OKLAHOMA CITY — By now you’ve heard the optimism surrounding the on-court chemistry between Chris Paul and Steven Adams.
It makes sense. Paul has been an elite point guard over the last decade. He also helped elevate the careers of big men like Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. If Paul is Apollo, the pick and roll attack with a big is his bow and arrow.
Pair him with Adams — a big man who has made a career out of thriving in the pick and roll — and you have the makings of a fun duo.
While it’s only day two of training camp, the chemistry between Paul and Adams started long before the two became teammates.
“We used to play together in the summer in LA,” Paul said yesterday. “Steven is really, really good. He’s experienced, he knows how to play. He’s just one of those guys. He will do whatever it takes.”
In order for any point guard to have success with their center in the pick and roll, they must first understand how to probe the defense. Adams’ luxury of playing with Russell Westbrook helped the big man become familiar with the art of probing.
“The whole point of probing is to allow the big to roll back to the front so that it’s a two-on-one situation with the point guard’s man on the back of him,” Adams said today. “So now it’s two-on-one against the big.”
Westbrook was elite at this. Over the last two seasons however, defenders began to sag off Westbrook to encourage the at-times woefully inefficient shooter to let shots fly. This took away any lob or mismatch opportunities down low for Adams.
Where Paul possesses no where near the same level of athleticism as Westbrook — who Adams described as, “the most explosive f***ing player in the world,” — Paul does not suffer from the same shooting inefficiencies. This will only help the pick and roll attack in favor of Adams.
That’s not to say anything silly like Westbrook is better/worse than Paul, just that they are different.
“It’s a different game but you’re still computing the same thing,” Adams said. “That’s the main goal of probing to kind of create those situations.”
Billy Donovan understands that you can only do so much in practice. True chemistry is formed against unfamiliar schemes and opponents.
“Adams and Westbrook in pick and rolls against (Rudy) Gobert, against DeAndre Jordan, whoever it may be,” Donovan said. “Those two guys had an experience together. Chris maybe has a certain thing of how he likes to play in pick and roll against certain big guys. Steven has no idea what those things are. And Steven maybe has some things that he likes doing that Chris has no idea.”
“The more they’re communicating and talking, the better. They’ll work those things out.”
Adams admitted things have gone well in practice between he and Paul. But this is something that will take time.
“We’ve clicked on most things, but that’s expected,” Adams said. “We’ve been in the league long enough, I’ve watched him play long enough, we’ve played basketball long enough for you to just mesh.”
Donovan believes big things are in store for the both of them.
“There’s no reason why those two guys can’t be highly effective together in pick and roll,” Donovan said. “You’ve got a phenomenal pick and roll player in Chris and you’ve got a guy who has been an elite roller and a good pocket player and a really good passer for a big man in Steven. Those guys getting to know one another on the court is all that needs to happen. I don’t have any doubt or worry that that will take place.”
Who knows how long Paul is in OKC. For the time being, this could be exciting to watch evolve.
Brady Trantham has covered the Oklahoma City Thunder for The Franchise since April 2018 and for Thunder Digest since 2016. He hosts a Thunder podcast with Madysson Morris “OKC-82 Podcast” which can be found on all podcast outlets, and is a featured co-host on the Franchise Thunder Insider’s Show on Saturdays from 10-12. For Sooner fans, you can also listen to the “Inside OU” podcast with John Hoover, Rufus Alexander and Brady. Brady is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma class of 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BradyDoesSports