The Oklahoma City Thunder are sending an indirect message to the league that they are quickly becoming the best team in the Western Conference. They are on a 7-1 record with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on the lineup. They've won their 7th straight wins after beating Sacramento Kings and have won 9 of their last 10 games.
The Thunder are elevating rapidly in the Western Conference and playing some of the most aggressive yet efficient basketball we have ever seen. Despite, of perhaps because of all the early injuries they sustained, the entire squad is turning into one superior unit. Aside from the starting five's efficiency, the bench too has shown much greater scoring punch than we have seen in the past.
The surge is being led of course by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Westbrook is hitting a new level of performance and suddenly popping in the MVP conversations and discussions is reasonable. He's averaging 26.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists while shooting 49.5% from the field in 30 minutes. At Chesapeake arena, he's averaging 28.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 7.8 assists, while shooting 52% from the field.
Kevin Durant still appears to be on a soft minute restriction, yet is starting to produce offense at a clip we are used to seeing. He's averaging 21.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists, while shooting 50.4% from the field. At home, he's averaging 21.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists shooting 55.3% from the field.
The Thunder are definitely the hottest team right now, but are they the best? Tonight's opponent, the Warriors just finished 16 straight wins. The team that ended it, the Grizzlies, extended their winning streak to 6 after defeating the Spurs on their home court the following night in triple OT. Meanwhile, the Rockets are the team nobody is really talking about in the West as true contenders, but they have played better than ever this year.
In context however, it should be noted that the Warriors, as great as they have played, are still only 1/2 game ahead of the Grizzlies. Are they superior? Meanwhile, the Grizzlies defeated the Warriors while their defensive anchor Andrew Bogut as well as starting power Forward David Lee were out with injury. Against the Spurs, Memphis had the benefit of not having to play against Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, also out with injuries.
The Thunder will be playing 4 of the top teams in the West (Warriors, Blazers, Spurs, Mavericks) in their next 8 games. If the Thunder truly are one of the elites, even with a sub-.500 record, this will be the stretch that proves it.