Loss of superstars equates to OKC Thunder dropping from 27 to 3 national TV games

NBA referees, OKC Thunder (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA referees, OKC Thunder (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Along with the 2019-20 regular season itinerary the nationally televised game schedule was also released with the OKC Thunder taking a huge step back.

If OKC Thunder fans wondered what losing superstars like Russell Westbrook would mean the first and loudest sign is the meager three Nationally televised primetime games the team has this season. Although the team will get nine games on NBA TV they’ll only be on ESPN twice and TNT once for a total of three primetime games, 12 if you count NBA TV.

NBA big on Zion:

It’s clear the NBA is all in on Zion with the Pelicans drawing the opening night game against the Raptors and the final game on Christmas night. In addition, the Pelicans get 20 Nationally televised games, for a total of 30 games.

OKC Thunder fans won’t get the Christmas game this season. After nine consecutive years playing on the holiday (and nine out of 11 seasons), this ends their streak.  The Raptors meanwhile get their second Christmas game in 25 seasons and first at home and then have to suffice with the time slot no one wants (noon EST, 11 a.m. CT). And, that’s not even the worst situation since the Grizzlies and Hornets have never played on the holiday, nor will this season.


How the teams rank:

As for the rest of the television schedule, it’s not surprising the Lakers lead the pack with 43 games. Specifically, LeBron and company will play five games on ABC, 14 on ESPN, 12 on TNT and 12 on NBA TV. The sponsors and Adam Silver better hope neither Anthony Davis or LeBron James sustain injuries or it could be a repeat of what occurred last year in LA.

Despite the injury to Klay Thompson, and losses of Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston the Golden State Warriors rank second with 42 National games. Given the Dubs still boast Stephen Curry and Draymond Green and will be entering their new Chase Center venue that’s obviously enough star power to draw viewers.

Westbrook and George receive continued television exposure:

While the Thunder lose out on national games Russell Westbrook’s addition to the Rockets and Paul George‘s addition to the Clippers finds their squads landing the third most nationally televised games.

Westbrook and James Harden get five games on ABC, 11 on ESPN, 10 on TNT, 12 on NBA TV equating to 38 in total. Likewise, George and Kawhi Leonard nab four ABC games, 11 on ESPN, 11 on TNT, and 12 on NBA TV for the same 38 game total.

Each of the Philadelphia 76ers (24/36), Milwaukee Bucks (24/34), Boston Celtics (25/9) and Brooklyn Nets (12/9) garner the most attention in the Eastern Conference.

Note bracketed totals reflect games on ABC/ESPN/TNT and the second number is the total games on NBA TV.

It would be completely understandable if fans north of the border aren’t feeling all warm and fuzzy since they fall under these clubs with 11 prime time games and eight NBA TV games including the ring ceremony on opening night and the Christmas game.

At least this year the NBA isn’t going to bombard us with copious Knicks games giving them just three National games and three on TNT. The Association also seems to have figured out who some of the lottery bound clubs will be. That said, I do think the Hawks and Bulls would be fun teams to watch and yet are getting just two and one games respectively and including NBA TV games nine and four total. Several other squads expected to be on the bottom tier also don’t get much exposure with the Cavaliers and Hornets ranking last of all clubs.

More from Thunderous Intentions

You have to feel for the Kings who were one of the more exciting clubs last season but they get just a single game on ESPN and seven games on TNT.

Hey, the NBA (and television sponsors) have spoken and clearly unless your team boasts a superstar or young player(s) the Association deems as having the potential to become a star you simply won’t get the exposure. Now watch DeAaron Fox go out and be one of the key reasons the U.S. win the FIBA World Cup and the big stations start trying to backtrack to get the Kings more exposure.

As for the OKC Thunder, it will be up to Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, and young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to put the Thunder back on the map.  The franchise experienced 11 seasons of somewhat unusual notoriety for a small market team.

We’ve been spoiled by the talent on the Thunder and specifically upper tier talent. With the team in a rebuild and no proven star (who isn’t over 34), it may take some time to get back into the national conversation.

dark. Next. Most anticipated Thunder games of the 2019-2020 season

SGA is the best bet, for now, that and 15 first round draft picks burning a hole in Sam Presti’s pocket. One lucky draft lottery and like the Pelicans the Thunder can be right back in the mix.