Relax Thunder fans: Why it’s not time to panic yet


The Thunder suffered another close loss last night, this time to the Golden State Warriors 91-86. That has been the theme of the Thunder’s season thus far. They have been unbelievably close to winning a majority of their games, but have come up just short more often than not. Now, with the Thunder sitting at 3-12 and last in the Western Conference, it is hard to keep a positive outlook.

A 3-12 record in the in the Western Conference would in most cases, be too much to overcome. However, the Thunder is in much different situation than just about every other team that has started the season this poorly. They do, after all, have the luxury of calling in reinforcements like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and that could happen sooner rather than later. As long as these two come back healthy, then the math says the Thunder will still make the playoffs.

Will the Thunder be a top three seed in the West? That answer is almost certainly no. But, when healthy, this team is good enough that they do not need to worry about home court advantage. As long as they make the playoffs, this team is a legitimate title threat.

Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies started 10-15, due in large part to a knee injury that caused Marc Gasol to miss about two months of the season. At the All-Star break, the Grizzlies were 29-23, and en route to a 50-32 record for the season. At 3-12, the Thunder needs to go 27-11 to be on the same pace as the Grizzlies at All-Star Break.

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That may sound daunting, but consider this: The Thunder  (excluding this season) have not had a winning percentage below 71 percent since the 2010-2011 season, and they still won 67.1 percent of their games during that season. Since the 2010-2011 season, the Thunder have a winning percentage of 71 percent (excluding this season). Now 27-11, which is a winning percentage of 71 percent, seems much more doable. For the rest of the season, if the Thunder performs to their usual winning percentage, they will finish 47-19, which would give them a 50-32 record.

Now, lets look at where a 50-32 record would put the Thunder in the playoff picture in the Western Conference over the last five seasons.

2013-2014: Tied for seventh.

2012-2013: Sixth

2011-2012: Tied for fifth. This was the lockout season, so this one took a little bit of math. If the Thunder have a record of 50-32 this year, that that would mean they won 61 percent of their games. That same percentage in the lockout season would have given them 40 wins and tied for firth place

2010-2011: Tied for fifth.

2009-2010: Three-way tie for sixth. Which is exactly where the Thunder ended during this season. But they lost the tiebreak to both the Trailblazers and the Spurs, and were the eighth seed.

If you look at the last five years, the Thunder still have a little room for error. The amount of wins of the eighth seed in the Western Conference over the last five years is: 49, 45, 36 (lockout season), 46, and 50.

The argument could be made that Westbrook and Durant will need some time to get in a rhythm, so the Thunder may not be able to win at a 71 percent clip when they return. But even if they win two games less and go 48-34, that record is good enough more often than not, even in the Western Conference. But, at the same time, the argument could be made that the time without Westbrook and Durant has helped Thunder role players such as Reggie Jackson Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Anthony Morrow. Now that some other guys have had to play a bigger role, it is also possible that the Thunder’s winning percentage goes up, and then there would really be nothing to worry about.

Last season, the Phoenix Suns started 6-6 and were still able to finish 48-34 and just one game out of the playoffs. That was with Eric Bledsoe missing 33 games in the middle of the season. Right now, the Thunder have only started three games worse, and will have two top five players returning to their lineup very soon, which the Suns obviously did not have.

It may be difficult, because I will admit, seeing the Thunder at 3-12 is a bit unsettling. But, it is time to relax Thunder fans, and enjoy the ride; because this is the first time every regular season game has meant something in awhile.