The Oklahoma City Thunder are gradually climbing the steps out of the basement of the Western Conference after devastating injuries turned them into the 15th best team in the West (note - there are only 15 teams in the West). As the recovery of their rosters is nearly complete (Perry Jones returned last week; Mitch McGary is healthy and playing for the D-League team) the Thunder are already knocking on the door of the 8th seed.
With a record of 10-13 and currently ranked in the 12th spot (.435), which leaves them 1.5 games behind both the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns, who are virtually tied for the 8th seed. In the next tier, the Spurs and Mavericks each have 7 losses, and the Clippers and Trail Blazers have 6 each. How much ground can the Thunder make up over the next few weeks?
Let us take a look at the Thunder's next 10 games:
Sun, Dec 14 vs Phoenix (Home)
Tues, Dec 16 vs Kings (Away)
Thu, Dec 18 vs Warriors (Away)
Fri, Dec 19 vs Lakers (Away)
Sun, Dec 21 vs Pelicans (Home)
Tues, Dec 23 vs Blazers (Home)
Thu, Dec 25 vs Spurs (Away)
Fri, Dec 26 vs Hornets (Home)
Sun, Dec 28 vs Mavericks (Away)
Wed, Dec 31 vs Phoenix (Home)
The Thunder are putting together consistency one quarter at a time. We've all witnessed how explosive offensively and defensively they are on the floor in stretches; the next step is to maintain that explosiveness for the duration of a full game. Beside that, their two superstars are doing a phenomenal job supporting their team. Russell Westbrook is surpassing his own elite standards, and Kevin Durant is melding back into the offense seamlessly. The bench's trial by fire also appears to be paying off as well. They currently have 4 players averaging double figures (Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Anthony Morrow, Perry Jones) and have provided the stability that the team has lacked over the past 2 seasons.
Based on that, I expect the Thunder to go 9-1 in their next 10 games, losing only to the Warriors, if they maintain their current trajectory. This will leave them with a 19-14 record (.575) and would include wins over the Spurs, Trail Blazers, and Mavericks, bringing those three teams a game closer to striking distance. However, the worst scenario that I think could occur is going 7-3 in their next 10 games, which would leave them at 17-16 and still neck with the other 8th seed contenders.
What do you think?