It is time for the OKC Thunder to embrace winning

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The 2019-20 OKC Thunder season started out as a quest to rebuild the franchise. To tank for a year, maybe two. Now, the team is ready to make a playoff push.

Wow, what a season it has been so far. We are only in the first week of January yet this season has taken on so many different twists and turns. The OKC Thunder sits with a record of 19-15 and holding the 7th seed in the Western Conference Playoffs as of Jan. 3rd. They have put the most entertaining product on the hardwood in years, and we are watching yet another star point guard develop before our eyes.

Let’s take it back to the Russell Westbrook trade. When the OKC Thunder announced they were shipping off Franchise staple, fan-favorite, and future Hall of Famer the entire fanbase went into tank mode. That was on the heels of trading Paul George to his hometown Clippers and breaking apart an already disappointing core.

After those trades, tanking was the only thing on our minds. If you will allow, let me peel back the curtain at Thunderous Intentions. After the trades went down, and the dust settled, I immediately rushed to our fearless leader at TI and put in a request to tackle the NBA Draft harder, and earlier than we ever had. With two first-round picks, and a roster that looked as if it would see a ton of losing and turnover throughout the season it felt like this year would be defined by the college game just as much as the NBA version.

I had ideas to do tanking updates each week, going to and running random simulations until the OKC Thunder nabbed the top pick. I immediately bookmarked the page.

Those plans get foiled when the OKC Thunder is currently pegged for the 18th pick (as well as the 26th pick from Denver) and are in the middle of a playoff push.

After yet another comeback win toppling the franchise that has long given the OKC Thunder fits in the San Antonio Spurs that saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lit it up yet again, it is time to embrace winning.

I was fully on board with tanking, I was excited to tank. I was counting down the days until the organization dealt Gallo, Dennis, CP3 and anyone else of even a little value so I could watch Shai Gilgeous-Alexander run the show and the OKC Thunder draft James Wiseman or Cole Anthony.

Now, the OKC Thunder are closer to making the playoffs than capturing the first overall pick. That is pretty obvious when you consider that they are currently seventh. However, even if this team falls apart for whatever the reason (poor play, trades, etc) they are closer to the 12-14th pick than a franchise-altering one.

At this point, making the postseason and getting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Hamidou Diallo playoff experience is more valuable than the right to draft maybe the 12th best draft-eligible player.

Sadly for some, the plans of tanking must be put on the backburner for at least a season. Heck, with SGA’s emergence, maybe the OKC Thunder can retool a championship level contender without outright tanking. While we all expected SGA to be fun, exciting, and new…no one expected him to play at an All-Star level in his first season with OKC (second in the NBA).

Chris Paul has been amazing for this organization. Sure, his play on the floor has been exceptional and clutch. What stands out the most is him stepping aside for SGA and allowing the young guard to take over games late, close games for the OKC Thunder, and grow. That is an experience I do not think SGA would get with most superstar veteran future Hall of Fame point guards.

Steven Adams, after a slow start, is playing some of his best basketball. Gallo has been a truly great complementary player and go-to scorer for this team. What the heck has gotten into Dennis Schroder? Everything seems to be breaking the Thunder’s way for the first time…ever?

This team is so fun to watch. It is truly exciting, and you can tell they are having fun together. For the first time in a long time, it is an enjoyable experience to sit down and watch the 82 regular-season games for the Thunder.

With no pressure, this team has found themselves in the exact same spot as the previous two iterations of the Thunder that featured Russell Westbrook and Paul George.

As we embrace winning, we shift our focus into making the NBA Playoffs. I hear some of you screaming at your screen: What is the point?! This team is not winning a title!

Outside of the experience, outside of being closer to a mediocre draft pick than a franchise-altering one, the answer is this team.

Yes, the team is not going to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. However, this team is going to be an extremely tough out. That could mean pushing a top seed to six or seven games in round one. It also could mean pulling off a round one upset! Even Bill Simmons on the latest Bill Simmons show said that this OKC Thunder team is going to be one you do not want to face-off within the postseason. He also said they are a good wing player away from being a dangerous team, which we can discuss later.

More from Thunderous Intentions

So what does all this mean? Should the OKC Thunder buy at the deadline? Do they just not trade anyone? What happens now?

Well, the Thunder absolutely do not need to buy anything at the deadline. While Bill Simmons is right, another veteran wing would bolster this roster, this season is not about “going for it.” it also is not about tanking. It is about the experience.

So do the OKC Thunder just not trade anyone? Well, in my opinion, you do not have a fire sale. When I was asked this in October, I said trade everyone and just get something in return. Now, that is only true for Danilo Gallinari, he is the only player that I would be okay with the team trading no matter the return. That is due to his expiring deal.

An outside solution to that is extending Gallo right now and dealing him in the summer, but that is an OKC pipedream. That gives you the ability to keep the band together for a playoff push, then in the summer start the tank. Ship off Gallo, CP3, and Dennis Schroder in July and enter the good ole tank.

The bottom line is, this is not the year to tank. Let’s just pull the tank back into the garage, or wherever you keep tanks, and we will dust it off next year.

dark. Next. The fan voted OKC Thunder All Decade team

Let us know what you think in the comment section, should the Thunder still try to trade anyone that they can at the deadline and make a second-half push for a high lottery pick instead of the postseason?