OKC Thunder’s Defense Wreaks Havoc
The Thunder are long, athletic, explosive, and versatile. All five starters boast at least a 6’8” wingspan, while the top twelve in total minutes all clear a 6’7” wingspan.
Due to their length, Oklahoma City closes passing lanes, has a large block radius, and applies significant pressure on ball handlers. The numbers back up the eye test too.
On a per-game basis, they rank first in contested shots, first in opponent turnover percentage, first in blocks, third in steals, and third in deflections. No team creates more defensive chaos than Oklahoma City, who holds opponents to the sixth fewest points per 100 possessions.
Their ability to deter passes has also allowed them to shut down transition opportunities. Per ShotQuality, Oklahoma City surrenders the lowest expected points per possession in transition, as well as the lowest transition frequency.
Considering these opportunities inherently lead to excellent looks and drive offensive success, that’s a massive plus for their defense come playoffs.
Chet Holmgren in particular has imposed his will. Across the NBA, he is third in block percentage, third in contested shots per game, and sixth in rim points saved per 75 possessions via Basketball Index.
Due to his brilliance, Oklahoma City gives up the lowest restricted area field goal percentage. No rookie has ever won Defensive Player of the Year, but Holmgren currently sits behind only Rudy Gobert for the award.