Memo To Presti: Get Some Shooters

Two great fanposts in one day? What is going on here? I really don't know, but I sure as hell like it! Keep it up fellas, another frontpage promotion!

-Mr Pappagiorgio

The Oklahoma City Thunder, as you may not be surprised to learn, were not a good shooting team in the 2008-2009 season. As a matter of fact, as a team they shot 44.7%, which was good for only 26th in a league of 30 teams. You also may not be surprised to learn that 12 of the top 15 shooting teams in the league made the NBA playoffs. No team that shot worse than 45% from the field made the playoffs.

Additionally, the field goal percentage +/- differential (when you consider the field goal percentage that the Thunder allowed to their opponents) doesn't give much further reason for optimism. The Thunder, on average, got out shot by about 6.09% good for 27th in the league in FG% +/- differential.

Obviously, the team needs to improve on both ends of the floor, but I think some of their defensive woes can be attributed to missing shots and then getting transitioned. When the Thunder can make a basket and then set up a half court defense, they are much better. Also, they were the 6th best rebounding team in the NBA and posted a positive rebounding differential. That's also not surprising given their length as a team.

Depending on how the salary cap shakes out this summer, the Thunder will likely have somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-30 million to spend. I doubt they go out and spend all of it, but they will have a lot of flexibility. That, and what I mentioned above, are reasons why I think that Presti should go out and nab a few pure shooters, even if they are average defenders.

The Thunder simply just don't have a bunch of guys that can put the ball in the hoop at a reliable rate. Look at the teams still playing in the playoffs right now. Even the likes of the Hawks have a few guys that can score in bunches off of jumpers (Bibby, Johnson, Murray, etc.).

Here I'll take a brief look at the True Shooting Percentage (TS%) of some of the Thunder guards and guard/forwards. True Shooting Percentage takes into account free throw shooting and 3 point shooting through a formula like this: True Shooting Percentage = (Total points x 50) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44)]. It's fairly widely used and it shows up in ESPN NBA analyst John Hollinger's statistics page.

Kevin Durant - 57.7%, 10th among NBA small forwards
Kyle Weaver - 55.1%, 28th among NBA shooting guards
Thabo Sefalosha - 50.0%, 47th among NBA small forwards
Russell Westbrook - 48.9%, 48th among NBA point guards
Damien Wilkins - 46.7%, 69th among NBA shooting guards
Desmond Mason - 45.6%, 71st among NBA shooting guards
Earl Watson - 44.8%, 62nd among NBA point guards

Not surprisingly, the Thunder only had one player ranked among the top 10 at their respective position. Therefore, it also shouldn't be a surprise that the Thunder were ranked 29th of 30 teams in the NBA in true shooting percentage, and were also the 2nd worst team in offensive efficiency.

Sam, we need some efficient offensive players who can shoot it! Who fits the mold? Let's take a look:

Wally Szczerbiak - Shooting Guard
Unrestricted Free Agent 2009
TS% 58.1 (9th among SG)

As much as I like Wally, I think that he'd command a little more money than some of the other available free agents. He is an above average defender, which would be nice to add as well, and he holds opponents to about 86% of their normal scoring production according to NBAPET metrics. Despite his great shooting he's only got a WARP (Wins Above Replacement level Player) of 0.4, and a team made up of him and 4 replacement level players would only win 42% of their games on average. He could be a gamble, as he's been generally a role player in his career and he's getting old.

Ben Gordon - Shooting Guard
Unrestricted Free Agent 2009
TS% 57.3 (14th among SG)

I was discussing this with someone in the comments section of another thread, and the biggest issue with Gordon appears to be his price tag. Certainly he'll command more money, but he should deserve it. His gritty playoff performance will be remembered as a part of possibly the best opening round series of all time. He can certainly shoot it, but he's not just a pure shooter, he can score it too. Make no mistakes about it, if Gordon has an open jumper, he'll drill it. He has a great WARP at 4.6, and he's a slightly above average defender, holding opponents about 1-2% below their normal production. Still, his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) per John Hollinger is just a hair over 17 (fifteen is average). He's not in the elite class in the league in that regard, but if some team overpays, he could get paid like it.

Jason Kidd - Point Guard
Unrestricted Free Agent 2009
TS% 55.0 (17th among PG)

Jason Kidd would immediately add a veteran presence to the team. He's still one of the best passers and creaters in the game, and he would instantly make his teammates better. Acquiring Kidd would give Westbrook time to develop. Kidd is also a great shooter, especially for the PG position. He's not great defensively (opponents score at a 17% higher clip against him), but he is one of the most efficient offensive players in the league with a hugely negative points lost margin (NBAPET metric). Add to that his astonishing WARP of 11.9 and I think it's easy to say that Kidd's impact is often understated.

Andre Miller - Point Guard
Unrestricted Free Agent 2009
TS% 54.8 (21st among PG)

Andre Miller, I think, is a vastly underrated player in the league. He's got a nice pure shot and he sets up his teammates well. Of course, playing on a mediocre team in the East doesn't get him much noteriety. He's actually kind of a poor man's Jason Kidd. He has a WARP of 9.9, but is similarly below average in defense (opponents score at a 5% higher clip). He is better defensively than Kidd. Add to that an above average offensive efficiency, and Miller looks like a great option. Plus, his WARP calculated win percentage with a team of him and 4 replacement level players is very high at 0.575. I think he would be a great cheap option to bring in, especially if you're not looking at a PG in the draft.

Grant Hill - Shooting Guard or Small Forward
Unrestricted Free Agent 2009
TS% 58.4 (6th among SF)

Hill would instantly become the best shooter on the team (in terms of TS%) if he were to be signed. He should come at a discount price and he's a veteran presence. At the very least, he could give you a solid 15-25 minutes per game and contribute points in bunches. He still has a sweet jump shot. He's got a WARP of 3.4 and I think he is a guy that the Thunder need to take a serious look at as a role player potential guy.

James Harden - Shooting Guard
Draft Class 2009
TS% 61.4 (84th nationally)

James Harden out of Arizona State is a great shooter. If the Thunder are sitting in a position where it looks like Harden may be available, they may want to address their shooting guard position through the draft, and then sign a free agent PG and big man. He's got a killer jumper and a deadly shot with range. The biggest complaints are average defense and a lack of explosiveness. Despite his scoring ability, he failed to show up much in the NCAA Tournament. His draft stock could fall as a result of that. I see him more as a spot-up shooter in the NBA who won't be breaking ankles, but can deliver the open shot with ease.

Stephen Curry - Shooting Guard or Point Guard
Draft Class 2009
TS% 60.4

Curry can flat out score the basketball and he's got a very fluid and automatic shot. If he can bulk up, he'll at least have a job in the NBA as a guy who can come in the game and drill everything. He's only 6-3 185 right now, so he's a bit small to be an NBA shooting guard. However, I think he could develop into a decent scoring NBA point guard, and his shooting ability will ensure he is a top 10 pick.

Jeff Teague - Shooting Guard or Point Guard
Draft Class 2009
TS% 61.5 (83rd nationally)

I'm intrigued by Jeff Teague. ESPN's Chad Ford has him down as similar to Devin Harris who is doing great things in the NBA. He's a shifty guy who can score the basketball but also set up his teammates. He's got a great range on his shot. He hasn't hired an agent, so he may not be available.

Wayne Ellington - Shooting Guard
Draft Class 2009
TS% 59.9

Ellington has a very pretty jump shot and he was a big part of North Carolina's run to the national title. He can shoot it from way out. As usual with guys from UNC, he's a great athlete and can shoot or create off the dribble. I see him being available at the Thunder's 2nd first round pick at 25 (from San Antonio), or possibly even slipping to where they draft in the 2nd round.

Sam Young - Shooting Guard or Small Forward
Draft Class 2009
TS% 58.2

Young played well for Pittsburgh this season, has great range on his shot, could probably play the 2 or the 3, he's powerful, he can run the floor well, and he's a great rebounder. Additionally, he played solid defense at Pittsburgh against elite competition in the Big East. I think he's a guy who won't get a lot of attention in the draft (especially because he's 24), but would be worth a shot with one of the Thunder's later picks. He's already a pretty well rounded and smart player.

Danny Green - Small Forward
Draft Class 2009
TS% 59.1

Green doesn't get a lot of attention on North Carolina's roster, but he could be a steal in the draft. He is a superb rebounder and defender, and he can run the floor. He won't be terribly explosive, but he can stroke the ball pretty well. He's very smooth offensively and is a smart player. I see him like Sam Young, a guy who could very well be a role player, but a guy who could contribute solid minutes every night his rookie season.


Obviously, there are many more players that I could have detailed, but those are the best available that are PG, SG, or SF and have a high shooting percentage.

What would I do if I were Presti? There are tons of good guys who fit the great-shooter-and-offensive-player-but-will-become-a-role-player mold later down the draft board. For that reason, I would draft a big guy with my pick at the top of the board. I would then sign Andre Miller or Jason Kidd, whoever comes cheaper (probably Miller), to run the point while Westbrook learns. I would also take a cheap one year contract shot on Grant Hill if he would take it. Finally, later down the draft board I would take a shot on two of the great shooters. My favorites are Sam Young and Danny Green.

Then you have Miller and Westbrook splitting time at the point next year, Sefalosha or Weaver battling it out with Sam Young, Durant getting most of the time at SF, with Danny Green possibly fighting for some playing time at the 2 or 3 with Sam Young. Your big man (probably Thabeet or Jordan Hill) would probably start alongside Collison or Krstic. Then you sign a depth big guy or two and you have a solid rotation. It would be awesome if the #1 pick fell to the Thunder, so they could get Griffin, but I don't think that'll happen.

In any event, they need to get some better shooters in the Ford Center for next season. I think the free agent SG's could be too expensive. So, I think they'll either need a big splash free agent at the PF, C or PG position, and then use the top draft pick on a big or PG, whichever they didn't get in free agency.

This post does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of Welcome to Loud City or SB Nation. However, it was made by one of the members of the Welcome to Loud City community, so there is a large chance the above post is extremely ballin'!

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