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The Thunder’s shooting weaknesses play major factor in recent troubles

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The Thunder are struggling on offense, and the culprit may be the biggest bane to current NBA offenses.

Golden State Warriors v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The complications of the Oklahoma City Thunder just keep getting messier. In a recent piece by Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript, Fred points out one of the many woes the Thunder have been facing, and as of now, may stand as the major factor behind OKC’s inability to score big off of given opportunities:

“The Oklahoma City Thunder’s offensive problems have a specific root. It’s located about 20 feet from the rim. The Thunder sank only 37 percent of their looks during Saturday’s shellacking at the 5-15 Dallas Mavericks. It was another game when they simply didn’t find the basket.”

While it’s one thing to fail at sinking long shots (yes, the Thunder suck at this), its another to heavily rely on mid-range pull-ups in a league which relies on high-volume three point shooting (e.g. the Rockets and Nets just combined to shoot 89(!) threes in a game) in order to succeed. In fact, the Thunder are the number one team in the league as far as two-point attempts, and that’s not necessarily a statistic you’d want to be leading in.

And as Katz goes on to describe (as most of us know), long two-point attempts come out to be the league’s least efficient shot, and not only because of its lack of scoring value, “but also because defenders almost never foul on jump shots.” As a result, OKC is averaging about 5 fewer free throw attempts per game, and their FT/FGA per game has fallen from 22% a year ago to 18.6% so far this season. And in today’s world of advanced analytics, defenses have to be aware of this, and are going to continue to be willing to give up these long two’s ad infinitum.

Okay David, there’s a relatively manageable solution to every woe the Thunder has presented thus far, I’m sure with the recent negative outcome to their gameplay, OKC will surely present a fix to their obsession with faulty two-point attempts, and their rubbish attempt at the range-game, right?

Well, no.

You see, while Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George have shown time and time again throughout their star-studded careers how powerful and effective their shooting game is: this year, all THREE of them are struggling even INSIDE the arc. According to NBA statistic provider, Second Spectrum:

  • Westbrook attempts 5.5 pull-up two’s per game (fifth-most in the NBA), completing only 28 percent of those
  • Anthony takes 6.0 per game (third-most in the NBA), completing a decent 42 percent
  • George takes 4.0 per game, completing only 32 percent

Here’s a shot-map of OKC’s shooting rates compared to the league average (prepare yourself, it’s ugly):

It should also be noted how terrible the Thunder shoots the corner-three, a staple of modern basketball, due to it being statistically the highest valued shot you can take on the entire court.

OKC’s newest trio of stars have a lot more to work out than just chemistry, and as Fred Katz humorously points out in his piece: “If you’re going to live and die by the jump shot, at least make sure you're taking the right ones.”


Do you think OKC can break its long two’s habit?

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