OKC Thunder: Defense must get Thunder through upcoming stretch without Russell Westbrook

Numbers — so far — indicate this might be Thunder's best defense. “I believe so,” Kendrick Perkins said.
by Anthony Slater Published: January 1, 2014

After a recent win, Kendrick Perkins was asked what seemed like a bit of a hyperbolic question.

“Is this the best this Thunder team has ever been on the defensive end?”

“I believe so,” Perkins responded.

Barely into January, it's still far too early to definitively know. But the early numbers bear that out.

Just take a look at OKC's year-by-year defensive efficiency — an increasingly popular statistic among the basketball community — which measures the points per 100 possessions a team allows.

In 2010-11, the first season the Thunder won a postseason series, its defensive efficiency was 104.0, 13th best in the NBA. The next season, the year OKC made the Finals, it was 100.0, ninth best in the league.

By last season, it had improved to 99.2, fourth best in the NBA. And now, 31 games in, it has dropped all the way to 97.5, behind only Indiana among the league's most stingy units.

“It's what we take pride in,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We're a defensive team.”

And for the next couple months, that reality carries as much weight as ever.

With Russell Westbrook out, this team is far less efficient and explosive on offense. The pace is slower and, typically, the points will be fewer.

But if OKC continues to stop opposing offenses at a similar rate, it should continue to win games at a relatively similar pace.


by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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