OKC Thunder finish decade with best Western Conf. December record

Chris Paul #3 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder react after a big play late in the fourth quarter during their game against the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Chris Paul #3 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder react after a big play late in the fourth quarter during their game against the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /

As the OKC Thunder clutch time kings flip to 2020 they enter with the Western Conference’s top record over the final month of the decade.

Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, several teams have taken center stage as pundits and analysts alike spotlighted the elite or the preseason underestimated clubs. And, now it’s time the OKC Thunder get their due for what they’ve accomplished through 10 weeks of action.

As the calendar turned to launch a new decade and the 2020 portion of the season, the majority of teams have completed 40 percent of their NBA schedules.

The season gets analyzed in various segments depending on who is doing the review. Based on the Rockets cutting Carmelo Anthony after 10 games last year and the New York Knicks brain trust holding an impromptu November 10th press conference (following their 10th game) it cemented the thinking front offices tend to break the season down in 10 game segments.

There are the three typical tiers the media and Vegas use as markers such as the quarter pole, trade deadline/All-Star Break and the stretch segment.

Analysts and pundits utilize all the same segments above plus weekly and monthly sections particularly to gauge which teams are ascending and which are regressing. The longer the term the more viable the data to utilize for comparison.

This brings me to my point and why the OKC Thunder deserves accolades.

November performance emulated playoff seeds:

In the month of November, 12 teams registered nine of more wins. An additional two nabbed eight wins. Of those 14 teams, all but one is still a seeded playoff team (Sacramento Kings). In addition, of the nine teams who won 10 or more games, seven are still ranked in the top four spots of their conferences. The two teams who are below the four seed are the 76ers and Pacers and the team with less than 10 wins with a home court seed is the Miami Heat.

  • 15 wins: Bucks
  • 14 wins: Lakers
  • 11 wins: Pacers
  • 10 wins: Celtics, Nuggets, Rockets, Clippers, 76ers, Raptors
  • Nine wins: Nets, Mavericks, Heat
  • Eight wins: Kings, Jazz

The only other anomaly in November is three teams posted 15, 14 and 11 wins to stand out from the pack. Those clubs were the Bucks, Lakers, and Pacers respectively with the top two still leading their conferences and the again the Pacers being a playoff seed but positioned in fifth.

December results:

Despite virtually every pundit stating Chris Paul was aging and regressing and the team was headed for a guaranteed lottery club, they delivered one of the best December performances in the Association with an 11-4 final record. It was the best record achieved in the West and tied for second overall.

  • 13 wins: Bucks
  • 11 wins: Heat, Thunder
  • 10 wins: Celtics, Nuggets, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers
  • Nine wins: Lakers, 76ers, Raptors, Mavericks, Jazz
  • Eight wins: Grizzlies
  • Seven wins: Bulls, Magic, Spurs

Diving into the month of December three teams stood above the rest with the Bucks holding the most wins again while the Heat and OKC Thunder ranked just behind in second.

Of the 13 teams with nine or more wins, all are currently seeded and all home court seeded clubs have nine or more wins in December.

The two outliers are the Grizzlies with eight wins and of course the Thunder who’ve catapulted into the seventh seed.

OKC holds a 3.5 game margin over the team directly behind them the San Antonio Spurs and has four additional wins. Many are discussing the chase pack behind the Thunder, however, it’s also notable that the Jazz and Mavericks hold a smaller edge over the Thunder than OKC does over San Antonio.

The moral of this story is – as easily as the chase pack could catch the Thunder — likewise it’s as conceivable the Thunder could make up the three games in the loss column to catch the Jazz or Mavericks.

For those who think it’s unlikely, I’ll point you to the start of the season when basically the entire NBA analyst group predicted OKC would be nestled comfortably in the basement for the season. Then I’ll direct you back to the December and note how the Thunder tied with the Heat with the second strongest performance in the NBA.

Is it a coincidence the two teams who excel in the clutch are the Thunder and Heat? Probably not.

More from Thunderous Intentions

In the 15 games, the Thunder played in December nine teams are currently seeded teams although at the time OKC played Portland they were seeded and the Suns were still firmly in the mix as well.

January Looms:

Moving into January, 10 of their opponents are currently seeded but the Spurs, Nets and Magic’s berth is precarious at best. The remaining seven games feature non playoff seeds but several with visions of ascending (Wolves twice, Blazers, Kings, and Suns).

Ten of the 17 January games occur on the road and of the seven taking place at Chesapeake only two teams are off the playoff ladder (Hawks, Blazers). The other five aren’t just seeded four own home court positions (Rockets, Lakers, Raptors, Heat) and the fifth team is none other than the Mavericks who’ll no doubt be anxious to make amends for the loss on New Year’s Eve.

That all of these games will be occurring as the February 6th trade deadline date approaches will make for interesting fodder along the way.

The fan base has no idea if Sam Presti is about to hold a fire sale to take advantage of the players currently demonstrating prowess. If he does a fall from this position of latitude is inevitable.

Next. Power Rankings week 9: OKC Thunder among comeback kings. dark

What we do know, is this iteration of OKC Thunder is long overdue for the praise the Clutch time kings have earned to position themselves alongside the Bucks and Heat as the best performing trio in the final month of the decade!