Remember when there was concern the Thunder’s new “shell” defense might have problems defending 3-pointers after the Rockets and Spurs lit Oklahoma City up for a combined 25 3-pointers in back-to-back preseason games?
Three weeks into the season, the Thunder leads the league in 3-point field goal percentage defense.
In case you read over that too quickly, OKC leads the league.
Opponents are shooting 28.2 percent beyond the arc. Combined with being ranked among the league leaders in overall field goal percentage defense (43.7) and scoring defense (91.2), the Thunder’s new and improved defense has been drawing rave reviews from opposing coaches.
“You can tell right away (their defense is much improved),” said Miami coach Eric Spoelstra. “They’ve been playing well all season. Their athleticism is noticeable. They cover a lot of ground. They have a lot of length. They’re getting after it. They compete, are organized and are playing hard.”
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, Houston’s Rick Adelman, Lakers’ Phil Jackson and Spurs’ Gregg Popovich have made similar comments the past two weeks.
Oklahoma City ranks a surprising third in defensive efficiency (99.5) and eighth in field goal percentage defense (.437). “After last season, we felt one area we were going to need to improve was defensive basketball,” Thunder head coach Scott Brooks told Baldwin. “We needed to play with a toughness and we needed to have an identity of playing with defensive thoughts in our mind from the first practice. I thought the guys really bought in.”
Kevin Durant is, at least according to adjusted plus-minus, leading the charge. Oklahoma City surrendered 7.9 points more per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor last season. This season, Durant is a staggering +10.3 — that is, his team gives up 10.3 points less when he’s on the court — which puts him in the company of Andre Iguodala and Dahntay Jones, two swingmen renowned for their defensive chops.