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Is the Thunder Better Than Last Year?

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(Note - I'll bet this headline drives some editors crazy; is "Thunder" singular or plural? During a storm, do we say there's lots of thunders? Do we say the Lakers is good? The Cavaliers is mas horrible? I've seen it both ways, and we'll probably never know which is correct.)

Today's question for the Oklahoman's reports:

Is the Thunder Better Than Last Year | NewsOK

Rohde: Better; the clutch-meter is off the roof and over the hook.

Tramel: "The Thunder is tough to stop."

Carlson: Winning more with offense rather than last year's defense.

Mayberry: Areas of improvement outweigh the defensive inconsistencies.

My take after the jump.

My question - would you rather win fewer games with better defense? I am kind of partial to winning games, period, but the win total has diminishing returns.

Last season, the Celtics won 50 games and lost the championship in the final quarter of the series. Clearly to them, winning lots of games was not their first priority. Likewise, in past seasons the Spurs have always placed team cohesion above win total, and you could make a claim that the Lakers took this approach as well for the most part. The fact that they won a lot of games was merely incidental to the process. On the other side of the coin, the LeBron James-led Cavaliers won 66 and 61 games in the past two years, yet did not make the finals either time. In 2006, the Mavericks won 67 games and lost in the first round.

Wins matter and playoff match-ups matter, but you could probably argue successfully that they only come into play in the first round, when there is most likely going to be a mis-match. In that scenario, you could see a dominant team crushing the weaker team because of its home crowd. Once you get to the second round though, every team left is good. They can all win on the opponent's court, and realistically, if they want to advance in the playoffs, they're going to have to. Playoff teams win on the road because they play well as a unit and they don't get rattled when the home crowd helps the home team surge offensively.

Wins will help the Thunder THIS season, because they're in a fight for home court advantage and a favorable 1st round seeding. The Thunder will reach a point when getting 60 wins is nice, but if that's the be all and end all, then that season is going to end in disappointment.