, in fact, no matter which player executes them, are not pursuing the absolute quality of coverage, but more tactical significance.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems
15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

Let's take a look at two sets of tactics that the Thunder like to use, and many times they happen in the decisive moments of the game:

The first is a simplistic starting hand that is used quite frequently - Isaiah Joe gives Alexander a quick dodge and then handles. In the Thunder's tactical build, Isaiah Joe is a fairly important link.

We can see that in the [Special Start] analyzed above, Joe plays an important role in opening up the space after the Spanish cross. Due to Joe's huge projection threat, the vertical space of the entire tactic is more fluid. And throughout the process, Isaiah Joe often doesn't actually cover the center like a typical Spanish pick-and-roll, but rather a faster direct cross.

For example, Isaiah Joe has a lot of this seemingly simple move, which is nothing more than a bullet or a lift, but can cause a lot of defensive interference.

So, in fact, we can find, especially during the period when Alexander is in charge of the ball, Isaiah Joe is, to some extent, the second most important position in the Thunder's overall play. A lot of the Thunder's offense, the ultimate guidance, is actually Alexander's personal threat attraction, Joe's outside opportunities.

And Dagneault also likes to put both of them on the upper line at the end of the game.

The second is the "Holmgren version" of the [special start] we mentioned above, which can also be called the ordinary version - it is still the same routine, Holmgren is covering and then going down, and Isaiah Joe Spain is blocking and going up. There are even times when Holmgren will play the Isaiah Joe position in Tactic (1) and hang up a simple dodge screen.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

Here we have to talk about Giddey's current problem: Giddey may be a player who can't play high-end games, or a player who will be very targeted in high-end games.

What are Giddey's characteristics?—— white, overall physical weakness, tall defender, sometimes even the second and third tallest players in the starting lineup, high ball intelligence, able to do secondary ball handling, weak shooting ability, relatively simple ability to punish individual misalignment, average defense.

In other words, if we define Giddey as a sapper player, it's clear that his three-point and defensive skills are not up to par. However, if he is defined as the top three players on the court, then his [lack of explosiveness corresponding to physical fitness, lack of projection ability] will make him play very uncomfortable in the high-end game with a more targeted defensive strategy.

Even if we look at the Thunder's preferred tactics mentioned above, when Alexander's ball-handling percentage rises further in the playoffs, Giddey's functional inability to throw three-pointers is magnified. Then at this time, if you follow the logic of the above tactics, Giddey will become the role of a coverer.

It's the equivalent of Green in the Warriors - blocking Curry, and then using ball quotient and passing techniques to deal with secondary passing opportunities. However, this will correspondingly bring up a chain of questions: Is Dort's three-point crosshairs for a long time, or is it really improving?

We all know that in the current NBA playoffs, it can be very uncomfortable to have two non-shooting points on the court, and these two non-shooting points are not the team's arrowheads (i.e., they can't develop offense through other hard solutions). But at the same time, Giddey's defensive contributions in the playoffs have been limited.

So at the end of the day, what I want to say is that the playoffs are still an occasion to look at talent. Giddey's passing and ball quotient as a tall white guard were his selling points for entering the league with a high pick, as well as the foundation of the regular season, but his rather obvious shortcomings were key to his ability to play more of the playoffs.

Let's talk about other key points: the Thunder's experimentation, the logic on the defensive end, and potential problems

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems
15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

In recent games, there has been an interesting phenomenon for the Thunder - due to the absence of Jalen Williams, the transition at the beginning of the second quarter should be the time for Giddey and Holmgren to be together.

But interestingly, let's look at the two shots above, both of which take place against the Bulls. Let's look at who the ball holders are?—— yes, Dort and Micic.

Even in the early part of the second quarter of this game, a lot of the Thunder's offense was initiated by Dort dribbling through the half court and then doing offensive coordination, while Giddey was crouching in the bottom corner of the weak side to do the work of combing the offense twice. But just when we thought that Giddey might "fall out of favor", in the transition section of the game against the 76ers, Giddey once again took over basically all the transition offensive initiation work.

It's not hard to understand, and it's clear that Daigneault is continuing to sit on his experiments and try to make all the players on the pitch have some ball handling and tactical initiation. And this is also a very powerful point of the Thunder:

In fact, from a tactical point of view, the Thunder is not a team with a dazzling number of tactics, and the Thunder's regular starting style is not complicated. However, the great thing about the Thunder is that they are a team where everyone can attack with the ball and everyone can handle the ball -

What would happen if this would happen?

In the 5 outside position, Alexander is caught after calling for cover, and the ball is transferred to the weak side, and not only is there a group of shooters, but most teams have the skills to point out the defense and then hold the ball into the interior and then make a pass. Even, as we said, many players, including Dort, are able to pick up pick-and-rolls with the ball.

So one of the biggest strengths of a team that can hold the ball and handle it with a lot of people is that it can expose the opponent's defensive weaknesses cleanly. Coupled with the fact that the Thunder like to use [players who are not so good at handling the ball to hang cover], this will exacerbate the defensive weakness of the defender's weak side being targeted.

This is a big feature of the Thunder's offensive end, if you watch a lot of fans and friends of the Thunder, you will have such a feeling: The Thunder have quite a lot of breakouts, and this is the reason.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems
15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

And in the game against the 76ers, Dagneault used the twin towers of Jaylin Williams + Holmgren -

This is essentially a response to Embiid's threat on the defensive end to increase the height of the roster selection. But interestingly, there was a spark between the twin towers on the offensive end:

Jaylin Williams dished out five assists in the game, four of which were assists for Holmgren, and it builds on the Thunder's lack of high-low post play. The 76ers used Jaylin Williams, who had Embiid's three-point ability to play less than Holmgren's, to keep him on the inside more.

As a result, we can see that Jaylin Williams is relatively comfortable with the ball, which leads to Holmgren's height being a huge advantage for Harris after Jaylin assists Holmgren with the ball.

That's an interesting point.

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

It's the same thing for this round:

Giddey, who had the weakest three-point ability, went to cover Alexander, and when he handled the ball, he gave it to Jaylin in the bottom corner. Embiid closed on the inside and didn't manage the opponent, which led to a change of defense, which eventually turned into Holmgren's height advantage over Maxey.

Of course, there was a puzzling point in this game: why use Dion instead of Kenrich Williams in the first quarter?

15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems
15 Shots to Analyze Thunder: Special Ace Tactics, Offensive and Defensive Structure & Potential Problems

The Thunder's defense is basically like this:

Infinite switching between positions 1-4, especially when off the ball to choke the pass and cut the line. When defending screens, because Dort, Wallace and Isaiah Joe are all very fast, they basically use the way of grabbing the cover or quickly going around the cover to cut the shooting route and drive the defender inside.

When it comes to the inside line, it is the area where Holmgren protects the basket.

In this game against the big center Embiid, the Thunder basically had these two ideas: first, the height of the pile, the configuration of the upper twin towers or Kenrich Williams + single towers, and second, as shown in Figure 2, use the 4/5 position to change the defense, so that Kenrich Williams can fight Embiid in the low post, go around the front and pinch the passing route, and give confrontation. However, due to Harris's projection and individual singles ability, Holmgren's sweeping advantage in this area was not realized.

So the author thinks:

The weakness of the Thunder's defense may not lie in defending a large interior line, because in terms of defensive strategy, the Thunder can use players like Kenrich to play against each other and make the opposing center's offensive cost higher. Including the fact that the Thunder actually handled it well when facing the two double-tower teams of the Cavaliers.

The biggest pitfall on the defensive end of the Thunder may be the lack of height and thickness of the frontline, which can make it quite uncomfortable to face strong forwards, especially strong forwards with independent offensive capabilities. Because when facing this kind of team, the Thunder's starters, defensive ability on the front line and the height they correspond to are insufficient.

And the Thunder is precisely a team with a high height of guard + center, but a lack of height at the front.

This could be the problem.

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