NEW ORLEANS â€” After nearly two full seasons of watching, waiting and wishing, maybe it's time Thunder fans concede that Thabo Sefolosha just isn't a 3-point shooter.
His stroke is seldom smooth. His hoists are habitually hesitant.
In his second full season with the Thunder, Sefolosha has connected on just nine of 34 attempts entering Friday's game at New Orleans. His current attempt rate is on pace to leave him 10 shy of last year's career-best 131 attempts â€” telling the story of his tentativeness despite tales of his improvement â€” while his 26.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line currently ranks as a career-low.
But maybe we've been analyzing the wrong thing.
Lately, Sefolosha has shown an increasingly productive offensive game when he steps inside the arc and takes his game to the basket. The fifth-year shooting guard has been surprisingly effective putting the ball on the floor and finding ways to finish at the rim. And when he has, the Thunder's offensive has looked much more dynamic.
â€œI think I can do that,â€ Sefolosha said of slashing to the rim. â€œBut it's just a matter of finding those opportunities during the game and just doing it.â€
Through 23 games, Sefolosha has converted a career-high 67.9 percent of his shots at the rim. While Thunder coach Scott Brooks considers Sefolosha the team's best cutter, he also has proved to be effective catching and finishing.
â€œWe have to keep working and keep developing that part of his game because, defensively, he's one of the best in the league.â€ Brooks said. â€œAnd for him to give us some offense, which he has been doing in the last 12 games or so, it's helped us.â€
Sefolosha averaged 7.4 points on 51.3 percent shooting in November. In five December games, Sefolosha's scoring average has dipped to six points per game, but his 6.4 attempts are his most in any month since November 2009 and illustrate how much more aggressive he's been.
â€œHe has to pick his spots,â€ Brooks said. â€œIt's not one of the things where we're going into the game saying we need to give him the ball and have him attack. But he has to attack the closeouts. He can't just settle for 3-pointers and long 2s.
â€œWhen he runs the floor and gets some layup opportunities, or when he's in our half-court and he cuts hard and gets some shots around the basket, it helps. It helps him and it helps our team and it helps him make outside shots.â€
Sefolosha said he isn't more comfortable inside the arc than he is around it. But some recent film study, Sefolosha said, showed open lanes that present an opportunity to attack.
â€œI'm just trying to take advantage of that,â€ Sefolosha said.
As for Sefolosha's 3-point stroke, Brooks said he believes it will come around.
â€œHe has a lot of years (left) in this league,â€ Brooks said. â€œThe guys that improve their shooting throughout their careers are the guys that put in work early.â€
Sefolosha is on the same page.
â€œI feel like with the right amount of work it's going to come around,â€ he said.