Thabo Sefolosha’s improved shooting the Hawks’ gain


Thabo Sefolosha is better known for his defensive prowess coming off the Atlanta Hawks’ bench, but it has been his improved shooting that has turned heads.

Thabo Sefolosha built a strong reputation with the Oklahoma City Thunder as a defense-first wing under former head coach Scott Brooks. Playing alongside forward Kevin Durant, big man Serge Ibaka, and point guard Russell Westbrook, there were always a lot of available shots for Sefolosha with OKC.

When he came to Atlanta via free agency at the start of 2014-15, Atlanta Hawks head coach had big plans for Thabo Sefolosha in not only becoming the team’s elite perimeter defender off the bench, but also becoming a practical scoring option. Defense came easily to Sefolosha in 2014-15 as he boasted a defensive rating of 100, his best season as a regular player.

However the offense continued to lag behind as injuries limited Sefolosha to only 52 games in 2014-15. It usually takes about twenty or so consecutive games for a wing to find his identity in Budenholzer’s offensive system. In 2015-16, Thabo Sefolosha has finally put it all together offensively.

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Though Sefolosha is only averaging 7.5 points per game in 24.2 minutes per contest, he is shooting from a career best clip from the field (.545) and from inside the perimeter (.634). He also is doing very well from three-point land, sinking .358 of his shots, not on par with his final two seasons in OKC, but certainly better than last year’s clip of .321.

It seems as if Sefolosha does his best work by attacking the paint. He is shooting .690 inside of three feet of the basket, meaning he is going at the rim with conviction more than he ever has. Given the leg injuries he had to deal with last season, this is impressive to see Thabo Sefolosha cut to the basket with this kind of authority.

Thabo Sefolosha shooting from a high clip just inside the three-point line on jumpers, sinking .636 of his shots beyond 16 feet but inside of the arc. He’s not doing too bad just outside of the restricted area in the paint either, making .556 of his shots between three and ten feet.

Sefolosha’s effective field goal percentage of .603 is hundredths of a percent better than his 2012-13 total while with OKC (.597). Really the only thing bogging down Sefolosha’s strong start from the field this season has been his awful free throw shooting, making 19 of 33 attempts for only a .576 percentage. His a career .740 free throw shooter.

Thabo Sefolosha is having another outstanding defensive season with a DRTG of 101, but is also having his best offensive season since 2012-13 with an ORTG of 109. He’s nowhere near the 121 he had that year in Oklahoma City, but he isn’t playing with two of the Association’s top ten players in the league in Durant and Westbrook while with the Atlanta Hawks.

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Since Sefolosha is one of the three primary bench players for the Atlanta Hawks along with point guard Dennis Schroder and center Tiago Splitter, it is important that Sefolosha’s improvement on offense in Budenholzer’s system is here to stay. Along with starting small forward Kent Bazemore, Atlanta has the dynamic one-two punch out on the wing they will need come playoff time, both on defense and now offense.