I picked up this writing assignment late (I blame Kevin) so you are going along with me for the full ride of discovery. I did not put any forethought into writing this, so I hope to be pretty objective (yes, I typed that with a straight face). Having said that, it is now time for me to pull the stats on our two players under discussion: 1996 Hersey Hawkins and 2012 Thabo Sefolosha.
Sonics vs. Thunder
Sonics vs. Thunder
Since this is my first look at those numbers, a few things readily jump out at me for this comparison. The first and most obvious one is the scoring column. The Hawk put up 15.6 points per game compared to Sefolosha's meager 4.8ppg. That number for Sefolosha actually surprises me, as I would've guessed he scored more than that. But credit to Hersey Hawkins in dominating this category. The great thing about Hawkins was that he could score in bunches when you needed him to. While it often wasn't asked of him, he had the game to take over on offense from time to time and was a constant threat to score if you gave him a small window to shoot. Hawkins had a True Shooting Percentage (TS%) -- which measures total efficiency of shooting, including field goals, free throws, and 3-pointers in one statistic -- of .603 for the season, and considering most of his shots came from range, that is a very good number. Hawkins dominates Sefolosha in nearly every offensive statistical category. I'm honestly surprised at how complete the dominance is, but the stats don't lie.
Some might try to cry foul here and introduce James Harden, but Harden started just two games in 2012 for the Thunder, and Harden will be dealt with when it comes time to compare the benches of our two teams.
You might think on the defensive end that Sefolosha could make up some ground, but the statistics don't bear that out. Hawkins was good for 1.8 steals per game, and this coming with the steals that Gary Payton and Nate McMillan were already collecting from the guard positions. Obviously some (much) of the credit for this goes to a defensive scheme that excelled in making opposing guards uncomfortable. Few would argue that Hawkins was a defensive stalwart, but in the Sonics system he made the most of what he had been given. Where Hawkins might have come up a bit short was that he was a bit undersized even for a shooting guard, and that somewhat limited him in who he matched up well against defensively. Sefolosha is a bit taller, but definitely longer than Hawkins, which gives him a bit more flexibility on the defensive end. Sefolosha does get the nod for getting some tougher defensive assignments than Hawkins would have had, which helps keep the difference between the two on the defensive end closer than it might appear on paper. Despite that, the advantage on defense again has to be given to Hawkins. The system and the statistics are clearly in his favor in this matchup.
One other highly valuable point that falls in Hawkins' favor and seals the deal to the advantage of the Sonics (as if there were any doubt left by this point?!?) is Hawkins' durability. He played in all 82 games in 1996, and was good for 34.4 minutes per night. In 2012 Thabo Sefolosha played in only 42 games and was in for 21.8 minutes per game. Both his body as well as his coach voted on this one, and they gave the advantage to Hersey Hawkins.
For those who really like to geek out on stats and are still reading, the difference between these two in Win Shares (WS/48), or the number of wins a player produces for his team (which you can read about on Basketball-Reference), is night and day. For the uninitiated, the league average for WS/48 is .100; Hersey Hawkins brings it home at an impressive .161, well above the median. Thabo Sefolosha comes in at .095 - below league average.
No matter how you look at it, if you were building a championship team, you'd pick Hersey Hawkins in this matchup each and every time. Big advantage Sonics.
Zeb covers this matchup over at Welcome to Loud City. If you click through, play nice. A banning there is a banning here.