Thunder Stars Are Historically Efficient

By Randy Renner

The Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a fairly new way to measure just how good, or not, NBA players are.

It was created by former ESPN stat guru John Hollinger and attempts to boil down many of a player’s contributions (especially on offense) to one number.

The league average is set at 15.00 for comparisons and PER measures field goals, free throws, 3-pointers, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals, and negative results, such as missed shots, turnovers and personal fouls.

The formula adds positive stats and subtracts negative ones through a statistical point value system. The rating for each player is then adjusted to a per-minute basis so that, for example, substitutes can be compared with starters in playing time debates. It is also adjusted for the team's pace.

In the end, one number sums up the players' statistical accomplishments for that season.

I bring all this up because the Thunder have three guys who are performing at very high levels. Two of them are obvious but the third may not be.

Point guard Russell Westbrook leads the Thunder trio and currently ranks second in the NBA with a PER of 29.7 (a career high for Russ). Forward Kevin Durant is right behind at 28.6 for third place in the league and KD’s PER this season is the second highest of his career (29.8 in 2013-14).

Those guys are the two obvious ones and third is backup center Enes Kanter. His PER currently ranks 8th in the NBA at 23.7, a career high for him.

No other team in the league has more than one player in the PER Top-10.

And get this, the combined PER of Durant and Westbrook is 58.3 this season, which is the highest total of any 2 players on the same team in the shot clock era. During which, no other team has ever had two players with PER over 28.0. Additionally, the combined PER of Durant, Westbrook, and Kanter is 82.0 this season, which is the highest total of any 3 players on the same team in the shot clock era. No other team has ever had three players with PER over 23.0.

Lakers On Deck Tonight

Durant, Westbrook and Kanter, along with pretty much everyone else on the roster, will have a good chance to improve their PER numbers tonight when the Thunder open their 3-game road trip in Los Angeles against the 8-29 Lakers.

The Thunder are 2-0 against the team in purple and gold this season and both wins have been decisive. OKC has won the past three meetings at Staples Center and prevailed 120-85 at Los Angeles on December 23rd for the Thunder’s sixth straight win in the series. They also led by as many as 46 in a 118-78 home victory four days earlier.

LA has actually been playing a bit better lately. The Lakers had won three straight before dropping their last two. They’re coming off a 118-115 loss in Sacramento last night when they missed two shots and committed two turnovers in their last four possessions.

Kobe Bryant, back in the lineup after missing more time with a sore shoulder, scored 28 points to lead the Lakers and rookie D’Angelo Russell scored a career-high 27 in the loss but he had to leave late in the game with a sprained ankle. His playing status for tonight isn’t clear.

Losing to the Kings this week is something the Thunder has in common with the Lakers but OKC’s loss came at home on Monday night, not on the road, and it happened mostly because the Thunder didn’t seem to have any juice on the defensive end, plus Durant missed the game with a sprained toe.

The Lakers aren’t likely to get either of those breaks tonight.

The Thunder snapped back into a defensive mode Wednesday against Memphis. After giving up a season-high 68 first half points to the Kings on Monday they allowed the Grizzlies just 36 points, a season-low.

Durant helped with that by grabbing a season-high 17 rebounds, one shy of his career-high. KD of course is most famous for his offensive production but he’s an underrated defender and Wednesday night he was active and engaged on that end of the floor.

Tipoff tonight is 9:40 Oklahoma time and you can watch the game on either Fox Sports Oklahoma or ESPN.