Carmelo Anthony has arrived in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook has signed his extension with the Thunder, and the regular season is so close we can almost taste it. Our Countdown to Tip-Off continues today as we celebrate 19 days to go by digging a little deeper into some advanced hustle stats. Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder ranked 19th in the NBA in deflections with 15.1 per game.

While this may seem like a meaningless stat, let’s take a closer look to see why deflections are so important. First off, a defense needs to have active hands if it wants to create turnovers. For example, the Golden State Warriors led the league last season with 18.7 deflections per game, and the impact that this had on their defense is apparent as they were second in the league in loose balls recovered with 7.7. Likewise, Oklahoma City was 18th with 7.0 per game.

Coming up with a loose ball isn’t the only benefit of deflections, however. Disrupting an opponent’s offense can force them deep into the shot clock, which can force a bad shot, or even worse, a shot clock violation. Adding Paul George to the backcourt should make the Thunder’s wing defense one of the best in the league. If Oklahoma City wants to be successful this season, they obviously need to have plenty of chemistry on offense, but perhaps even more important will be their ability to defend on a high level, which means deflections should be on the rise.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.