Former Oklahoma City Thunder starter Thabo Sefolosha recently inked a three-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks much to the joy of Oklahoma City and Thunder fans everywhere. The enthusiastic, joyful celebration isn’t meant to demean anything that Sefolosha accomplished with the ball club in the past, but it is instead meant to allow Thunder fans to release that deep sigh they’ve been holding in for too long and be able to say “finally.”
That is truly how I feel about Sefolosha. He started for the team for nearly every game he played and provided perennial wing defense as well as timely shot-making ability. He allowed Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to breathe easy knowing that although they may have wanted to, neither would need to check the opposing team’s best player. For whatever reason, Sefolosha became a shell of his former self this past season and put that putrid skill set on ultimate display in the 2014 NBA playoffs, subsequently resulting in his benching for the majority of the postseason.
Statistically, his numbers plummeted across the board this season. He shot a worse percentage in all three shooting categories, averaged fewer points, fewer rebounds, fewer blocks and as a result, fewer minutes. He was completely benched for six entire games in the playoffs because of his poor production. There really isn’t a logical solution to Sefolosha’s downfall this past season, and there is only one thing I scream from the rooftops as a Thunder fan: Good riddance!
I can acknowledge his contributions over his six seasons in Oklahoma City and appreciate the fact that role players perhaps mean just as much — if not more — to a successful playoff team. I have no problem letting him go knowing that he gave the Thunder six good years — well, five-and-a-half good years. The Thunder will seamlessly replace him with players like Jeremy Lamb and Andre Roberson, two long, athletic wing players. Durant and Westbrook will have to begin to produce defensively at a higher level if they want to cement their mark in the upper echelon of NBA players; all of the best played great defense. Atlanta will hope and pray they get the Sefolosha from three years ago rather than the JV superstar he embodied this season.
This works out for all parties involved. The Thunder are no longer hamstrung by a player who couldn’t seem to find his groove he once held onto for so long, and the Hawks have inherited a player with monster role playing potential. We just have to wait and see which player shows up in the 2014-15 season.