If someone had predicted the Oklahoma City Thunder to be a playoff candidate this deep into the season, most people would’ve laughed.
The Thunder were a bottom-feeding team last season and wouldn’t even have second-overall pick Chet Holmgren on the floor this year.
Fast forward to today, and they’re still pretty much alive in the playoff race, not to mention they have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule this season.
Moreover, as StatMuse pointed out, they’ve been arguably the best NBA team since Jan 1st, ranking first in offensive rating and points per game, second in net rating, and third in three-point percentage and steals per game.
Thunder since January 1st:
— 1st in offensive rating
— 1st in points per game
— 2nd in net rating
— 3rd in 3-point percentage
— 3rd in steals per game
Currently the 10 seed in the West with the 5th easiest schedule to finish the season. pic.twitter.com/AxIl5kQg0H
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 23, 2023
That combination of Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been deadly in the backcourt.
Giddey has improved as a finisher and shooter, and Shai has played at an MVP-caliber level, posting Michael Jordan-ish numbers throughout the course of the season.
The Thunder have added a plethora of athletic wings and switchable defenders.
They have guys who can shoot the ball and guard multiple positions, becoming a matchup nightmare more often than not.
They’re still lacking at the center position, but those woes would be a thing of the past once Holmgren is ready to be back on the floor next season.
On top of that, Sam Presti has gathered more draft capital than anybody in the league, so this is just the beginning for this up-and-coming team.
Don’t look now, but these guys are for real, and don’t be shocked if they knock the Lakers or Warriors out of the playoff race.NEXT: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Has A Message For LeBron James After All-Star Game