We Currently Live In A World Where It Is A Legit Possibility That The Oklahoma City Thunder Finish The Year With A Guaranteed Playoff Spot

Zach Beeker. Getty Images.

Almost two months ago to the day, I wrote this blog

We were pretty much at the midway point of the NBA calendar and when you looked across the landscape of the league you found a handful of really awesome stories. The Kings were taking the West by storm, the Knicks were back, the Pacers were winning games before Haliburton got hurt etc. Basically, these teams that many thought were going to be deep in the tank race were off to these pretty exciting starts.

In the 30+ games since, some things still ring true. The Kings are legit, and are in competition for a top 2 seed in the West. The Knicks got even better after the trade deadline and are not the same old Knicks. The Pacers sadly had a bit of a slide, but that was more injury related than anything else.

And then there's the Thunder. 

Admit it, how many people reading this blog had the Thunder in the 8 spot out West with only 1 game seperating them from a Top 6 guaranteed playoff spot through 71 games? Here's a fun fact for you. If you look around the West right now, the Thunder at 7-3 have only been outplayed by the 8-2 Kings over the last 10 games. That's a sentence that probably would have been weird to type back in October, yet here we are. 

Just last night we watched SGA (40 points) go toe to toe with Devin Booker (46 points) for a big 124-120 Thunder win

Josh Giddey continues to develop as a legit all around player, including getting his 3PT shooting to be around a respectable level which was basically his last glaring weakness. Rookie Jalen Williams is arguably the biggest steal of this year's draft

You may see their record at 35-36 and think that's bad, and I get it. Being under .500 isn't exactly what every team strives for, but context is important. This is an OKC team that many thought wouldn't over 24 games this year. They hit that number on February 4th. 

Remember, Sam Presti and the Thunder weren't exactly praised for their tank approach. Many thought it was ruining the league. Well….


Rebuilds are often a crapshoot. There's no guarantee it will work and nobody has any idea how long it will take before things turn around. All you can do is try and establish a solid foundation, draft well, and have patience. Looking in the West, we're seeing more and more of these "rebuilds" show signs of being legit. The Kings reloaded mostly through smart front office moves that many (including me) didn't really understand at the time. Teams like NO did it more through the draft, and before all their injuries looked like a team that was certainly on the rise. The Thunder almost exclusively through the draft outside of the SGA trade. In the West, a team like the Magic looks to be the next one of these rebuilding teams that is poised for an OKC-type jump.

Stuff like this isn't always linear though. Ask Rockets fans if they feel like they've made any progress in their rebuild. Or the Pistons. There's no exact science or blueprint. You need a lot of things to break your way, especially when you're relying on basically teenagers who have little NBA experience to ultimately pan out.

That makes me wonder how the league feels about a rise like the Thunder. They're doing everything they possibly can to prevent tanking/load management/etc, yet a quick look around the league still tells you that when you have no shot at a title, it may be the better path to be REALLY bad as your path back to contention. So while it's an awesome story what the Thunder are doing and it would be very cool to see this young group in the playoffs, if anything it may encourage more teams to go the OKC/tanking route.

Remember, this was the same league that basically forced the Sixers to bring in Brian Colangelo because of what Sam Presti did during the early stages of The Process. They tried flattening the Lottery odds (hasn't worked at all). Honestly, they'll never truly stop the tanking/losing on purpose to get good approach no matter what they try. You just have to hope there are more OKCs out there that actually get things right.

Looking ahead, the Thunder own the 2nd easiest remaining schedule in the NBA. Is it so unthinkable that given how they are playing right now (18th offense, 4th defense, 7th net rating) that they can't jump a few teams currently ahead of them in the standings?

Considering they still have 2 games vs LAC (OKC up 2-0) and 1 vs GS (OKC down 1-2) I'd say it's on the table. They also own the season H2H series against DAL at 2-1, and since neither team leads their division if they were to finish with the same record, OKC jumps them too. 

Is it then possible that this Thunder team could be as high as a 5 seed? Why not? That's what makes this home stretch so exciting for pretty much every team in the league right now. Can you imagine back in October if you told someone that by the playoffs, both the Kings and the Thunder would be top 5 seeds, one of which has homecourt? 


I get why teams like the Lakers who are also in the Play In (10 seed) get all the headline and publicity. I get why people are talking more about the defending champs and their horrific 7-26 road record. I'm just saying that while all that shit is going on, the Thunder are quietly outplaying all of those teams and might be the only one who doesn't have to fight for their lives in the Play In just so they could be invited to the real dance.

In terms of a rebuild, that's not too shabby.