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Can the Thunder make the play-in?


After an 0-3 start, the Thunder picked up 4 straight wins to give them a winning record. They have since lost 2 in a row, but still stand at the 11 seed, only 1 game back of the 7 seed.

Current Record: 4-5

Best wins: Clippers by 8, Mavericks by 6

Worst losses: Bucks by 14 without Giannis and Middleton

Players Lost Since Last Year:

Derrick Favors

Theo Maledon

Isaiah Roby

Vit Krejci

Ty Jerome

Players Gained Since Last Year:

Chet Holmgren*

Jalen Williams

Ousmane Dieng

Jaylin Williams

Isaiah Joe



What makes the Thunder competitive is they love to play behind. Which is not a place you typically wanna be in but they don’t stop playing. They were just the 2nd team in nearly 10,000 circumstances where a team trailed by 15+ with under 4 minutes left and won the game. Even more impressive it was against Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, the reigning Western Conference runner ups.

Just less than a week ago they trailed by 15 in the late third quarter to the Magic. With 6:45 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Thunder trailed 104-93 and ended the game on a 23-4 run to win the game by 8.


The Thunder’s offense has been pretty awful outside of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They rank 25th in offense so far, but the thing getting them wins is their defense. They rank 7th in the league, only giving up 108.6 Points per 100 possesions. Thunder also rank 6th in the league in pace, which results from their defense creating a lot of fast break opportunities.

OKC entered the year projected 23.5 wins, and they are now on pace for 36.4 wins which would give them a shot at making the play-in considering the Spurs made the play-in last year with just 34 wins. The problem is the Thunder have the hardest ranked schedule in the NBA based off last years win percentage.


Impressive Advanced Stats:

91.7% Defensive boxout percentage (1st In NBA)

46.7% 3PT in the clutch (5th in NBA)

100% FT in the clutch (1st in NBA)

51.4% FG in the clutch (6th in NBA)

+4 Point Differential in the clutch (1st in NBA)

2.0 Ast/To Ratio (5th in NBA)

17.1 Deflections/Game (9th in NBA)

6.8 Loose Balls recovered/Game (1st in NBA)

1.44 Charges Drawn/Game (1st in NBA)

56.3 Contested Shots/Game (2nd in NBA)


As you can see, OKC is top 5 in a lot of categories based on defensive effort and their play in the clutch, being one of the most efficient teams in the clutch. They are 29th in 3PT%, but 5th when it comes to the clutch.

Another reason they’re so successful despite not being able to shoot the ball is their ability to attack the paint. Thunder lead the league in drives per game, mostly because of SGA who drives to the basket at will. The Thunder drive 66 times a game while the 2nd most in the league is only 57.6 (NYK). OKC is around the 50% FG mark on drives which is 9th in the NBA. Thunder not only lead the league in PPG off drives, they lead in APG off of drives.

Something the thunder are AWFUL at is pull up jump shooting. They shoot 19.0% on pull up 3s, dead last in the league, and 36.0% on all pull up jumpers which is 23rd in the league.


Playstyle:

Here is how frequently and how efficient OKC runs certain plays. (PPP = Points Per Possession)

Isolation – 7.9% (8th in NBA) 0.85 PPP (23rd in NBA)

Transition – 19.7% (4th in NBA) 1.10 PPP (18th in NBA)

Pick & Roll Ball Handler – 16.9% (15th in NBA) 0.80 PPP (20th in NBA)

Pick & Roll Roll Man – 5.9% (10th in NBA) 0.67 PPP (30th in NBA)

Post Up – 1.4% (30th in NBA) 1.00 PPP (9th in NBA)

Spot Up – 26.3% (4th in NBA) 1.02 PPP (16th in NBA)


A lot of isolation and transition, but both they are below average at.


Box Score Numbers:

No surprise here, but Shai is putting the team on his back, leading in PPG, APG, and SPG. He is averaging an incredible 30.5/4.3/5.9/2.3/1.1 His defense is improved from last season and his scoring efficiency has taken a leap.

He has scored 32+ points in 5 out of 8 games and he has has 2+ steals in 6 out of 8 games. Lu Dort has struggled shooting the ball and only averaging just over 13 PPG but he has been locking down the other team’s best player. Josh Giddey has looked alright in the few games he has played (missed 3 games due to injury). He is averaging 13.5/5.5/5.3 (Leads team in RPG). Darius Bazley is finally coming into his own, playing very well on the defensive end. With no true center on this team, he has stepped up averaging 5.2 RPG and 1.3 BPG. Thunder only have 3 above average 3-point shooters, but one of them is Jeremiah Robinson-Earl shooting an amazing 42.9% on 3.1 attempts a game. If he keeps this up and continues to develop a knockdown jumper, he could be apart of this future OKC team.


Summary:

If the Thunder can continue to knock down shots in the clutch and play good defense, playoffs are always a possibility. But until they get Chet Holmgren and surround Shai with shooters to kick out to on the drive (Chet will help with that), the Thunder will have a ceiling. I think they have their core, and is time to trade some of those draft picks for winning guys for the future. Someone like Tyler Herro or Lauri Markkanen would fit right in on this squad and in a few years, who knows what could happen.

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