Thunder are #1 But Face Stiff Tests in the West

 

Kevin Durant

Durant and the Thunder are the top team in the NBA right now and I see no reason that'll change.

I’m pretty confident that if you asked anyone where they figured the Oklahoma City Thunder would be in the standings on January 13th they’d more than likely say first. Not surprisingly, that is exactly where they are located. The Thunder have a league-best 29-8 record and are 18-3 at home which is where they want to be come playoff time.

I don’t see any reason why they can’t accomplish the goal of home-court advantage throughout the NBA Playoffs but it will not be a day at the park for them. Nipping at their heels are the LA Clippers and San Antonio Spurs who are a game and game and half behind the Thunder respectively. The better news for OKC is that only Denver and Portland from their division would make the playoffs if they started today. What that says is perhaps they could have the easier go of it down the stretch in terms of ‘strength of schedule’ than the Clippers or the Spurs.

Right now, the Thunder are doing all of things necessary to be a great team in the National Basketball Association. They are second in the league in scoring at 105.2 points per game, they rank 8th in points allowed with just 96.1 points per game and they rebound the ball well too. They are the 8th-best rebounding team in the Association. Factor in those three statistics and you’ve got yourselves the makings of the top team in professional basketball right now.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to also have a guy in Kevin Durant who is clearly one of the top players in the game today. The young phenom is averaging almost 29 points per game right now and has become one of the worst match-up problems for opponents in a long, long time. His length and athleticism is extremely difficult to deal with for even the best defenders in the league. Durant’s ability to knock down deep shots with consistency is a tremendous partner to his ability to drive and make something off the dribble.

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook is second in scoring and leads the Thunder with over eight assists per game.

This is far from a one man team however as Durant is complimented by a host of fellow athletes like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka who all bring a little something different to the OKC table. Westbrook is averaging almost 22 points a game and 8.5 assists. The knock on him has always been that when most players should stop shooting, Westbrook keeps chucking, but he has shown a little maturity this season and it helps to have solid scorers to dish to rather than shoot it.

Kevin Martin has been a really nice story for this team as well. He has played in all 37 games but hasn’t started a snigle one yet is third on the team in scoring with about 15 points a game. In his 8th year out of Western Carolina, the 6’7″ shooting guard has been a nice fill-in for James Harden who was traded to Houston at the beginning of the season.

The bigs continue to get the job done in the paint too. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins combine for about 14 boards a game and Ibaka averages over two blocked shots per game which makes him a force to be reckoned with in the lane.

Besides the over-whelming talent, there’s another factor to contributes to their success and that’s health. Nick Collison and DeAndre Liggins each have a game started to their credit. That means that Durant, Westbrook, Perkins, Ibaka and guard Thabo Sefolosha have started every game this season with just two exceptions.

There’s no reason to think the Thunder will fall off their current pace. They already have a seven game lead on second place Denver and while that isn’t insrmountable, it’s unlikely the Nuggets will catch them. I think, barring injury, you pencil this team into at the very least, the conference finals.

  • 100%