We’re 41 games through the season. Have we met expectations? Are we the front runners? Are we contenders or pretenders? Two ThunderObsessed writers, a fan, and Scott Brook’s tie all discuss this:
Are The Thunder where you expected them to be halfway through the season?
Charles Chaney, Owner ThunderObsessed.com (@Thunderobsessed):No, they’re doing better. Oklahoma City after the Harden trade were expected to fall a bit in the standings. Yet, they’ve succeeded and really led the Western Conference for most of the first half of the season. With Kevin Martin replacing Harden, the Thunder have thrived. Doesn’t matter than Kevin Durant is leading the charge, and is the early MVP favorite.
Scott Brooks’ Tie, (@ScottBrooksTie): The Thunder are right where I expected them to be at the halfway point. With a winning percentage at .780,and on pace to finish at 64-18. The first half of the season featured teams with a combined .479 winning percentage, while the second half, however, will feature team with a combined .513 winning percentage. If the Thunder are to continue on their torrid pace, or even improve upon it, they’ll have to do so against, on average, stronger opponents.
You’d always like to some of the bad losses go the other way, like the losses to the Wizards, Timberwolves, and Hawks, but that’s the reality of the game. You’re not going to go 82-0 in a season. 32-9 is extremely respectable, especially with the broad talent across the entirety of the league.
Ryan Querbach, writer ThunderObsessed.com, (@RyanQuerbach):Honestly, after the James Harden trade I expected the team to take a couple steps back. I knew the Thunder would still be good, but not this good. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been phenomenal this year, and Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin have done a great job of filling the void that Harden left.
Eric Urbach, Lawyer at Urbach Law Firm, (@EricUrbach)I am not surprised at all by the Thunder’s win/loss record at this point in the season. Their schedule thus far has definitely set them up for a good deal of success. Many games were at home against the tougher competition and the road games were mostly against teams that are average or below average. We will know more about the Thunder the second half of the season as more games are on the road against the better teams in the NBA.
Where does OKC need to improve if they want to win it all?
Charles Chaney, Owner ThunderObsessed.com (@Thunderobsessed): Bench play. Oklahoma City really struggles with the second unit on the floor. Reggie Jackson needs to get the other teammates involved. He’s a good player, but his next evolution is to become more of a distributor on the floor. This could also go back to Scott Brook’s rotations. His line ups have been questionable at best, and at times it really effects the chemistry. Oklahoma City ranks 24th in bench scoring after the Denver loss. Something needs to be done.
Scott Brooks’ Tie, (@ScottBrooksTie): The Thunder have to continue playing team basketball in order to win the title and bring the O’Brien Trophy to the heartland. Assists, help defense, moving without the ball, and spacing will go a long way to creating floor space, generating open shots, and taking the pressure off of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The isolation plays for Durant are great, and usually lead to baskets, but can make the offense extremely predictable, especially late in a game (see Christmas Day game at Miami). Ball movement will stretch defenses out, leading to open shots.
If it comes down to Miami and Oklahoma City in the Finals again, the series will go to the team that wants in more.
Ryan Querbach, writer ThunderObsessed.com, (@RyanQuerbach): The Thunder really needs to limit turnovers. This team has always turned the ball over quite a bit, and at times it really hurts them. One the defensive side the Thunder needs to keep their opponents from getting too many offensive boards and open three pointers. With that being said, I think if this team plays to its full potential it has a great chance to compete for a title.
Eric Urbach, Lawyer at Urbach Law Firm, (@EricUrbach): The Thunder still seem to be working with their rotation. The “big” lineup vs. the “small” lineup option seems to have them confused at times. With the loss of James Harden and the uncertainty of the backup point guard position, the Thunder have some rotation issues to figure out. We’ve learned that in the Playoffs, teams have to be flexible, so what worked and got you by during the regular season may have to be tweaked during a particular Playoff series. The Thunder sure could use another scorer who can create their own shot. Kevin Martin is great, but he needs help creating his shot. Last season, James Harden was able to drive to the basket, get to the free throw line often and even run the offense at times. We’ll see how the loss of Harden and the addition of Martin affects the Thunder during the second half of the season and into the Playoffs.
Thunder lead the West by a half game after the loss to Denver. At this point: Fluke or not?
Charles Chaney, Owner ThunderObsessed.com (@Thunderobsessed):Definitely not a fluke. Oklahoma City is a heavy favorite for the title. Doesn’t mean they’re going to walk to the title, but they definitely have all the assets to win the title. Watch out for the Oklahoma City Thunder if they get rolling through playoffs. The rest of the league better be worried.
Scott Brooks’ Tie, (@ScottBrooksTie): It’s no fluke, this is one of the best teams in the NBA. There are some other great teams in the Western Conference alone, namely the Los Angeles Clippers, that would love to prove that they belong at the top, though. It’s going to take a lot of work from this very talented team to keep up their 64-18 pace, especially as they hit the most difficult half of their season. Tied with the Clippers at 32-9 (with the edge due to head-to-head), execution down the stretch is going to be extremely important. The Clippers, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Warriors have all played the toughest part of their schedule. Look for a tight race at the end.
The Thunder are younger and more athletic than most teams in the NBA right now, and that could allow for the Thunder to push through their tough schedule and still come out on top in the West as the Clippers, Spurs, and Grizzlies get worn down throughout the season.
Ryan Querbach, writer ThunderObsessed.com, (@RyanQuerbach):It’s definitely not a fluke. This Thunder team has been
outstanding. Both the offense and the defense have a few holes, but the Thunder is able to get it done more often than not on both sides
of the floor. A team can’t have a record like the Thunder’s without earning it. They have absolutely earned it, and will likely continue to do so.
Eric Urbach, Lawyer at Urbach Law Firm, (@EricUrbach)I am not surprised that the Thunder are leading the West. The Thunder won the West last year and even with the new Lakers squad, were the favorites to win the West this year. They seem to be on pace with what was expected. Their schedule seemed to be tailored to give them a good start and that’s what they’ve done.