Russell Westbrook saw the best of what international basketball has to offer when he participated in the 2012 London Olympics. Though he opted against representing Team USA in Rio this summer, he recently got a refresher course in European hoops flavor when his Oklahoma City Thunder traveled to Spain last week for a pair of preseason Global Games.
The first didn’t exactly go as planned as the Thunder fell in overtime to Real Madrid on Monday, but they got back on track with a win over FC Barcelona just a couple of days later. The whole ordeal left Westbrook a little bit spellbound by the frenetic style of play across the pond. Here’s what he told Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:
“I think one thing people don’t realize is guarding teams in Europe,” Russell Westbrook prefaced. “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.”
Granted, it’s a backhanded compliment, but he isn’t necessarily wrong. Motion offenses in the NBA have certainly become more sophisticated in the space-and-pace era, but a lot of teams around the league still tend to rely on speed and athleticism to cover up deficiencies in other areas. The 2014 Spurs and 2015 Warriors are the only two squads we can think of who have successfully incorporated NBA athleticism into a motion-heavy offense with championship results.
Every couple of years, the Americans get a stark reminder of just how proficient international players are at moving the ball, playing together, and executing their offense to near perfection. The aforementioned Spurs, who consistently sport the most international team in the Association, have probably come the closest to mimicking this style, and many other NBA teams would do well to follow suit.