Well, last night’s loss wasn’t exactly heart breaking. Couple of Oklahoma City’s weaknesses really shined through. Oklahoma City got down big, but really fought back and made it a ball game. That said, how does Oklahoma City look now, that we’re about two-thirds done with the regular season?
Well, we know standings where they stand. They’re number one in the Northwest Division. They have a sizable, nine game lead over the Denver Nuggets. They may honestly win the division by 10-11 games if Denver never brings it to the table like we know they’re actually capable of doing. Going into tonight, the Thunders’ magic number to clinch the division sits at 12 games.
They’re sitting in first place in the Western Conference. They’re just three games ahead of the team that has beat them pretty solidly twice, the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers are hot, winners of five in a row, but I don’t think they’re that big of a threat to take first place over though. Going into tonight, Oklahoma City’s magic number to clinch home court throughout the playoffs is at 20 games.
Oklahoma City has a long way to go as a team if they have championship aspirations. They struggle early in games and force to extend themselves late in ball games when if they had played the first quarter, probably wouldn’t have been necessary. In six of the ten games since the All-Star break, Oklahoma City has needed to have a second half surge to come back and win the games. In a few cases, it didn’t work out. They have a few glaring weaknesses.
The NBA, if you’re new to it, it’s a game of trends. There were eras where scoring was in the 100’s for almost every team, and then for awhile, it was defense that ruled the league, where only a handful of teams scored over 100 points. So, looking at past NBA trends is a really great way to gauge how a team can do in the post season. Just like every team, you must earn your stripes, go through your steps. So, Oklahoma is taking that right now. Let’s look at some of their weaknesses and how they compare to the NBA past trends for the champions.
The Thunder are the worst team in the league in turning ball over at 16.6 turnovers per game. If you want to compare this to past NBA Champions, it doesn’t look good. In the past 10 years, the NBA Champion’s rank in turnovers is 10th. Only two champions (’08 Celtics and ’03 Spurs) were outside of the top 15.
It’s not all a bad thing for Oklahoma City on the turnovers. They are an aggressive bunch and they’re going to force passes. They have a honey badger of a point guard (Russell Westbrook) and they really like to get our and run the ball. Sometimes they make mistakes, a lot of it is their face pace offense. (OKC ranks fourth in offensive pace).
Oklahoma City ranks 28 out of 30 NBA franchises in allowing offensive rebounds. They allow on average, 12.7 offensive rebounds per game. I will credit Oklahoma City for the much improved in this category. They were allowing over 15 offensive boards for a lot of the season.
Compare this to past NBA Champions, each champion averaged rank was 13th in allowing offensive rebounds. Looks a little better there for Oklahoma City. In fact, ’09 Lakers and ’03 Spurs were ranked in the bottom five of the league in allowing offensive rebounds, so it’s not all lost because of this.
Everyone is giving Westbrook a lot of grief for not being a true point guard. True, his numbers as a point guard has dropped considerably. However, his production is up and Eric Maynor is out with a season-ending injury. So, judging on this category isn’t quite indicative of how well Oklahoma City share the basketball.
The Thunder are sitting at 28th in the league with just 18.3 assists per game. Compared to past Champions who averaged 11.2 assists per game, Oklahoma is sitting not so bad. the ’03 Spurs were back it, they were in the 20 rankings and won a title. It’ll be curious to see how they address this going forward, if they do even address it.
Not everything is bad for the Thunder though. They rank high in a lot of important categories.
Field Goal Percentage
Oklahoma City is one of the shooting teams in the league. They’re sitting second with 47.2% of their shots made. They definitely know how to stroke the shot. Especially with players like Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka shooting great.
NBA Champions know how to score points, and do it efficiently. Out of the last 10 NBA Champions, only three teams finished outside of the top 9. (’04 Detroit, ’05 Spurs and ’10 Lakers). Average champion ranked 7th overall in Field goal percentage. In face, six of the ten champions finished inside the top 5. Oklahoma City has the offense to really get them to a championship.
Defensive Field Goal Percentage
Oklahoma City knows they have the offense to compete for a championship, but do they have the defensive presence to really compete with the moniker “Offenses win games, but defenses win championships.” Well, Oklahoma City currently ranks 7th overall right now with 42.8% allowed.
NBA Champions were known for their stifling defense. The Average defense ranked just fourth! The ‘o6 Heat and the ’11 Mavericks were statistically the worst defenses out of all the champions, respectively. Oklahoma City sits in a precarious spot. They’ve been in the top five all season, but just recently have started slipping. It doesn’t help when you play a team like San Antonio and you’re giving up 114 points. This is not a normal thing for Olkahoma City.
Three Point Shooting
The Thunder are a streaky three-point shooting ball club. They do great at home, and are really inconsistent at home. However, one thing is for sure, there are a lot of shooters on this team. Kevin Durant, James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, Royal Ivey and at times, Russell Westbrook. You have to cover them on the perimeter or they can hurt you. Oklahoma City is sitting at 14th this season so far with 34.7% of the makes for the Thunder.
The past is very good for Oklahoma City here. Being a great three-point shooting team isn’t a thing that guarantees you championships. However, being consistent does. I know I said they have been inconsistent on the road, overall OKC is doing okay. Past NBA champions held a rank of 13th. They made enough of their shots to really make a difference. In fact, only ’04 and ’07 Spurs and ’08 Celtics are the only teams to rank inside the top 10 in three-point shooting and go on to win the championship. If you were curious, the ’06 Heat were the worst at 20th.
So, in this rambling of a statistical ball of yarn, we see that Oklahoma City really lacks in certain categories, but they make it up in others. I think it’ll be really interesting come the playoffs. Is this team just bored and going through the motions? Unless they just come out and say it, we’ll never know. However, at least they provide some heart stopping moments and keep the fans into the games. Thunder Up people, Thunder up!We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!