2013-14 Oklahoma City Thunder Player Previews: Thabo Sefolosha

USA TODAY Sports

Thabo Sefolosha once again is a key cog in the Thunder's plans for chasing the title.

(WTLC begins its final preparation for the regular season with our annual player profile previews.  Each player gets a dual analysis as well as a grade of our expectations for each. See the grading scale at the bottom.)

Player THABO SEFOLOSHA
Position Shooting Guard
Year in NBA 8
Nicknames "Selfishlosha," "The Sefolosha's of the World"
2012-13 Stats 7.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.5 AST, 1.3 ST, 0.5 BLK, 0.8 TO
Past Accolades All-Defensive 2nd Team (2010)
Injury History None current, past foot issue
Contract Status Final year of contract that pays him $3.9mm, after which he is an unrestricted free agent.

***

KevinHFY

Once again, Sefolosha's back as our starting shooting guard. This time, he's wearing 25 on the back of his jersey. He said it was "time for a change," but after the number, it'll be more of the same this season from him. The expectations for Sefolosha are the same as always - contribute to the Thunder effort on defense and do a great job of it while spacing the floor on offense with 3-point shooting.

After his three-point shooting percentage jumped from 27.5% to 43.7% two seasons ago, it remained comfortably north of 40% last season (41.9%) while Sefolosha nearly doubled his number of attempts per game (1.7 per game in '11-12 to 3.2 in '12-13). That was when James Harden got traded. Now, with Kevin Martin out too, Sefolosha will once again become even more important. This time, he's pretty clearly the best three-point specialist the Thunder have. It'll be crucial for him to be able to knock down the threes and make defenses think twice about leaving him to double up on Kevin Durant or (eventually) Russell Westbrook.

On defense, Sefolosha will probably see a lot of time guarding the opponent team's main perimeter threat as he did last season. He's definitely capable of it, and it saves Durant and Westbrook valuable energy for offense.

There's no reason to think that Sefolosha can't handle his 3-and-D role, as he's been producing consistently in that role for years now. His numbers won't wow you, but he's a very important role player to the cause.

Grade_bminus_medium

***

Sherman

Three post-seasons ago, Thabo Sefolosha was a liability. To be sure, he could knock down the occasional 3-pointer and play solid perimeter defense, but for a contending team, his weaknesses hurt the team far more than his attributes helped them. Even though Thabo was the best all-around defender on the court, the Thunder simply could not play him when it mattered most because the opposing defenses did not fear him. Teams abandoned him completely in halfcourt sets in exchange for the chance to double-team Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The result was a lot of 4 on 5 matchups, and the Thunder did not have enough scoring options to overcome the Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals in 2011.

Two years pass, and Sefolosha is a different player. He's still the tenacious defender on the perimeter, now aided by Durant, Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, which form the epicenter for one of the best defenses in the league. As noted above, Sefolosha still is one of the most accurate shooters from beyond the arc. What has come along with that shooting percentage is is an offensive assertiveness that a "defensive specialist" has never been known for.

We saw the transformed Sefolosha more and more last season when he bumped up his scoring average by nearly 3 points per game and in the month of March had games of 28, 20, and 18. He is confident taking the ball off the dribble and was unafraid to take game deciding shots late in the 4th. Thabo knows that he's better offensively and has been in attack mode ever since. With the Thunder missing Westbrook for the first two months of the season, it cannot be understated how valuable this quality is to OKC.

On top of it all, Sefolosha is in the final year of his contract that pays him a very affordable number of $3.9 million. This may be Sefolosha's last big chance to play for and secure a big contract in his career, and given his newfound assertiveness, OKC's and his priorities are joined together for another surge in production and contribution.

Grade_bplus_medium

***

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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