Westbrook nominated for multiple ESPY awards
DENVER, CO - APRIL 09: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrates after scoring a game-winning, three-point shot at the buzzer against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

By Josh Donaldson

The Oklahoma City Thunder are off to a 0-4 start to begin the 2018-19 NBA season, the worst start in franchise history. The only other seasons that compare to Oklahoma City’s current slow start are 2008-09 and 2014-15. In 2008, the Thunder started 0-2, won its third game, and then proceeded to drop to 1-16 before winning again. That season, of course, Oklahoma City was just happy to have an NBA franchise with two promising young players and did not mind the team finishing with the fourth worst record in the league, a standard that the current Thunder team does not share.

In 2014-15, Oklahoma City again started 0-2, won game 3, and then proceeded to drop the next two for a 1-5 start. However, the 2014-15 Thunder team went on to finish 45-37, and barely missed the playoffs after Kevin Durant went down for the season with a foot injury. That season is also memorable because it was the league’s first glimpse of Peak Westbrook, which has been on display the last two seasons.

This year, the Thunder have bested (or worsted?) those previous slow starts at 0-4. But don’t hit that panic button quite yet. As the 2014-15 season shows, a slow start does not necessarily spell disaster for the rest of the season, especially for a roster bolstered by two of the top-15 players in the league. Also, consider that the Thunder would have almost certainly finished with a better record and made the postseason in 2014-15 had Durant not missed significant time due to injury.

As previously mentioned by Thunder Digest, some other non-Thunder slow starts to rest the nerves of anxious Thunder fans include the 2004-05 Chicago Bulls, who started 0-9 and finished 47-35, and the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks, who started 0-4 before finishing with the best record in the Western Conference at 67-15.

While nobody will argue that the Thunder has played anywhere close to its best basketball, the team has also faced a difficult schedule to begin the season, with games against both of the preseason favorites to matchup in the NBA Finals in June. The team went through training camp, pre-season, and its first two regular season games without Russel Westbrook, the life-blood of the organization, so it is not unusual to see a couple of hiccups in Westbrook’s first two games back.

Oklahoma City has also started the season ice cold from the field, ranking last in the league in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, and free-throw percentage. The team is moving the ball well and getting a lot of quality looks on offense, but, per Royce Young of ESPN, the Thunder are shooting 26.4% on wide open shots. For some perspective of just how poorly the Thunder are shooting: the Houston Rockets rank second to last in field-goal percentage on wide open shots at 35.6%. Expect significant regression back to the mean for the Thunder, beginning tonight.

Walking into the Lion’s Den of Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight are the Phoenix Suns, one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. The Suns are on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, coming off a beating at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies last night. Additionally, Phoenix is without its best player, Devin Booker, who will sit with a hamstring injury tonight, and DeAndre Ayton, the former Arizona Wildcat who the Suns selected at number one overall in June at the NBA draft, is dealing with a sprained ankle and has yet to face a defensive challenge the likes of Big Kiwi, Steven Adams.

Oklahoma City certainly has areas that it needs to improve on if it wants a chance at a deep postseason run in the spring. The team needs to start knocking down open shots and find some cohesion on the defensive end in the absence of Andre Roberson. But blowing out the young, handicapped Suns tonight should be a big first step to getting the team’s head right and setting its course back towards being one of the league’s elite teams. All of this adds up to Get Right Night for the Oklahoma City Thunder in what should be an enjoyable viewing experience for Thunder fans.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.