Sparked by the NBA season’s new super-duper-star on the rise, the Oklahoma City Thunder have become one of the league’s pleasant surprises – a competitive bunch of talented, athletic, and motivated young studs who will put up a fight against any team on a nightly basis.
Given the unfortunate off-season injury to potential franchise cornerstone Chet Holmgren, many assumed OKC would suffer through another loss-heavy regular season and that the upcoming NBA Draft would be their version of a playoff appearance.
So far, the Thunder we have seen is a group that believes – and perhaps rightfully so – that they can defeat any opponent no matter the circumstance or environment. They might actually compete to make the play-in, if not directly go to the postseason.
At the time of posting, Oklahoma City has a 7-8 record (4-3 at home, 3-5 on the road), but they are the only team in the West with a positive point differential, albeit a slim one.
So, how are the Thunder getting the job done?
For starters, there are Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s scoring outbursts, though his teammates have played well in supporting roles. They have complemented Shai’s silky scoring game nicely.
Per NBA.com, the Thunder lead the league in points on drives (35.2). They’re converting 49.8% on 28.4 attempts per game (2nd in the NBA).
Their TOV% is only at 13.3%, 5th best in the NBA, which means they do a good job taking care of the basketball.
They play with a pace of 102.73 per contest, 3rd best in the league, which means they get out in transition, where they’re averaging an NBA-best 18.9 attempts and 26.6 points per contest.
They have the 6th most efficient scoring (46.1% FG) in pick-and-roll situations, which speaks in large part to the brilliance of SGA.
The Thunder have the league’s second most two-point field goals made at 32.7 per contest, converting at a 54.1% clip.
They have the third most made shots of attempts less than 5 feet (21.8, 3rd in the NBA), making them at an average of 61%.
Oklahoma City is always winning with hustle. They lead the NBA in both offensive (49) and defensive (44) loose balls recovered. Their total of 93 is at least 9 loose balls recovered higher than the next team on the list (Toronto).
They also lead the league in charges drawn (20) and rank in the top 3 (832) of shots contested on the floor.
As much as possible , they try not to beat themselves.
Clearly, the Thunder are not perfect yet. Their accuracy from deep needs refinement. Their youth in late game situations has been a worrying theme as well. As per NBA.com’s tracking data, OKC is now 3-6 in “clutch” games, even if they have a net rating of +5.4.
Once this group learns how to close out opponents, which usually comes with time, their room for growth will only exceed.
And until then, they have a lot of positives already working to their favor.