During the Thunder's first season, all eyes were on guard Thabo Sefolosha when it came time for a key defensive stop. These days, coach Scott Brooks can feast his eyes on more than one option.
"Used to be Thabo had to guard the guy we were guessing, 'This guy is probably going to get the (last) shot,' " Brooks admitted. "Now, I'm comfortable with whoever is guarding the guy who gets the last shot Jeff (Green), Russell (Westbrook), Kevin (Durant), Thabo. We have the ability to switch on a lot of plays at the end of the game."
Sefolosha was a second-team all-defense selection last season, but no longer was he blatantly flying solo for the Thunder.
Green has guarded four different positions. Westbrook is arguably the most athletic player in the league. Brooks continually heaps praise upon Durant for his defensive improvement. Nick Collison was second in the league in drawn charges (57).
The Thunder led the league in blocked shots last season, yet no one reached 100 rejections. Rookie reserve Serge Ibaka led the way with 97. The Thunder used the 11th pick in the NBA Draft to obtain space-eating, defensive-minded center Cole Aldrich.
With the 7-foot wingspans of Durant (7-foot-5), Aldrich (7-foot-4), Ibaka (7-foot-3), Byron Mullens (7-foot-1½) and Green (7-1¼), the Thunder is one of the league's longer teams.
Brooks wants to utilize all these defensive attributes in unison, which is why the outset of training camp was roughly 70 percent defense.
Brooks continually stresses the importance of defense. More specifically, team defense. The Thunder's defense, pretty much any defense for that matter, is most effective when teammates help out each other. When the Thunder uses its "shell" defense, there had better not be any cracks.
"There is a lot to work on as a team defensively," Sefolosha said. "As a unit, you definitely want to master those. I think team defense definitely helps an individual on defense."
If a player wants to improve offensively during the off-season, he might shoot until he makes 500 shots and 100 free throws per day. But how does a player become better defensively on his own?
When Brooks and his staff visit their players during the summer, they instruct them to do certain defensive drills, break down their stances and also stress weight training.
"Anything you can do for your core and your legs, that's good," Sefolosha said.
In the end, defense is about desire and effort.
"I'd say 80 percent of it is mental effort and 20 percent is being in shape," Sefolosha said. "Pretty much everybody has the body to play defense."