Thabo Sefolosha has long been considered an all-defensive player because he literally was that — all defense.
Kevin Durant's first thought when Sefolosha joined the Thunder after a trade in 2009? “We knew he was a great defender, but we knew his shot was going to need some work,” Durant said playfully.
In his first start with OKC on Feb. 24, 2009, Sefolosha shot 3 for 9 from the field (0 for 3 from 3-point range) and had a plus-minus rating of minus-29 in a 107-93 loss to the world champion Los Angeles Lakers at the Ford Center.
Lakers great Kobe Bryant, the man Sefolosha was defending, had 36 points in 34 minutes, shot 13 for 21 from the field and added four rebounds and five assists.
Things have gotten better since then for Sefolosha.
This is Sefolosha's best season of his seven in the NBA. He is averaging career highs in points (7.5), field-goal percentage (.480) and steals (1.3). After not shooting better than 35.7 percent from 3-point range his first five seasons, Sefolosha has shot 43.7 percent and 41.3 percent the past two seasons. As a rookie, Sefolosha shot 51.1 percent from the free-throw line. This season, he's at 83.1 percent.
Sefolosha has found his niche by burying the corner-3, where he is shooting 46.6 percent (55 for 118) this season. He also is a strong finisher at the basket, shooting 70.5 percent in the restricted area, which is superb for a guard (teammate Russell Westbrook is at 57.8 percent).
In addition, Sefolosha has stepped up in several key moments, which have included an offensive rebound and drive with 36.6 seconds left in a victory at Brooklyn last December, and helping clinch a victory at Dallas two weeks ago on a fadeaway, 13-foot jumper with 12.5 seconds left in the game.
“Now he's a knock-down shooter,” Durant said of Sefolosha. “If you play NBA2K, they have a ‘3-pointer' by his name now. He's worked so hard on it. He's doing everything. He's passing well, he's driving, he made a huge shot in that Dallas game. We trust him.”