Jan 20, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha (25) speaks with Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer during the first quarter of the game at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports
Thabo Sefolosha had a solid second year with the Hawks after missing the 2015 NBA playoffs when he injured his leg during a brutal altercation with the New York Police Department . He managed to get healthy and become a key contributor off the bench as a member of one of the best defensive teams in the NBA last season. Sefolosha averaged (6.4) points per game, (1.4) assists per game, and (4.5) rebounds last season. In Coach Bud’s system, Atlanta relies heavily on playing stout defense and against some of the best wing players in the league, he’s usually our most efficient defender. Thabo’s contributions along with rest of the Hawks led to them finishing as one of the top 3 defensive teams overall during the regular season.
The Hawks finished sixth in points allowed (99.2 per game), fifth in opponent field goals made per game ( 37.1), sixth in opponent three point percentage allowed (.338%), and tied for third in opponent three point percentage allowed (.480%). Independently, Sefolosha’s opponents shot a dismal 29.8 percent, which is highly impressive for a role player that averages around 23 minutes per contest. Players like Thabo are so critical when you’re building a contender in the Eastern Conference.
In the semi-finals sweep against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Coach Bud placed Sefolosha in the starting unit for defensive purposes in games 3 & 4 while calling on Kyle Korver to come off the bench, which was an advantage although the Hawks couldn’t win a game. “I think just the energy and good play that Thabo started the game with and the energy and good play that Kyle brought off the bench, I think we felt like that was a positive and something that we will consider between now and tomorrow,” Budenholzer said. “But I think overall that was, in our eyes, something that was a positive.”
Unfortunately, the Hawks got swept, AGAIN! Players like Thabo don’t get much credit and it’s unfair. Thabo’s statistics aren’t flashy or glamorous. However, stats shouldn’t dictate if you’re a good or great defensive player. Although many experts around the league would only consider Thabo as a good defender; in my eyes, he’s a great perimeter defender.
ATLANTA, GA – OCTOBER 30: Thabo Sefolosha #25 of the Atlanta Hawks celebrates a play with Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on October 30, 2015 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
As the Hawks prepare to make changes during the off-season, I believe that Thabo Sefolosha will be a member of the Atlanta Hawks roster next season. A fun fact about the 9th year veteran, he was the first NBA player to be drafted from Switzerland. Without a doubt, he’s an important piece to the Hawks on and off the court. “We are making all the steps towards becoming a great team,” Sefolosha said. His veteran leadership is among the best and certainly beloved from his teammates and the coaching staff.
Sefolosha’s the type of player you need to have on a playoff roster. He’s been on multiple playoff teams including an NBA Finals appearance with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 and he’ll play a key role on a team looking to win a NBA Title in the future. In conclusion, he’s one of those veterans the Hawks will desperately need in the long run.
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Phil Veasley is a resident of Atlanta who has been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2005. He is Civil Engineer student at KSU. Currently, Phil writes for Atlanta Hawks Talk while also managing all ATLSportsHQ sites. He can be reached on Twitter at @_ATLPhil