With just over a third of the regular season left to go, the Oklahoma City Thunder are looking stronger and stronger week by week. Holding firmly to the Western Conference’s 7th seed, this season is shaping up to be better than anyone expected. Even the most logical of basketball aficionados didn’t predict that the Thunder would be on a 50 win pace. Nevertheless, here we are and it has been absolutely incredible to watch. I’ve taken some time to really look at this season and this team; the culture, the chemistry and the heart. Here’s the facts:
1. The Thunder might be the BEST second half team in the league.
Game after game, OKC explodes for an average of 55.1 second half points per game. A stat that is only four points behind the league leading Milwaukee Bucks (59.6). Also sitting top 15 in both 3rd and 4th quarter points, the Thunder are seeing production from first option to last off the bench in the second half. Now the major task will be to put a complete game together from start to finish in an effort to move up in the rankings over the remaining 32 games.
2. The 5th seed is very, VERY attainable.
For the first time in almost a decade, the Thunder have an identity. And they’re thriving in said identity in ways we haven’t seen since the franchise claimed a Western Conference title in 2012. The embracing of the “Underdog” image is what’s propelling the Thunder towards a strong playoff seeding and a new sense of value for Chris Paul that he hasn’t seen possibly since his days in Los Angeles with the Clippers. OKC is officially half a game from 6th place and one game out of 5th. This could be a very good ending to what’s being seen as somewhat of a storybook season.
3. This has a been a year of resurgence for Chris Paul.
CP3 is having a great season producing his highest scoring output in two years and being in range of the 50/40/90 club by seasons end. Leading the Thunder to a 30-20 record, Paul has been an image of his younger self. Grooming young guards and elevating everyone in a Thunder uniform. One thing I’ve missed is seeing Paul be a player-coach. It’s finally happening again. This has been a rebirth of one of the top 5 point guards in the league and CP3 is taking time reminding everyone why he’s still elite at age 34.
4. The big “IF” of what is to come.
With a ton a draft picks and several expiring deals, the big “what if” scenario is what happens with sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari? If I’m GM Sam Presti, I’m betting on Gallo in free agency and letting go of back up big man, Nerlens Noel. While I’m a fan of Noel, there’s no denying what Gallo has brought to the table all season long. You can get a rookie or minimum contract to replace Noel while giving Gallinari a decent payday. Or…trade Noel and a couple picks away for another big. Just my thoughts.
5. This team has better chemistry than Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Led by a solid core of Paul and veteran big, Steven Adams, the Thunder have a chemistry that every team wants but not many obtain. They remind me a lot of the championship Spurs team in the 2004-2005 season. A bunch of humble and hungry players with one mission, win. Now, of course Billy Donovan is no Greg Popovich and Steven Adams is definitely not Tim Duncan. However, this Thunder team is playing with the confidence and chemistry of that Spurs unit. Something that nobody predicted.
At 7pm this Wednesday, February 5th, the Thunder host the Cleveland Cavaliers who are hoisting a 13-37 record. While this should be a simple game, the Thunder cannot underestimate Colin Sexton, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Post defense from Adams and Noel will key for a victory in this matchup.