The Oklahoma City Thunder have yet to play an NBA team during the 2016 preseason, but that doesn't mean the competition hasn't been stiff.
The Thunder kicked off the preseason with games against two of Europe's best, dropping an overtime loss to Real Madrid before scraping out a narrow victory over FC Barcelona. After giving up an average of 115.5 points in those two games, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook heaped credit on the international competition, which used perpetual motion and selfless ball movement to offset the talent disparity.
"I think one thing people don't realize is guarding teams in Europe," Westbrook told reporters. "Their offenses are 10 times better than NBA offense just because they move around a lot. A lot of movement and not as much talent so they have to do different things to be able to score the basketball."
Thunder coach Billy Donovan explained how the Thunder needed to adjust to the Spanish teams' style in order to shore up the defense from the first game to the second.
"Our guys getting more comfortable (with) the pace and the rhythm, and how the offenses in Europe are running," Donovan said. "And that was probably a day to get acclimated and adjusted to that, to the speed and the cutting of the game."
Westbrook's praise of the European offenses could as easily be read as criticism of the NBA's. Which is interesting because, as far as player and ball movement go, the Thunder have been as staid as any team in the league during his ball-dominant tenure. They finished dead last in the NBA in passes thrown last season, and 22nd in distance run on offense.
They still managed to score points at the league's second-highest rate, but in Westbrook's estimation, that would still make them something like one-ninth as effective as an European offense. Maybe he'll draw some inspiration from the sojourn in Spain.