When the Atlanta Hawks acquired Thabo Sefolosha prior to the 2014-2015 season, it was move that was easy to celebrate from a depth perspective. During the time when he was healthy and participating on the floor, Sefolosha lived up to that considerable billing.
The now 31-year-old swingman appeared in 52 games for the Hawks, and in those contests, the team finished with a 43-9 record. Obviously, Sefolosha wasn't the only reason for Atlanta's significant success, but when he was on the floor, the Hawks flourished in a big way. Beyond the raw record, the Hawks were +11.4 points per 100 possessions during the 975 minutes that Sefolosha played, and in short, that number is in line with an uber-elite club over a full season.
From an individual standpoint, Sefolosha brought several things to the table. His most important contribution came on the defensive end, where he was a more than worthy substitute for DeMarre Carroll and Kyle Korver. In addition to averaging 2.0 steals per 36 minutes, Sefolosha is active and long on that end of the floor, and perhaps more importantly, he serves as a veteran presence that is seemingly always in the right place on the defensive end.
Offensively, Sefolosha does have some issues, and they were apparent at times during his maiden voyage in Atlanta. There have been seasons in his career, most notably in 2012-2013, where Sefolosha has knocked down a high percentage of his three-point attempts. However, his final season in Oklahoma City ended with big-time struggles (31.6%) from beyond the arc, and he never looked fully comfortable in converting only 32.1% from three with the Hawks. That isn't to say that Sefolosha did not/can not make other contributions, but for a player who is quite limited in creating his own offense, his ability to knock down uncontested threes is vitally important, both in the short and long term.
It would be (much) more fun to simply talk about Thabo Sefolosha in terms of on-court contributions this season, but of course, we must refer to the "incident" in New York. If you've been under a rock for more than two months, Sefolosha and Pero Antic were involved in a night club incident following a home game (yes, a home game) on April 7, and the biggest takeaway (at least to this point) is that Sefolosha suffered a season-ending ankle injury. This isn't the space to discuss other fallout, but in terms of basketball, Sefolosha's absence certainly hurt Atlanta's chances of making a run to the NBA Finals.
In terms of the future, Thabo Sefolosha will be aiming for a return at the start of the 2015-2016 season, but as his age continues to increase, durability could become an issue. Sefolosha battled a calf injury earlier in the 2014-2015 season, and for a team that is (currently) short on depth on the wing, he will carry a significant burden for the remainder of his contract.
Thabo Sefolosha isn't an NBA star and, at this point, we can assume that he won't improve drastically outside of a potential uptick in his three-point shooting. Still, he is the prototypical backup wing that can provide value in subtle ways, especially on the defensive end, and he remains a core piece for this team over the next couple of seasons.
Let's just hope he's on the court a bit more in 2015-2016.