Thunder stat check: Jalen Williams has caught fire

Thunder stat check: Jalen Williams has caught fire

With almost half the season in the books, let’s look back at the Thunder’s previous 10 games and see what is working well (the offense) and what has not worked as well (the defense).

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

| Jan 18, 2024, 9:52am CST

Jon Hamm

By Jon Hamm

Jan 18, 2024, 9:52am CST

The Thunder is in Salt Lake City to face a suddenly hot Jazz team tonight (8 p.m. Bally Sports). Utah has won 9 of its last 10, while OKC enters with a 6-4 record over that stretch.

Though that Thunder record may be disappointing to some, it’s sort of the going rate at the top of the NBA. So-so records are going around like a viral infection. Denver and Philly are 6-4 records over the last 10 games. Minnesota is 7-3. Milwaukee is 5-5 after getting thumped by a depleted Cleveland squad, though the Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

What do the stats say about OKC’s previous 10 games, all played in only 18 days?

Offensive/Defensive/Net ratings

The Thunder’s offensive production has not waned, posting 123.5 points per 100 possessions in the last 10 games. That’s good for third-best in the league over that stretch. For the season, OKC is fourth overall at 119.9. 

Before this stretch, the Thunder had the league’s second-best defensive rating at 110.4. That stat has slid like an Oklahoma driver on icy roads. OKC’s last-10 defensive rating is in the middle of the league at 115.6. The Thunder surrendered a ton of points to the likes of Atlanta, Washington, Miami, and the Clippers. If it weren’t for the Blazers scoring a puny 77 points, the stat would be much worse.

Despite that, OKC still has the second-best net rating in the league at 8.2, which is a fabulous number. The Thunder knew it had a tough January schedule and is enduring well enough, all things considered.

Shooting

Jalen Williams must play with matches because he’s had the hot hand lately.

The Thunder’s second-year forward, who is keeping scorekeepers busy both with the starters and leading bench units, averaged 20.1 points over the last 10. He shot 62.9%, including 56% from deep.

He’s not alone. Chet Holmgren, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Aaron Wiggins, Isaiah Joe, and Vasilije Micic all shot 50% or better over that stretch. It’s all part of how the Thunder posted a league-best 60.9 effective field goal percentage — a stat that properly weighs the value of a 3-point shot.

Add it all up, and you’ll find the Thunder are shooting the ball very well and scoring very efficiently. 

Josh Giddey

The Thunder’s third-year guard struggled early in the season. It was the second consecutive slow start in his young career. This was true even before he was investigated for possibly having an inappropriate relationship with a minor. 

The Newport Beach Police Department announced that no charges would be filed against Giddey after “a thorough and exhaustive examination.” The NBA also announced an investigation, though Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would take “a back seat” to the police investigation. 

On the court, Giddey has performed better. Over his last 10 games, his minutes per game are down from his season average — 23.7 compared to 24.8 — but he’s making more of an impact.

Over that stretch, Giddey is averaging 12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. More noticeable is his improved shooting, with Giddey hitting almost 48% and 43% from three.

In early December, opponents designed defenses to exploit Giddey as a weakness. The Mavericks and Rockets assigned their centers to defend Giddey and dared him to shoot wide-open shots. But Mark Daigneault came up with counter moves and Giddey began to sink the open shots he was given. Whether due to a clearer mind or comfort on the floor or a combination of both, the Wizard of Oz has found a way to fit. In the last 10 games, he posted back-to-back 20+ point outings against the Nets and Celtics and notched a triple-double against the Blazers in 20 game minutes.

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