The Oklahoma City Thunder have played themselves back into being NBA Championship contenders. Prior to the start of the season, OKC was painted over with doubt after Russell Westbrook‘s injury and the loss of Kevin Martin in the offseason. This team had already overcome adversity after making it to the playoffs despite losing James Harden before the start of the 2012-13 season.
That season, the Thunder won the most games since the organization changed their name and location with 60 Ws.
The Thunder are currently 11-3 and are third in the Western Conference. The first-place San Antonio Spurs and the second-place Portland Trail Blazers also have three losses, but have played more games than OKC thus far. I highly doubt that the Blazers will hold on to their spot all year. The Spurs and Thunder will be battling all season long for the top seed in the conference. Ultimately, I think the Thunder will outlast the aging Spurs.
The biggest difference for this team so far as been the outstanding play of their bench. Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka‘s play will always anchor this team, but you have to give players like Reggie Jackson (10.6 PPG) and Jeremy Lamb (9.2 PPG) a great deal of credit for their roles in OKC’s early success.
If these two players can maintain their high level of play, than that’ll give even more players room to improve through their success. Jackson plays with a veteran-like mentality, making players around him better on both sides of the ball.
Lamb has been very solid, but I have some concerns about his shot selection. He’s been shooting over 50 percent the last five games, but you can’t always rely on hitting your shots. He has to drive to the basket more, and that’ll help him avoid shooting slumps this year. He’s young, and not every young player wants to throw their body around in their first season while getting extended minutes.
As time goes on, Lamb’s confidence to drive to the lane will come. For now, let’s just be happy he’s hitting big shots.
The Thunder are on a six-game winning streak and are undefeated at home. They’re obviously a great team and will only get better. I can see this team getting to the NBA Finals, but it won’t be an easy task to accomplish. Durant is looking better and better each game, and so is Westbrook. These two guys make up the best tandem in the league. They’re not playing their best ball yet, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.