When the calendar flipped to December, the Oklahoma City Thunder were in peril. The team opened with a dismal 8-12 record that featured several excruciating, late-game losses and, while growing pains (of a reasonable nature) were expected for what amounted to a “brand new” team, the sky was falling in the minds of many around the NBA. From there, though, something happened along the way that made all the sense in the world.
The real Thunder arrived.
Since Dec. 1, Oklahoma City owns an 18-8 record that coincides with a +4.8 net rating and, when drilling down further, the net rating zooms to +8.2 in January as the team continues to round into form. Some of the uptick simply stems from the performance of Russell Westbrook, who suddenly resembles the MVP from a year ago, but it should also be noted that the team’s upper-tier players all seem to be turning the corner in unison and, yes, that includes the play of rock-solid big man Steven Adams as the fourth member.
Are the Thunder going to realistically challenge the Warriors (or even the healthy Rockets) for a berth in the NBA Finals? Well, probably not. This is still a team with real depth issues that likely can’t be solved without moves that would sap the team’s future assets in a way that is less than desirable. Still, Oklahoma City now looks the part of the top-four team in the West that everyone expected and, in short, it took them a month or so to get started along the path they were always destined for in 2018.
How high have the Thunder already climbed in this week’s Dime Power Rankings? Let’s go to the tape.