The NBA has almost reached the All-Star break, which signifies the middle of the regular season. This is where standings begin to matter – the 82-game season is a marathon – and when the best teams want to be in and around the top spots in their conference to push on in the season’s second half.
One team that is in great shape as we slide into February is the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder is third in the Western Conference, 0.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets and one game behind the conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves. They are 6-4 in their last ten games, 32 wins to 15 losses on the season, and a big second half will put them in a position to claim the all-important top seed in the West.
Youth Is Delivering For The Thunder
It was once famously said, “You can’t win anything with kids”. The Thunder need that to be false, given that they are chasing the NBA Title with the youngest roster in the league.
The Thunder are playing above their expected mean. They have an MVP frontrunner in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a Rookie of the Year candidate in former Gonzaga star Chet Holmgren, and Jalen Williams might be the most underappreciated part of a “Big 3” in the league.
SGA is third in the league in scoring at 31.3 points per game and leads the NBA with 2.2 steals per game. Holmgren makes his presence known around the rim with 2.6 blocks per game – a number that ranks him fourth in the league – and Wulluam’s 45.0 three-point percentage is top five in the NBA.
This is a team that has found a balance and found it quickly. One of the great aspects of youth in sports is that sometimes a team gets on a run and doesn’t know it is supposed to lose. This Thunder team has a pair of wins over the defending champion and Denver Nuggets and more than enough wins over the other playoff-chasing teams in the Western Conference to show that they will not be an easy out come knockout basketball.
Learning From 2022-23
The Thunder have been here before. They were rolling along and defying their low expectations most of last season. Then – late in the year – the bottom dropped out. A mixture of nagging injuries and the team’s youth returned to bite the Thunder.
They finished the year on a 15-21 run and dropped to 12th in the Western Conference. This put them outside the play-in tournament, and their season ended. It was a bitter pill to swallow, given the good feeling that the team had projected for much of the season, but if they have learned from that experience, they will time their peak much better at the end of 2023-24.
Latest OKC Thunder Odds
Looking at future odds for the OKC Thunder, we like them in the following markets:
He will take this award if Daigneault can get the Thunder among the West’s top three. If they are the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, then he wins it by a landslide.
This looks set to be a two-horse race between SGA and Damian Lillard (14/10). Third favorite Steph Curry is miles behind at 7/1, and a host of players that are putting up MVP numbers – specifically Joel Embid – will likely be ineligible for the award by the end of the season thanks to the new rule that states a player must play at least 65 games to win a regular season award.
Holmgren is still playing great ball, but prizing the Rookie of the Year Trophy from the giant grasp of Victor Wembanyama (9/20) will be almost impossible.