The Oklahoma City Thunder are hiring top shooting coach Chip Engelland, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. Rarely does a shooting coach hire warrant news coverage, but Engelland is an exception for a variety of reasons. For the past two decades, he has been perhaps the NBA‘s best shot doctor.
After brief stints in Detroit and Denver, Engelland landed in San Antonio in 2005 and had been there ever since. In that time, he helped a number of players become significantly better shooters both behind the arc and, more prominently, in the mid-range. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Dejounte Murray and countless other Spurs benefitted from his tutelage, but his best work was reserved for perhaps the best perimeter player ever to walk through San Antonio.
Kawhi Leonard was a complete non-shooter when the Spurs drafted him. He made just 25 percent of his 3-pointers at San Diego State and shot below 50 percent inside of the arc as well. But Engelland helped turn him into one of the NBA’s best all-around shooters. Leonard is now lethal in the mid-range and quite good from deep as well.
And now, the Thunder will benefit from that caliber of coaching. Engelland had already left the Spurs before this hire, but it was unclear why he had chosen to do so. Perhaps he had this job lined up. Oklahoma City has many Spurs alums in its front office, including top decision-maker Sam Presti, who came up in San Antonio and is widely credited with discovering and advocating for Parker.
Shooting is the most prized trait in modern basketball. The Thunder are the NBA’s youngest team. They’ve just ensured that they will be able to get more out of their young players than almost any other team in the league by ensuring that they will have the best teacher possible. The Thunder rebuild suddenly looks even better.