The last off-season didn’t end well for the Oklahoma City Thunder organization, and all the signs were leading to a rebuilding process that would have last at least two or three years. When Chris Paul was involved in that Russell Westbrook to the Rockets trade, many thought that Sam Presti would look to get some future draft picks and some young, developing player for CP3. Because of that, it would’ve been a very short stay for him. It didn’t turn out like that and in spite of all the controversies on the issue, the Thunder are playing at a level which nobody expected. They are currently on the 8th place in the West, going into the second quarter of the season.
The main reason for all that is the veteran who just came this summer, as Paul is showing once again his value on a less talented team. He is averaging 16,1 PPG, 4,4 RPG, 6,3 APG and besides all those numbers, his huge experience in leading a team is what seems to be paying off at the moment. Yes, there were a lot of speculations during his 15-year long career, players who were saying that he is not what others think he is, implying things such as “talking behind players’ back to the managers or coaching staff”. In fact, it looks like he can cooperate with his teammates if he wants to now, but it will be interesting to see how long it will last. The Thunder organization made it clear that Paul will not be on the trade block this season.
The supporting cast is also playing at a “more than expected” level. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the sophomore who is only 21 years old, is having a tremendous start of the season, with numbers such as 18,1 PPG, 5,1 RPG and 3 APG. If OKC will keep him for their future plans, it could turn out to be one of their next go-to guys in the next 5 years. What is interesting to be seen at this team is the fact that everybody “eats”. They are playing team basketball and you can see it in the points-per-game chart, as there are 4 players on the starting line-up who are averaging almost 20 PPG each. Besides Shai and Chris Paul, there is Dennis Schroder, with 17,5 PPG, 3,7 RPG and 3,6 APG and Danilo Gallinari with 17,9 PPG, 5,7 RPG and 2,2 APG. Even if he took a little step back this year, Steven Adams is helping them defensively with only 1,3 block-per-game.
To sum it all, the OKC Thunder can actually make the playoffs if they continue playing at this pace while matching the opponent intensity, in spite of the two sophomores who were often seen in the starting line-up. It surely won’t be easy, because if we take a look at the teams under the line, we see that there are at least 3 which are battling to get into the zone. The Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves are all capable of turning their seasons back and go further up in the standings. Even the Suns showed us that their tanking era has come to an end, finally, so they could be a treat, too.