Just when it looked like they were starting to iron out some of their wrinkles, the Oklahoma City Thunder have gone cold. Considered by many to be a contender after acquiring Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in trades, the Thunder can’t seem to put together a consistently efficient offense, which has hurt the team in the win-loss column.
The Thunder are currently in fifth place, and just 1.5 games away from being out of the postseason altogether. Based on their performance so far, they have a greater chance of missing the playoffs entirely than they do of winning the title, according to Basketball-Reference.com’s probabilities report.
Most expected Oklahoma City to have a few hiccups out of the gate as the three high-usage players melded their games together. Then, it started to look like the squad was getting things figured out before hitting a rough patch, losing three straight and five of their last seven. As of Tuesday, Jan. 16, the Thunder have won back-to-back games against Charlotte and Sacramento and remain a maddeningly inconsistent team.
The chart above shows the Thunder’s advanced game log from NBA.com up to the team’s loss on Jan. 10 against Minnesota. The solid lines show the offensive rating (orange) and defensive rating (gray) on the left axis, and the net rating (yellow) is measured by the right axis. What’s concerning here is the trend, which you can see with the 10-game moving averages represented by the dashed lines.
You’ll notice that the offensive rating was trending up, but recently, it’s trending back down. Equally concerning is that the defense, which had been keeping them in play, has been gearing down. A large part of that was due to the absence of Andre Roberson, but that also partially contributed to the temporary uptick in the offense. The last two games have been better for the Thunder defensively, but their opponents were the Hornets and Kings, and neither team is especially potent on the offensive end.
Let’s try to determine where the team has had success and where it has struggled by looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Thunder’s offense.
It’s not all bad for Oklahoma City. There are actual signs of improvement, which has been evident recently, even during their stretches of losses. Chiefly, it does seem that they’re figuring out how to use Westbrook, George and Anthony together with mid-December acting as the turning point for their three stars.