With Rio 2016 now concluded, we take a look at how Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green fared and what they need to work on before the NBA season begins.
Kevin Durant: A-
Durant was clearly the main feature of Team USA’s offense and carried a relatively heavy minutes load. Overall, he shot very efficiently, scoring double digits in every game, including three games where he scored 25 points or more. He struggled a bit in the pool play match up against Australia and the semifinal game against Spain, shooting 4-of-16 and 6-of-13 from the field, respectively, but still ended up with an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) over 71 percent by the end of the tournament, thanks in part to his 25 3-pointers made. Saving the best for last, Durant played an all-around game in the gold medal round with 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting, with 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. He was unstoppable as he found the range early and often, and was able to get to his spots at will. He leaves Rio as the second highest scoring U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time.
Durant did have a couple of defensive lapses, either failing to rotate in time or botching a switch, but he wasn’t the only guilty Team USA member and his mistakes weren’t egregious or frequent enough to downgrade him to anything below an A-.
In the quarterfinals against Argentina, Durant had arguably one of the best plays of the tournament, using his handles to embarrass a severely overmatched Andres Nocioni before unleashing a devastating Euro Step on none other than Manu Ginobili, the Argentinian patron saint of the signature move.
At first blush, it’s easy to be enthralled by the move (and the sight of DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan gleefully Euro Stepping around each other on the sidelines made it that much more joyful). But after having watched this clip at least a hundred times (with no diminishing returns I might add), my favorite part is that Durant’s move was so nasty that for a split second, his four teammates just stop playing.
This is what happens as Durant drives into the lane:
- Kyle Lowry starts to move to the top of the key, filling in the spot Durant vacated
- Jimmy Butler’s momentum rocks forward, signaling an intent to move behind Durant to follow the play
- Green positions himself for a rebound
- Thompson raises his hand in the corner for an open three
This is what happens one step into Durant’s move:
- Lowry pauses before changing his trajectory to get back on defense
- Jimmy Butler, who only got as far as leaning forward and taking half a step, stops, rocks back, and goes on defense
- Klay’s arms drop and then hang by his side
- Green stands there even while an Argentinian defender clutches a fistful of Green’s jersey.
Basically, all of their brains explode and for a beat, they just stop.
Not many moves can bring about four simultaneous, nanosecond strokes; this is one of them. I might have to rethink that minus.
Things to work on:
Obviously, the most important thing to work on this season for Durant will be adjusting to his new role on the Warriors. But he will be playing along other high basketball IQ players and under a great coach, so I’m not overly concerned with his ability to figure out how to integrate. In terms of his game, Durant will have to put in the most work on defense. In last season’s Western Conference Finals, Durant flashed his potential to be an effective defender using his athleticism and length, which should complement the Warriors’ switch-everything defense. The loss of Andrew Bogut, who anchored the Warriors’ defense, is huge, and everyone on the Warriors will have to work hard to make up for his absence. Durant can help by concentrating on getting defensive rebounds and using his length to defend the rim. As a bonus, for every defensive rebound Durant pulls in, therein lies an opportunity for a fast break with shooters and slashers streaking down every lane and the ball in the hands of one of the greatest players of this generation.
Klay Thompson: C+
The Olympics were a rough ride for Thompson. He started pool play with four horrendous outings in a row. He scored 2, 0, 6, and 3 points in each of those first four games. Against France, he finally burst out with 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, going 7-of-13 on threes. But the very next game, he went 0-of-6 from three and ended up with only 4 points.
It was rough seeing Thompson miss so much and he was clearly trying to shoot his way out of a slump. Props to Coach Mike Krzyzewski for not overreacting and stuffing Thompson on the end of the bench. It helped that Thompson was active on the defensive end and he had some good results driving the ball, as he was fairly effective at penetrating and dishing to Jordan for easy dunks.
Shooters need to power through slumps, but at times it seemed as though Thompson was so desperate to get his shot going that he would take ill-advised threes. It would have been better to see him take shots in the rhythm and flow of the game, regardless of the result, as opposed to some of the forced or quick threes he took.
His high-scoring games did come at opportune times when the rest of the team was struggling, and for the last couple games, Thompson was able to put together decent outings. Plus, the time on the court with Durant should prove useful going forward. But taking into account his entire performance, he compounded his bad shooting with some bad decisions that led to his C+ grade.
Things to work on:
Thompson needs to put his short-term memory to work and shut out the shooting woes he experienced in Rio. He does not need to worry about a different ball or a different three-point line anymore. Let his muscle memory do the work and get back to the task at hand, trying to win another NBA championship. One of the biggest battles for shooters can be between their ears, but he’s shown the confidence to not let cold streaks affect him too much. If he runs into a cold streak in the next season, he needs to remember that the Warriors are built around creating easy shots, especially with the addition of Durant who can stretch the defense. Even if his shot attempts are truly reduced by Durant’s presence, Thompson can rest assured that easier opportunities will come his way and he can work through slumps naturally without forcing up bad shots. If he does that, he can bust cold-streaks faster and produce at an efficient pace. As the new season begins, he just needs to reset and concentrate on the next shot.
Draymond Green: Incomplete
Unlike Durant and Thompson, who were in the starting lineup and occupying roles similar to what they are used to in the NBA, Green was relegated to coming off the bench. As Cousins’ battled foul trouble throughout the tournament, Coach K could have taken advantage of Green’s skill set by putting out a small-ball lineup using Green at center. But instead, the coach primarily opted to rely on Jordan, who ended up having a fantastic Olympic campaign. Unfortunately for Green, as his minutes whittled down, it became harder for him to find his groove. In the gold medal game, Green was not able to play any meaningful minutes and finally checked in well after the game was decided. As this was the case for most of the tournament, it’s difficult to give Green a grade, so instead I offer some observations.
While he can put up points throughout the course of a game, we all know Green’s primary role isn’t scoring, but instead he is relied upon to orchestrate the offense and defense, sometimes with unbridled intensity and relentlessness. It could be that Coach K expected more scoring or he just didn’t see the value of what Green brings to the table, particularly with the Cousins / Jordan combo working so well. Nonetheless, those familiar with Green’s game could see he still did Draymond things, many of which did not show up on the typical stat sheet. He poked away passes, dove for loose balls, set picks, and kept a watchful eye out for his teammates on defense. A number of times he took his defensive assignment out of the play, pushing bigger players far outside the paint. But there is no question that his shooting was lacking throughout the tournament and he was generally ineffective as a scorer, which I’m guessing is the reason why he didn’t get as many minutes as we would have hoped.
That said, I loved that he didn’t sulk as the 11th man and was an upstanding teammate, cheering raucously for every play, having fun with the guys, and enjoying his first Olympic experience. With the various on- and off-court incidents Green has been involved with since the playoffs, it was nice to see him getting back to team basketball and bonding with his teammates, most importantly his new one. And just as Durant’s Team USA experience provided him with a therapeutic transition to the Warriors, hopefully Green’s Olympic experience serves as an important step towards maturity that carries through to next season.
Things to work on:
Perhaps a read through this Snapchat tutorial?