Atlanta Hawks: Can Thabo Sefolosha Find his Outside Shot?


In case you haven’t heard, the Atlanta Hawks have to replace last season’s starting small forward. You probably have heard about it because I mention DeMarre Carroll in every other sentence. I love his game so much that I’m pretty sure his people are going to get an internet restraining order against me.

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Or, at the very least, Hawks fans are going to yell at me again for reminding them of his absence. The official Soaring Down South drinking game involves taking a drink whenever I mention Carroll in an article once the season starts. I’ll try to tone it down. Sorry, guys, I have a problem.

Despite my love for DeMarre, and his departure, life moves on and the NBA season will move on. Whether I like it or not the Atlanta Hawks will have to take the court with five players on October 27th and none of them will be DeMarre Carroll. Ah. I’ve finally made peace with it. Moving on…

The man most likely tasked with replacing Carroll is last season’s big offseason signing, Thabo Sefolosha. Thabo had a troublesome first season in Atlanta. He struggled to stay healthy earlier in the year and then was lost for the season due to an instance of police brutality outside of a New York City club.

Now he returns for year number two of his three-year $12 million deal with some potentially unrealistic expectations. Many fans seem to expect him to perfectly replace Carroll’s production. Defensively I expect that to be easy, but offensively may be another story.

Carroll’s three-point shooting (39.5 percent) was essential to Atlanta’s offense last season. He gave them a fourth player capable of making outside shots, improving their spacing and making them a nightmare to guard. Asking Sefolosha to do the exact same thing is unreseasonable, especially coming off such a serious injury. Though, there was a time when Sefolosha appeared to be developing into exactly that type of player.

For two glorious seasons Sefolosha looked like a real “three and D” type player. He had always played great defense, but after struggling with three-point shooting for most of his career, in 2011-2012 he found that outside stroke his game had been lacking.

That first season, the lockout shortened season, Sefolosha shot an impressive 43.7 percent from outside over the course of 42 games. He only attempted 1.7 three-pointers per game, but still, he gave the Thunder exactly what they needed in that role.

The next season he upped that number to 3.2 three-point attempts per game and still shot a sizzling 41.9 percent. Not quite Kyle Korver level, but an extremely potent mark coming from the team’s fifth or sixth scoring option. Hell, you’d be thrilled with that number if it came from your three-point specialist. That’s how good he was those seasons. When you have Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and at the time James Harden leading your team all you have to do to make in impact is knock down the open shots they create for you. Sefolosha did just that.

Unfortunately in 2013-2014 he seemed to lose the outside stroke that had become such an important part of his game. That season his three-point percent dropped to a below league average 31.6 percent. A number closer to his early career averages.

His first season in Atlanta showed more of the same. As he struggled to stay healthy his outside shooting numbers stayed well below league average. In 52 games Sefolosha averaged 5.3 points per game on 41.8 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from three-point range. Not what the Hawks were hoping for when they signed him to that multi-year deal in the previous offseason, but Carroll’s breakout season made Sefolosha’s mediocre play relatively meaningless. Now it’s more important than ever.

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  • Can Sefolosha somehow become the three-point shooter he was three seasons ago? His jump-shot has never been a work of art, but it seems surprising that it could be completely broken after two years shooting above 40 percent. Atlanta doesn’t even need him to climb that high. If he can be around league average, 35 to 37 percent, that makes him a threat and is enough to punish teams from cheating off of him.

    During his two seasons of three-point shooting excellence Sefolosha was even better from the corners. He shot 46.9 and 46.2 percent respectively, even better than Carroll’s 44.4 percent from the corners last season. If he can become an assassin from the corners again the Hawks will be just as scary offensively as they were with Carroll.

    I just can’t believe that a guy that shot that effectively in back to back seasons could somehow regress to being a putrid three-point shooter. I’m expecting a mini-resurgence from Sefolosha and I’m betting on at least a league average percentage from three-point range this season.

    With a shot creator like Jeff Teague, a floor spacer like Korver, a stretch-four like Paul Millsap, and an inside threat like Al Horford there are going to be plenty of open shots for Sefolosha. The question is, how often can he make them?

    Next: Top 5 Moments From Last Season

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