The Thunder are 10 games into their season, and there are a few early takeaways that have fans excited for the present and the future. With that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 stats that tell us something significant about this Thunder team:
1. The Thunder are 1st in the NBA in first-half net rating (12.7). How does this happen? They are third in offensive rating and third in defensive rating through the first half. You might ask how the Thunder are 4-6 on the year then. They’re 26th in second-half net rating (-9.0) ahead of only the Bulls, Hornets, Kings, and Grizzlies. I haven’t been able to crack the code on why this shift happens, but it seemingly aligns with past Thunder teams in that they always seem to struggle coming out of halftime. Coaching, maybe?
2. Opponents are only shooting 32.5% on wide-open threes versus the Thunder, the fourth-luckiest mark in the NBA. The defense is bound to regress.
3. The Thunder rank last in the NBA in expected eFG% at 50%. Overall, they have a 52 eFG% on the season. This lack of open and quality shots the Thunder take factor into them ranking 21st in the NBA in offensive rating. You would think having a hall of fame point guard in Chris Paul and two other capable ball-handlers in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari would help the offense flow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
4. Shai’s on/off splits. The Thunder’s offense is much better when Shai is on the floor, yet their defense tanks when he’s on. Seems odd that, in my estimation, a good defender like SGA has such dramatic splits.
5. Dennis Schroder’s positive impact so far this season.
Despite continuing to be an inefficient scorer, Schroder leads the team in net rating by a considerable margin (9.6). The offense is five points better when he’s on the floor and the defense plays like a top-three unit when he’s on the court.
One of the reasons this is how it looks: Terrance Ferguson is bringing the team down when he’s on the floor. Which brings me to my next point.
6. Terrance Ferguson is killing the Thunder.
CP3-Shai-Gallo w/ Ferguson: (per 100 possessions)
- OffRtg: 104.26
- DefRtg: 115.44
- NetRtg: -11.18
CP3-Shai-Gallo w/o Ferguson: (per 100 possessions)
- OffRtg: 124.46
- DefRtg: 110.29
- NetRtg: 14.17
Ferguson has yet to take a three this season that isn’t considered “wide open” according to NBA.com. His role on offense so far has been to stand in the corners and only shoot when he’s open. He’s also been assisted on all 15 of his made field goals this season.
For comparison, Hamidou Diallo has made 23 assisted shots this season and 18 unassisted, compared to Ferguson’s 0 in the latter category.
7. Danilo Gallinari currently ranks in the 97th percentile among pick & roll ball handlers. Dating back to 2016-2017, here are his rankings among the rest of the NBA.
- 2018-2019: 93rd percentile
- 2017-2018: 100th percentile
- 2016-2017: 96th percentile
Despite consistently ranking among the top in points-per-possession as a PnR ball-handler, he’s never had more than 140 possessions in a season. For comparison, a player like Khris Middleton had 278 possessions last season. Moral of the story: get Gallinari more involved in the PnR and let him flourish.
8. Calm your excitement on Darius Bazley. Bazley currently ranks 420/425 in offensive PIPM (Player Impact Plus-Minus) and has yet to make a three that isn’t considered open.
He’s really struggling to finish around the rim and the offense has tanked when he’s on the floor, dropping from a 113.86 rating to a 92.11 rating when he’s on the court. On the bright side, this is a beautiful shot chart. Only a select few NBA players can live off taking frequent midrange shots, and I don’t believe Bazley is/will be one of them, so keep it simple.
9. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has attempted more pull-up threes in 10 games than he did all of last year.
Last season, Shai was 7/22 on pull-up threes, this season, he’s 8/25. I mentioned in a previous piece that I hoped Shai would take and make more pull-up threes as it’s a dynamic weapon that most all elite point guards in this league use. This is a great step in the right direction for Shai to improve as a player.
10. 39-43. That’s the projected record that 538 has the Thunder finishing at the end of the season. I, for one, say that’s too high. Why finish with 39 wins and miss the playoffs when you can finish with 35, or 30, wins and miss the playoffs? I ran one simulation on Tankathon and it had OKC finishing with the 11th pick in the draft. That’s not good enough.
Have your own stats you find especially telling for the Thunder thus far? Share them in the comments below.