Shooting statistics: Ibaka, Collison are tops in the league

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have made a name for themselves as two of the best scorers in the NBA, but who are the Thunder's actual best shooters from various spots on the floor?

Over the past few years, Emmy winner Charles Barkley has had this to say about the Thunder offense:

"I’m not a big Oklahoma City fan because I don’t think they get any easy baskets. Like last year I didn’t think they could win and the reason I picked Miami to win the championship, the only way you’re going to beat Miami is beat them up inside. That’s what their weakness is. You’re not going to beat them on the perimeter shooting jumpers with Westbrook and Durant...Unless Oklahoma City gets some low post scoring, they’re going to win a lot of games because they have two terrific players and (James) Harden is terrific also, but you’re not going to win the championship just shooting jumpers."

Regardless of whether that statement is actually true, it is definitely an overriding narrative that has stuck with the Thunder over these past 3 seasons. With that in mind, I give you our 8 Points, 9 Seconds friend and resident smart guy Jared Wade:

The NBA's Best Shooters from Each Area On the Floor | Bleacher Report

Several Thunder players show up in these rankings, but the results will surprise you:

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The Restricted Area (minimum 30 makes)

1. Serge Ibaka 51-67 (76.1%)
2. Nick Collison 35-46 (76.1%)


Wade writes:
You may notice that the first and second names on this list both play for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Add in the success of Thabo Sefolosha, who has gone 21-of-28 (75.0) in the restricted area, and it probably isn't a coincidence. My theory: The great perimeter play of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook opens up the interior, which helps create a lot of easy layups for everyone else.
To sum up, through 18 games the Thunder are shooting a remarkable 86-113 (76.1%) at the rim from their power forward position, which is tops in the league. Furthermore, Wade mentions that Sefolosha, no gunner he, is shooting 75% himself at the rim off of 28 shots. As we who have watched these games have seen, most of these shots have been uncontested dunks and layups. This is clear statistical evidence that not only are Durant and Westbrook playing well so far this year, but that their performance is elevating the entire offense and easy shots are the result.

The Mid-Range (minimum 20 makes)

4. Serge Ibaka 48-90 (53.3%)

After Chris Bosh, Ibaka is now the best mid-range big man in the NBA. This is excellent news for the Thunder, who have made a concerted effort to promote Ibaka's offense this season by setting him up with good scoring opportunities. After a shaky first two games, Ibaka has been remarkably effective and consistent since then.

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It remains to be seen whether this small sample size can hold up over both a full season and the playoffs. However, the fact that these types of shots are now a staple of the Thunder offense is good evidence that OKC is learning to run a more dynamic system. In doing so, they are producing the "easy baskets" that critics like Sir Charles crave so much.

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