Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

It’s Time to Raise Our Expectations for the OKC Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) and forward Chet Holmgren (7) and forward Jalen Williams (8) and forward Jaylin Williams (6) break huddle in the fourth quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena.

Entering the new year, the Oklahoma City Thunder sit at 23-10 and are the second seed in the Western Conference. 

The Thunder’s recently-ended five-game winning streak included a 23-point home blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 26-point road rout of the Denver Nuggets. Oklahoma City seemed to be on the verge of another lopsided win over the Boston Celtics, going up by 18 with 8:25 remaining in the fourth quarter before ultimately winning the game by four.

In their last 10 games, the Thunder are 8-2. 

Oklahoma City, which has the second-youngest roster in the NBA, has emerged as a contender, following a 16-win improvement last season from 2020-21 to go 40-42. The Thunder own the league’s fourth-best record, ranking third in net rating (8.1), sixth in defensive rating (111.3), and fifth in offensive rating (119.5). Overall, they have exceeded expectations, and it’s time to raise ours.

It’s Time to Raise Our Expectations of the OKC Thunder

OKC Is Thriving in Clutch Time

So far this season, the Thunder have excelled in clutch-time situations. Clutch time is the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is within five points.

In particular, the trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams are incredibly productive in the game’s most significant moments.

Some notable stats about the Thunder’s trio in the clutch are:

Gilgeous-Alexander (46 minutes)

  • 53 points 
  • Seven assists (0 turnovers!)
  • Nine rebounds
  • Three steals
  • 19/30 FG
  • 70 TS%

Holmgren (50 minutes)

  • 43 points
  • Two assists (two turnovers)
  • 17 rebounds
  • Seven blocks
  • 15/26 FG
  • 70 TS%

Williams (46 minutes)

  • 33 points
  • Four assists (one turnover)
  • Seven rebounds 
  • 11/14 FG
  • 85 TS%

So far this season, OKC is 11-6 in the clutch.    

A Brutal January Stretch

OKC has passed some extensive recent eye tests with flying colors, but January will differ. The Thunder have had three back-to-back sets through 30 games, two of which were in OKC. In January alone, the Thunder have five back-to-back sets. Only one set has both games in the same city (at Los Angeles Lakers and at Los Angeles Clippers).

The OKC Thunder’s Time Is Now

It’s hard to believe the Thunder are on pace for 59 wins with as much youth as they have.

Gilgeous-Alexander is already an MVP candidate, Holmgren is an All-Defense candidate as a rookie (and making a strong case for Rookie of the Year), and Williams is one of the league’s best young players. All three of them could become All-NBA players in the same season.

And Oklahoma City has impressive depth with selfless shooters and defenders, plus one of the league’s best coaches in Mark Daigneault.

When you look at the numbers, basic or advanced, it shows the makings of a team that is ready to win now. Young teams usually don’t contend for championships. But, young teams typically aren’t this talented this soon. And, front offices rarely have such a bounty of assets: 15 future first-round picks and 22 future seconds over the next seven years.

So, it’s not out of the question to say the Thunder are just one or two moves away from true title contention. It’s just a matter of which players become available and when general manager Sam Presti decides to strike.

With that being said, the Thunder are still one of the youngest teams in the NBA. They have no playoff experience. They will likely keep the team as-is while maybe making a move around the margin. It would be surprising if they made a big move, even though they have 15 first-round picks stockpiled.


More Posts

Send Us A Message