Thunder Stat Monkey Brief: Thunder-Grizzlies (11/14/12)
The Free Throw Prowess
I'm 6'2". I don't consider myself a small man. And I know, if I was standing in the lane as Kevin Durant or Serge Ibaka came barreling down on me, I'd absolutely get out of the way and probably get called for a foul in the process.
But here's the thing: I don't think I'm alone, because the Thunder seem to be getting to the line every other time down the court so far this season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder currently lead the NBA with a .320 free throw factor, which measures the amount a team makes free throws as compared to the shots they take. That means that for every 100 shots the Thunder attempt, they make (not attempt, but successfully complete) 32 free throws. That's not a bad rate for both getting to the line and being efficient with attempted shots. In fact, I'll go one better: it's an historic rate.
The Thunder also led the NBA in free throw factor last season, but only with a .269 clip. 2010-2011 season, same deal: led the league, but only with a .299 free throw factor. And in 2009-2010, when Kevin Durant made the sixth-most free throws in an NBA season since 1985, the Thunder could only get to the line at a .268 factor (second in the NBA). If the current .320 free throw factor holds, it would be the highest single-season total in the past five NBA seasons.
That can only bode good tidings for the Thunder. As it stands, three different OKC players - Kevin Durant (second), Kevin Martin (fourth), and Russell Westbrook (tenth) - are in the top ten in the league in made free throws. The Thunder have attempted more free throws than their opponent in seven of their eight games so far this season, and they only attempted one less FT than Cleveland on Sunday.
Keys to the Game
The Underdog - It's not too often the Thunder will go into the game as an expected underdog, but according to numberFire's nERD rankings, that should be the case here. The Memphis Grizzlies have been the third best team in the NBA so far this season, with the fourth best offense and the second best defense. The Thunder, meanwhile, currently sit at #6 on our overall charts.
Fountains of Wayne - If there's one player that the Thunder want to focus in on defensively, perhaps it shouldn't be the twin towers at all. Instead, take a look at bench-player extraordinare Wayne Ellington. Averaging 18.3 minutes per game, his current .675 effective FG% is the highest of any player on either team in this game, and his 12.8 nERD score is the second highest on the Grizzlies behind Marc Gasol. Kevin Martin could have his hands full defensively.
Sure-Handed Russell - One of the big keys to the Thunder season was Russell Westbrook's ability to control the ball, and through eight games, it seems like he's heeded the detractors' advice. His current 13.3% turnover rate is nearly a percentage point lower than his previous career-low, and it's miles ahead of Grizzlies counterpart Mike Conley's 21.1 TOV%.