Turnovers Achilles Heel for Thunder

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Only one of the last 12 NBA champions ranked in the bottom third of the league in assist-turnover ratio. Oklahoma City's 1.12 assists per turnover ranks last this season.

File this under the “a team this good ranks this bad” category - the Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City Thunder are last in the NBA in assist-turnover ratio.

They’ve recorded 1.12 assists per turnover this season, which might seem like a nebulous figure until you consider that it’s not just lower than every team this season but lower than every team last season too. And every team of the last four seasons.

Even the NBA-worst Minnesota Timberwolves last season, with their 17-65 record, still had a better assist-turnover ratio than this year’s Thunder.

Advanced Look

It’s not just the ratio that’s the problem either – a deeper look at the stats help illustrate how frequently they turn the ball over and how infrequently their baskets are from assists.

The Thunder have recorded assists on 49.5 percent of their made baskets this season, a figure that’s also worst in the NBA. The league average has teams assisting on about 58 percent of their field goals this season. The NBA-leading Boston Celtics do it on 67 percent of their baskets.

When paired with the high turnovers, it paints an even bleaker picture for Oklahoma City.

They record turnovers on 17.2 percent of their possessions, another figure that’s worst in the NBA this season. The team best at limiting turnovers is the Philadelphia 76ers, who only do it on 12 percent of their possessions. The San Antonio Spurs are second-best at 14 percent.

Taken alone, those figures aren’t the ruin of the Thunder. After all, they sport a Western-best 42-15 record. But it could point to a style of play that’s different than one recent teams have used to win a championship.

Assist-Turnover Ratio Rank
NBA Champions, Since 2000

Stacking Up To NBA Champions

Assist-turnover ratio hasn’t been the end-all, be-all statistic in evaluating NBA champions – or even a must-rank-highly requirement to win a title.

But if the Thunder hope to win, they would be doing it in a much different way than recent champions.

No recent champion has ranked as low as the Thunder in assist-turnover ratio. Only one of the last 12 champions has even ranked in the bottom third of the NBA, and that was the 2003 San Antonio Spurs team that featured a young Tony Parker in his second season leading the team at point guard.

As Parker grew in his role – and the Spurs trophy case grew too – the team ranked higher and higher in assist-turnover ratio.

That continues this season. While the Thunder are the worst in the category, the Spurs are second-best.

Statistical support for this story given by NBA.com.