2012-13 OKC Thunder player previews: Thabo Sefolosha

Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Thabo Sefolosha missed a chunk of time during the regular season but returned in a big way in the playoffs. Can he continue to be the defensive specialist the Thunder need?

Thabo Sefolosha isn't one of the Thunder superstars, but as he proved in the playoffs, his defensive focus is a crucial component to the Thunder's playoff hopes.

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Player THABO SEFOLOSHA
Position Shooting Guard
Year in NBA 7
Nicknames "Selfishlosha"
2011-12 Stats 4.8 PPG, 2.6 RPB, 1.1 APG, 0.4 BL, 0.9 ST, 1.0 TO
Past Accolades 2010 All-Defensive 2nd Team
2011-12 Season 2011-12 Season End Review
Injury History Missed 24 games in 2012 due to foot injury but did not miss a game in the playoffs
Contract Status Signed to a reasonable contract through 2014.


Zeb's Take:

Thabo Sefolosha has been a consummate team player through and through, so there's not much to hate about the guy. He rarely gets in the way offensively, and although it's hard to see how he contributes on a night to night basis, many of the little things he does have really helped this team grow and develop.

His game is pretty much a marked card, and I don't really think there's much he can do other than continuing to develop a long range shot and a better sense of where other players are on offense. The big concern for me is how many games he'll be out. Scott Brooks will probably let hell freeze over before James Harden gets the start, leaving the only other viable options as Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward. Both of those players have their advantages, but they bring entirely different skillsets to the table. As such, the Thunder's attitude changes a bit defensively, and they rely more on trapping and big man defense in the post.

But, most importantly, the Thunder lose the guy who is the expert at keeping guys away from the rim. Thabo isn't the quickest guy and can't have a super awesome effect on shooters, but he almost never loses his assignment, and he's ultra awesome at slowing guys down without fouling them. In other words, he's the exact opposite of Derek Fisher. And when you don't have that element in your game, if the opposing shooting guard is effective enough, it can effect the outcome of the game.

All in all, I think Thabo is a perfect example of a unique role player that's a huger part of the championship puzzle that you might think. And he's the last guy I'd be looking to replace.

Grade:

Grade_c_medium

Sherman's Take:

Thabo Sefolosha is often the forgotten man in OKC's star-studded lineup. He doesn't score like Kevin Durant, he doesn't impose his will like Russell Westbrook, and he doesn't play defense like Serge Ibaka. His scoring barely makes a blip on the radar screen. When then is Sefolosha still the starter on a team with championship aspirations?

I believe it is because both he and Kendrick Perkins are the only guys in the starting line-up who truly believe that their defense must come first, and that focus rounds out the bottomless levels of offensive talent that can be found elsewhere. Thabo is necessary to help keep the team centered and grounded on the defensive fundamentals that help them win games.

We don't notice that the opposing shooting guards are having an off-night, or that the team OKC is facing is shooting unusually poorly from the floor. Even though we don't notice, we know that these are byproducts of Sefolosha's defense.

That said, Thabo showed us something specifically during the Western Conference Championship against the Spurs. He showed us all that he can have a radical effect on the outcome of games when he was appointed to stop the seemingly unstoppable Tony Parker. Game 3 (video above) told the whole story - Parker went from carving up the Thunder like sliced roast beef and was transformed into a cautious, uncertain, and suddenly pedestrian turnover-prone guard who could not engage his team's offense. That's what Thabo can bring.

Let's hope he gets more of those opportunities in 2012-13.

Grade:

Grade_cplus_medium

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A Player has exceedingly high expectations attainable only if they play to their fullest ability.
B Player has reasonably high expectations that are attainable.
C
Player has moderate expectations which should be met with little trouble.
D
Player has moderate expectations but will struggle to meet them.
F
Player should not be on the Thunder roster.
X
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