Kyle Singler: the wing the Oklahoma City Thunder had hoped for

Feb 19, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler (5) shoots the ball over Indiana Pacers forward Lavoy Allen (5) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 19, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kyle Singler (5) shoots the ball over Indiana Pacers forward Lavoy Allen (5) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

After 3 seasons of high-level play from point guard Reggie Jackson, the Thunder were looking to move on from him as the two sides had grown apart. Jackson felt he deserved a bigger role with the team, one that the Thunder clearly couldn’t commit to with the other-worldly Russell Westbrook in front of him. So on February 19th of 2015, the Thunder traded away Jackson and Kendrick Perkins (along with draft picks) and received a player that would finally give them scoring in the front court, Enes Kanter.

But along with Kanter came a player that had an interesting career to that point, Kyle Singler (D.J. Augustin and Steve Novak were also sent to Oklahoma City in the deal).

Singler was a throw-in in the deal; a player included to make the salaries match, and one that wouldn’t really have an impact on the team. Singler actually had an impact for the Thunder, but not in a positive manner. Singler finished the 2014-2015 season with a 46.1 percent true shooting percentage with the Thunder, a sharp decline from his career 53.7 true shooting percentage to that point.

The Thunder front office responded by signing Singler to a 5-year, $25 million contract (the last year is a reported team option).

Singler started off his 2015-2016 campaign the same way he had ended his last one; unplayable on both sides of the floor, yet still received minutes over players with more upside. Nice things were not being said about Singler’s level of play, most of which was warranted.

Then something changed. Whether he finally found a barber that he was comfortable with in Oklahoma City (who are we kidding, surely he doesn’t pay for that), or more likely, more familiarity with Kevin Durant, Westbrook and the rest of the Thunder players, Singler started to turn things around in 2016.

Since the turn of the new year, Singler has improved in almost every area, become the three-point shooter that the team has so desperately clamored for and even held his own on the defense. The numbers back it up.


Any time Singler dribbles more than once, the defense wins. He doesn’t have the ball skills or quickness necessary to get past defenders in the NBA as has been proven time and time again. But what Singler has done well recently is shoot.

Singler has improved his three-point shooting to 41.5 percent since the turn of the new year, higher than Morrow’s percentage on the season. Singler’s shooting creates more space for Westbrook and Durant to operate with the ball, although that hasn’t been the case during that time (more on that later).

Singler has a 58.7 percent effective field goal percentage (field goal percentage that accounts for threes) on catch-and-shoot opportunities in that time, the 4th-highest mark on the team (league average is around 50 percent). Singler isn’t a player that can create shots at the end of the shot clock, but is one that can shoot a high percentage off the pass.

Unfortunately for Singler (and to the chagrin of every Thunder fan) Singler doesn’t do much else on offense. He doesn’t stop the offense when he touches the ball like Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters (both of whom stop the ball, but for two very different reasons), but his lack of dribbling skills makes it difficult to incorporate him in pick-and-rolls, dribble handoffs or other actions with the ball. However, despite not being the most athletic of players, he has shown value on defense over the past two months.


Unfortunately, there aren’t good statistics to show Singler’s impact on the defensive end of the floor since January.’s defensive box plus minus and’s real plus minus both rely on full season data and neither are a perfect measure.

Usage percentage is a statistic that determines what percentage of possessions end directly in a player’s hands (shots, turnovers and free throws). The league average for usage percentage is 20 percent, which makes sense as 100 percent/5 (players on the floor) is 20 percent. This means, on average, a player directly guards the ball 20 percent of the time he or she is on defense, and 80 percent to the defender guarding in some other manner (either the player making the assist or doing some off-ball action). Singler is an excellent off-ball defender, and even tends to do a decent job defending shots.

The team has been better, albeit slightly, with Singler on the floor since January 1st. Oklahoma City has scored 921 points with Singler on the floor (an offensive rating of 111.8), but allowed 917 points (defensive rating of 111.3).

No Thunder player’s defensive rating shows that he has been particularly good since January 1st. Enes Kanter (111.2 points allowed per 100 possessions), Waiters (110.8), Westbrook (107.7) and even site favorite Andre Roberson (106.5) have all struggled on the defensive end of the floor in 2016, but the reasoning behind Singler’s performance may be significant.

Singler has played 406 minutes in 2016. The player he’s played the most with in that time is Kanter (66 percent of Singler’s minutes), who isn’t known as the staunchest defender.

The player that Singler shares the court with the most after Kanter is Waiters (66.3 percent of his minutes), who can defend well when on the ball, but asking him to do anything off the ball is challenging.

Finally, the third-most played player with Singler is Cameron Payne, and while the rookie has a bright future in the league, he’s clearly a minus on the defensive side of the floor.

Most of the hate brought on Singler is due to his admittedly terrible start to the season. But if you been paying attention to his play of late, you might have noticed that Singler is probably the best option as a two-way player on the Thunder’s roster not named Kevin Durant.

When it comes to a player like Singler that had a rough stretch, one has to make the decision as to whether to trust the three-fourths of a season that suggests he was a bad player, or the nearly three seasons worth of data that suggests he was a competent, and maybe even good, player.

There’s still room on this island for you.

All stats from or, unless otherwise noted.