Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

Charles Barkley thinks the Thunder rely too much on the jumpshot

While Charles Barkley's frame is getting smaller, his capacity to hold hot air has not diminished.

If there is one thing former NBA superstar and current TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley has been consistent about, it has been crapping on Oklahoma City. When the Hornets were in town, he ripped on the 405 using tired, cliche assumptions about Oklahoma.

These days, instead of making social commentary about the state being unfit for black people, he reserves his digs for the basketball court. Primarily, he leads the charge of the media downplaying the Thunder’s chances at winning the league championship. While this is an improvement, it still ends up seeming petty.

I will explain.

Last year, his explanation was that the team was not among the league’s elite because they lacked defense and rebounding (despite being 3rd in the league in rebounds per game and 4th in rebound percentage). With the addition of Kendrick Perkins and move to get Serge Ibaka in the starting line-up, Barkley’s desire to see a more traditional style was satiated.

So rather than complimenting the team, he came up with a new line of attack. The Thunder–despite the best record in the league–are not even the best team in their conference, he insists, because 1) they rely on three primary scorers and 2) they shoot too many jumpshots.

Does he have a point? It is true that the Thunder’s top 3 scorers (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden) account for 65.8% of the team’s total scoring. This makes their team the third most reliant on their top three scorers. Only the Lakers (66.8%) and Miami Heat (66.2%) have more concentrated scoring. Then again, the three teams at the top of this ranking are the Lakers, Heat, and Thunder who are all, to put it mildly, doing pretty well.

However, since Barkley thinks this is such an important distinction, it is nice to know that he remains consistent with his application. For instance, listen to the horrible things he says about Miami’s chances. “Miami is the best team in the East.” LeBron and company will definitely be clipping that to the bulletin board for motivation.

This is interesting. Miami has the same lack of balanced scoring (sidenote: every team relies heavily on their top-3 scorers–except for New Orleans and Phoenix), but Barkley thinks they are a far superior team. In an interview he gave to The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry, Sir Charles elaborated:

“They get layups and dunks,” Barkley said. “Your guys shoot jumpers. That’s the big difference.”

He is right, that is a big difference, but probably not in the way he insists.

The insinuation is that the Thunder sit around the perimeter and just jack up long shots while Miami goes to the basket and gets easy buckets. Obviously, the first place to look is at free throw attempts. That’s generally the best indicator of where players are shooting the ball. Guys who take long jump shots are rarely fouled while guys who take shots near the basket get plenty of attempts.

Miami’s Big 3: 20.3 free throw attempts/game
OKC’s Big 3: 19.4 free throw attempts/game

That is not a significant differential. Just in case that was misleading, I went to Hoopsdata.com where they chart shots by distance. In comparing the top-3 scorers of the two teams, it was clear that Miami does get more dunks/layups. The Heat attempt three shots more per game “at the rim.” Meanwhile, the Thunder stars do attempt nearly nine more three point shots per game. This is all true, but what is the significance?

Barkley’s argument is that the Thunder team is not made for playoff success while Miami is because of their shot selection. To his credit, playing style does change during the playoffs. Namely, defenders are not as inclined to get out of the way when a player goes to the basket during a prolonged series. While Kendrick Perkins is singled out for actually trying to block a dunk that gets him “posterized” during the regular season, that mentality is shared by all big men during the second season. When an offensive player dares to come into the lane, they will end up on their back before they ever get a clean look at the rim. The only way a guy can dunk in the playoffs is to be ready to take the punishment.

So, what makes Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh so spectacular during the regular season is bound to be nullified when play gets more physical. Meanwhile, it will make outside shots more important. And this is where it really gets better for the Thunder.

Miami is in love with the worst shot in basketball. Their three stars take an inordinate number of shots between 16 and 23 feet from the basket. Unlike shots from 23 feet and beyond, a successful attempt at this distance is only worth two points. A three point shot is worth 50% more, and only a slightly lower percentage shot. The Heat scorers take 16 shots per game (31.7% of their shots from the field) from mid-range while Oklahoma City takes only 10 (22%).

From my perspective, I would rather have Oklahoma City’s shot selection. Miami takes the same number of jumpshots, they just aren’t good jumpshots.

So why is Sir Charles so down on the Thunder while simultaneously being high on Miami? My guess: wishful thinking. In the past, knowing that the studio he ordinarily work in will move to the cities that host the Finals, Barkley has openly cheered for big market teams to win. For instance, when San Antonio played Dallas in the Western Conference Finals, he explicitly whined that there was nothing to do in San Antonio.

We already know his feelings about Oklahoma City.


  1. What I really don’t get is that all of this is coming from a guy who’s from Alabama.


    You want to talk about nothing to do, or having chickens in your backyard or whatever…

  2. Yep. He ends up being petty except in his bank account. Derp for dollars. Got a dozen paragraphs from you, and you aren’t the only one.

  3. He talks for money, so he has to talk no matter what he might be saying…just supply content.

    Also, I don’t think he has a championship ring, so there is blank spot in his resume. He knows this.

  4. The Thunder have a fastbreak offense that punishes teams with mouth breathers like the Lakers. However, at times they do struggle in their halfcourt offense. Last year, Memphis did a great job filling the passing lanes and creating turnovers. But Memphis did not get the credit for creating turnovers since the media was more interested in bashing Westbrook for having turnovers.

  5. The NBA has evolved since Barkley played. The top 3-Bulls, Thunder and Heat, play a different kind of basketball. I suppose not needing to rely on a scoring big-man is a threat to Barkley. It seems rather obvious that Barkley is insecure about the fact that his role would not be needed in today’s NBA, and also probably the fact that he has ZERO nc rings on his fingers. Speaking of small market, Barkley played in Phoenix, right?

    In conclusion, Barkley is a turd. I do not think he is very smart, and he looks like he would have sensationally bad breath. I can only imagine that his words motivate the young Thunder players, just as the sports-media’s lack of enthusiasm for them probably does the same.

  6. Hard to argue with the heat being the best team in the league. I think the heat is better in a 7 game series if only slightly so compared to the thunder. But saying the thunder isn’t the best in the west is crazy talk.

  7. Doesn’t Russell get into the lane or to the rim about half the time he’s taking the shot. Doesn’t James either take the 3 shot or if he doesn’t he’s going to the rim for a layup or a foul. Doesn’t KD get people to bite on his shot and then takes it to the bucket? Doesn’t the Thunder run the floor for layups and dunks if the other team puts up a shot that has a long rebound or simply creating a turnover.

  8. Doesn’t Russell get into the lane or to the rim about half the time he takes the shot. Doesn’t James either shoot the 3 ball or take it to the rim for a layup or a foul. Doesn’t KD get people to bite on his jump shots and then take it to the bucket. Doesn’t the Thunder get layups and dunks after a missed shot with a long rebound or simply creating a turnover to start a fastbreak?

  9. Dunno if the Heat’s game in the paint will get “nullified” come postseason (Dwyane Wade’s been known to do some ridiculous things down there come April and May) but toughened-up defenses will certainly force them to rely more on passing to the perimeter and moving the ball around for open looks.

    I think the big X-factor with Miami is LeBron’s scoring from the post, which has been absurdly efficient this regular season. Pretty interested to see how he’ll do once the postseason starts and defenses step it up.

    And, for the record, Charles Barkley is a biased nincompoop who wouldn’t know anything about winning championships.

  10. We talk about this at work all the time. Growing up a Rockets fan in Houston, of course I love a big post man scorer. Problem is, that style is a dying breed in the NBA. Watch Chicago, who brought in 3 guys to play “back to the basket” for easy buckets. I cringed watching Noah last night with his back to the basket. It just doesn’t work unless you have one of the top 3 post scorers in the league.

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