Oklahoma City Thunder: Assessing Thabo Sefolosha's Underrated Value as a Shooter

Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 30, 2013

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 23:  Thabo Sefolosha #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against the Boston Celtics during the game on November 23, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder boast one of the best offensive systems in the league. While some of the credit can be directly attributed to All-Star forward Kevin Durant, the entire team deserves their due acknowledgement. The Thunder don't have a plethora of fantastic shooters, but do have those that are capable in Durant and Kevin Martin. However, one that is rarely considered is Thabo Sefolosha.

The 6'7" wingman has been renowned as a defensive specialist. His height and length allows him to bottle up even the most prolific scorers in the league, which in turn has kept Sefolosha in OKC's starting lineup. His offensive limitations are well documented, as he doesn't possess much on that end of the floor despite his athleticism. 

Defensively, the eight-year pro is holding opponents to 39.3 percent shooting and an even more stellar 29.7 percent in isolations. Sefolosha is limiting opponent-PER at 12.9, which equates to the nightly effectiveness of Tayshaun Prince or Jason Richardson. His focus and efficiency on defense has kept him a major factor in the team's success. His offensive shortcomings are a little overstated though.

Sefolosha is putting up 7.3 points per game for the Thunder, which equals his highest average since an 8.5 output in his first season with the team. He's shooting 47.4 percent from the floor, in addition to a solid 40 percent from three-point range. While Sefolosha's 43.7 average from last season is higher, his three-point field goals made are at a career-high 1.2 per game thus far. 

Making an average of just over one three-pointer a game isn't a major contribution to the offense, yet it points to Sefolosha's vast development in such an aspect this season. He has sunk 54 three-point shots in 44 games for the Thunder, with another 38 contests to go on OKC's schedule. When you consider Sefolosha made 59 three-pointers his last two seasons combined, he has really improved his outside stroke.

His total makes at this point in the season have him tied with LeBron James, Charlie Villanueva, Mike Conley Jr. and Andre Iguodala. While these names are not synonymous with outside shooting, they would all be regarded as better than Sefolosha, if compared. He may not be automatic, but the Swiss guard/forward has made strides in terms of improvement.

Sefolosha is making 34 percent of his perimeter threes, which is a solid percentage, considering how regularly he is labelled as inconsistent. From the corner, he's shooting a fantastic 47 percent. Being the shortest three-point shot on the court, it's no surprise most players make a high number of these attempts. He is 30-for-64 from the corner thus far, exactly double last season's total of 15-for-32. 

What this aims to bring awareness to is how much more prolific Sefolosha has become shooting the ball. An obvious slight in terms of last season's comparison is a condensed season, however his 2010-11 totals from either side equated to just 27.5 percent through 79 games. He made 28 threes on the year, a number he has almost double this season.

While Thabo may not be the most deadly shooter, he has improved this aspect enough to be a weapon on both ends of the floor for OKC. His shooting mechanics could do with a slight adjustment; something that could be a big difference-maker going forward. Sefolosha is one of OKC's leading three-point shooters, and due credit needs to be paid. He is no longer a one-dimensional defensive stopper, but has become the outside shooting/defensive wing player the Thunder need.

All statistics sourced from 82games.com, nba.com/stats and Synergy Sports.