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Week in Review: Where’s the D?

Week in Review: Where’s the D?
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Ugly. Frustrating. Awful. Just a few of the words that describe the Thunder’s defense this year. It’s been hashed, re-hashed, and re-re-hashed in this column repeatedly, but it’s the only glaring weakness for a team that has championship aspirations. Yes, Dion Waiters draws a ton of attention (most notably his shooting stats), but whether he’s a positive or negative contributor offensively, it’s but a small element of the success or failures of the Thunder’s juggernaut offense.

But the defense, man, the defense is something bad. There’s not a lot more to say that hasn’t already been said, but the sum of the problem is that the Thunder just make it so dad-gum easy for opponents to score. Like ridiculously easy considering the potential defensive talent on this team, such as Serge Ibaka, a perennially mention for defensive player of the year, Russell Westbrook, the NBA leader in steals per game, Kevin Durant, quickly becoming a lock-down defender, and Andre Roberson, an elite defensive talent.

Two stats stand out to me. First, 13 of the other 29 teams in the NBA converted a higher percentage from three against the Thunder than the team’s average. For example, the Thunder’s two most recent opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers, respectively shot 6.6% and 6.1% better from three against the Thunder than they shoot normally. That tells me that the Thunder do a poor job of defending the three point line.

Second, 22 of the other 29 teams in the NBA had more attempts within 10 feet of the rim against the Thunder than on average. As a result, the Thunder allow more shots within 10 feet than any other team in the NBA. In other words, when you play Oklahoma City, it’s like an all-access pass to the basket. The Thunder get away with it to some degree, as they rank second in the NBA in opponent FG% inside of 10 feet, but because of the rate teams get to the rim, the good defense gets canceled out by the sheer volume of attempts.

So yeah, defense is still a problem, and there seems to be no evidence of improvement.


  • Win vs. the New Orleans Pelicans on February 11, 121-95
  • Loss vs. the Indiana Pacers on February 19, 98-101
  • Loss vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 21, 92-115


Russell Westbrook. Westbrook continues to dominate statistically, a threat to notch another triple double every time he takes the floor. Over the last three games, Westbrook averaged 22 points, 13 assists, and 7 rebounds. Westbrook also shot the ball well (54/33/86 shooting splits), and even outpaced Kevin Durant in TS % (63% to 60%).


Dion Waiters. Another week like this, and they might take Waiters Island off the map. Despite admirably filling in for Andre Roberson in the starting lineup, the last three games have been nothing short of a horror show. Waiters converted on just 15% of his field goal attempts, failed to make a single three, scored just 10 total points, and had the worst net rating of any Thunder player (aside from Randy Foye who played his first minutes against the Cavaliers).

He did average one steal per game, so yeah.


Russell Westbrook against the Indiana Pacers. Westbrook was a brute force offensively against the Pacers. Not only did he accumulate a career-high 18 assists, but he also shot the ball extremely well (10-17 from the field for 23 points).


Dion Waiters against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was a pick ’em between the Pacers game and the Cavs game. In both games, Waiters was bad offensively. I’m going with the Cavs game because of this tweet:

It’s one game. One play. One frame. But if Waiters can’t make shots, this will become more and more than norm. And while Waiters does give effort on both ends (against the Cavs he had 2 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal), if he continually gets the Andre Roberson treatment by opposing defenses, the primary argument for his minutes with the starters–that he spaces the floor–is nullified.


Russell Westbrook dices through the lane and throws down the hammer.

Best Play-3

I really thought the Thunder would light up the Cavs after this play. Alas, it’s still a pretty play.


Dion Waiters can’t handle a pass on the break.

Worst Play-3



  • At the Dallas Mavericks on February 24 at 7:30 pm (FSOK)
    Prediction: The defense still leaves much to be desired, but the Thunder win a shootout against the Mavericks.
  • At the New Orleans Pelicans on February 25 at 7:00 pm (TNT)
    Prediction: The Thunder show they are the better team and roll to a double-digit win over the Pelicans.
  • Vs. the Golden State Warriors on February 27 at 7:30 pm (ABC)
    Prediction: Yet another barn-burner, but this time Stephen Curry and the Warriors make some more threes and win again.
  • At the Sacramento Kings on February 29 at 9:00 pm (NBATV)
    Prediction: Despite the feeling of a hangover from the Warriors match-up, the Thunder find a way to edge the Kings.