OKC Thunder final power rankings moves squad to top tier

Dwyane Wade, OKC Thunder, NBA Power Ranking week 20, Photo by B51/ACMark Brown/Getty Images)AC
Dwyane Wade, OKC Thunder, NBA Power Ranking week 20, Photo by B51/ACMark Brown/Getty Images)AC /

A view of where the National pundits ranked the OKC Thunder to close out the regular season power rankings. OKC placed as high as 8th and low as 12th.

All season the scribes have vacillated between believing the OKC Thunder were a top ten team. Some weeks they felt the team was overrated and many pondered whether the three stars would ever find a way t bring out the best in one another.

The rankings provided here represent where the teams were ranked heading into the final week of regular season play.

Technically there may still be one more round of power rankings incorporating the final few games. However, since these rankings appear as the playoffs began, it’s more likely this is the pundits final offering.

With that let’s take a gander at where the Thunder appeared on the lists.

 NBA.com – John Schuhmann

The stat master dropped the Thunder four spots in week 25 of his rankings due to three consecutive losses. Week 25 ranked 11th.

But, in week 26 in his final rankings Schuhmann moved the OKC Thunder back into his top ten (ranked 10th). Notably, with the Utah Jazz finishing out the stretch on fire they made the stat masters top five (ranked 4th).

"The Thunder were playing with fire with a 2-5 stretch and wildly inconsistent numbers on both ends of the floor. Paul George (shooting 33 percent over the last seven games) is still struggling offensively and the OKC lineup with George and four reserves still ranks as the league’s second worst lineup (minus-21 points per 100 possessions) among those that have played at least 100 minutes together. They still haven’t clinched anything, but that unit had good minutes in the fourth quarter on Saturday and the Thunder held the league’s No. 1 offense to just 40 points in the second half to get a huge win in Houston. If they finish 5-8 in the West, it would be difficult not to see the Thunder as the most dangerous low seed. They’re the only team that has two wins against both the Rockets and Warriors."

Takeaways from Schuhman

The key notes to be taken from the man with the best stats in the business were his points made regarding Paul George. For a good portion of the season the narrative has been PG should be in consideration for DPOY.

Yet, it’s hard to rationalize his play warrants that consideration particularly with how poorly he’s played with the reserve unit (minus 21). As noted through the first two games of the series PG has been lights out ‘Playoff P’ and then had a rough night in Game 2.

Moving forward, Billy Donovan will need to pull the right strings with the team playing the next two on the road. A point of contention here at TI this season is why Donovan never experimented with Carmelo Anthony and some iteration of the reserves.

Surely Melo’s size and scoring could’ve offered advantages. At this stage it’s difficult to start running out lineups who haven’t experienced time to gel. Hindsight is 20-20, but let’s hope this decision doesn’t come back to bite OKC.

ESPN – Panel

Unsurprisingly the panel moved the OKC Thunder yet again in week 26. This time they dropped the squad three spots from their previous ninth rank to 12th.

Like Schuhmann the panel offers up a stat which is showing up in the postseason. In this case it’s the clutch time issues the OKC Thunder struggle with.

ESPN’s panel:

ESPN: Kevin Arnovitz | Amin Elhassan |Ramona Shelburne

The Undefeated: Marc J. Spears | FiveThirtyEight: Chris Herring

"Russell Westbrook is chasing a triple-double average once again, but the Thunder have bigger concerns. Clinching a playoff berth is one thing, but making a compelling run is another. Last season, the Thunder ranked favorably during clutch time, finishing top-10 in plus-minus (second), 3-point percentage (seventh) and overall field goal percentage (ninth). This season? OKC is 19th in clutch-time plus-minus and ranks 22nd in both 3-point and overall field goal percentage. — James Jackson"

Bleacher Report:

In his final power ranking of the OKC Thunder Bleacher Report scribe Grant Hughes held the squad steady in ninth place.

Grant noted the timeliness of Paul George hitting his stride at just the right time. Most noteworthy, Grant ranked the Thunder’s first round opponent Jazz third overall citing their defense. And, he further stated the Jazz (with Gobert) were the best NBA team for half the season.

That said, rankings are meant to be picked apart and Hughes offered up a few questionable ranks. For example the Raptors and Celtics were ranked 5th and 13th respectively. Likewise the 3-0 Warriors were harshly ranked 7th while the Blazers were slotted in a generous 6th. Yet, arguably the best sign of where teams rank on the season isn’t necessarily indicative of how they’ll play in the postseason came with Hughes ranks for the Pelicans and Cavaliers.

In each case Hughes designated the rank based on how well he expected the teams to perform in the playoffs. What he might have missed was the simple procedure of looking at opponent matchups. Hence, the current 3-0 Pelicans were placed 12th while the 1-2 LeBron led Cavaliers ranked second.

Hughes was one of the better analysts and also ranked fairly based on performance for most of the season. Unfortunately, he vacillated on this final power ranking allowing LeBron and previous performance to affect the placement.  Still, Hughes isn’t wrong about the Jazz and they remain a tough opponent for the OKC Thunder as they are clearly discovering.

Hughe’s comments

"Russell Westbrook hoarded 20 boards in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s final game to become the only player in history to average a triple-double (25.4 ppg, 10.3 apg, 10.1 rpg) in two straight seasons. His Thunder closed out the year on a three-game winning streak that helped secure home-court advantage in the first round against the Utah Jazz.If Paul George‘s recent shooting is any indication, he seems to have snapped out of his slump at just the right time. He hit eight of 14 long-range shots on the way to 40 points in Wednesday’s win over the Grizzlies and was 16-of-34 on threes in OKC’s three wins this week. With George rolling, the Thunder are suddenly a much more dangerous team."

Sports Illustrated – The Crossover

Rohan Nadkarni didn’t provide a ranking after his week 25 listing, so his final placement of the OKC Thunder was 11th.

CBS Sports:

Chris Barnewell followed the lead of Bleacher Report’s Hughes by giving credit to teams who played consistently all season as well as teams with past success. Well,  sort of. Barnewell prefaced his final picks citing season consistency, top performances on both sides of the court, talent, injuries entering round 1 and past success. But, this is where the picks got a little wonky and inconsistent.

More from Thunderous Intentions

For example the Rockets who began the playoffs without Luc Mbah a Moute. Moreover, Houston haven’t exactly excelled in recent postseason play and suffered losses late in season.

Yet, Houston was held firmly in place (1st). Meanwhile their eastern counterparts were punished with arguably a stronger case to be made given Barnewell’s ranking caveats. In fact, the Raptors rank behind only the Warriors and Cavaliers for playoff wins the past two seasons.

His eighth rank of the OKC Thunder (despite his comments below) seem to verify ‘star talent’ is what he placed the most value on. Barnewell ranked four west teams higher (Rockets, Warriors, Blazers and Jazz). Some hits, some misses.

"No. 4 seed in the West: On star power alone, the Thunder wouldn’t shock anybody with a deep run. However, if they’re going to go on that run, then Russell Westbrook needs to look less like empty calories and more like a superstar leading his team. Paul George has been phenomenal in spurts, but he and Westbrook haven’t been enough to make the Thunder look any better than an above-average playoff team. There is nothing elite about the Thunder."

Next: Round 1 complete series hub article compilation

That wraps up the seasonal power rankings for the 2017-18 campaign. It’s been fun to follow the scribes picks each and every week of the season. The Stat based rankings always offer interesting tidbits and if nothing else ‘the panel’ gave Thunder Nation ample water cooler fodder.