Sefolosha, Korver Poised To Deliver After Healthy Offseasons

Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

Even if it shows a trend headed in the right direction, Thabo Sefolosha isn't really interested in the fact that he led the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage during the preseason.

"Nice. It doesn't mean much today," Sefolosha said, quickly turning the topic to the start of the regular season.

Sefolosha made 7 of 9 three-point attempts as the Hawks prepared themselves for the regular season, and his 77.8 percent mark led the NBA. Healthy in 2016 in a way that he was not in 2015, Sefolosha was quick to cite the virtues of being able to get on the hardwood and practice.

"It was a great summer," Sefolosha said with a sense of relief. "I was able to be on the court and work on my game and everything. I'm feeling great."

In the offseason, Sefolosha spent time in both Switzerland and the United States working on his shot.

"I worked with separate coaches," Sefolosha said, "but basically I did the same thing I was working on here, but just with more time: slowing it down a little bit and talking a little more through it."

Good health is a big reason for Sefolosha's success, but he wasn't the only Hawk who enjoyed a healthy summer after not having that luxury a season ago. Kyle Korver also had a tremendous preseason free from the rigors of rehab.

"If people didn't keep telling me I was 35," Korver said, "I wouldn't think I was. I really feel really good. I feel better than I've felt in years, obviously much better than last year."

Like Sefolosha, Korver put up strong shooting numbers in the preseason, converting 50 percent of his threes. Among players who attempted 25 or more shots, Korver (77.8 percent) and Sefolosha (74.0 percent) finished first and third, respectively, in effective field-goal percentage, a field-goal percentage that is adjusted for a made three-pointer being 1.5 times as valuable as a two-point shot.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer was clearly pleased that his two veteran wings had healthy, productive offseasons. He remembered the same thing could not be said a year ago.

"It's amazing to think about how different this last 3 or 4 weeks (has been) for those two guys," Budenholzer said, before recalling their comparable situations last season. "You were constantly monitoring them. Going into the season, I remember they weren't playing back-to-backs."

Then Budenholzer flipped back to this season.

"They've both had great summers of training and preparation," he said. "You can kind of see the fruits of their labor. It has been a big difference."

Korver echoed the sentiments of Sefolosha and Budenholzer while reflecting on his own situation.

"It's a big difference for me," he said. "Last summer, it was just, 'How do I get back to even? How do I get back to feeling like I can be on a basketball court and compete?'  You want to be out there competing, but you also want to be good. I feel like I was out of sync for a good while of last season."

Korver looked at the upcoming season in a different light.

"This year, I got to go into an offseason healthy, and I tried to work. I really tried to put in the work, and I'm excited about where I'm at."

For the three seasons that Budenholzer has coached the Hawks, the team has been one of the premier passing teams, as well as one of the best at finding open threes. If they continue that trend this season and improve their success rate, the Hawks will likely push their way into the top tier of teams of the Eastern Conference.

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