As teams reach the halfway point of the season TI takes a look at how the National sites view the OKC Thunder via their NBA midseason grades.
The NBA season is such an exhilarating spectacle that it can also be a roller coaster. For the OKC Thunder it started off a bit slow but they have continued to spiral upward, where they are now well in the race for the playoffs at the halfway point of the season.
As they silence outside noise with one of the youngest team’s in the league and veteran Chris Paul at the helm who can I just say has still got it and never lost it. It has been so much fun to watch so let’s see if the top national experts agree.
NBA.com – Shaun Powell
Shaun Powell of NBA.com gives the OKC Thunder a B+ for the first half of the season. He admires the way Chris Paul has led the team and built a comradery within the group. And is also impressed with the persistence and savviness of General Manager Sam Presti which contributed to securing future star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Powell does make a point of whether the Thunder should trade players to gain more assets in the future. His grade is fair considering OKC is not the best team in the league or began the season firing. In my opinion, they have done everything they can to have success right now and have proven they can compete with the best, which could bump them up. Nevertheless, B+ is not a bad grade.
Is it too early to say the Thunder won the Russell Westbrook trade? Perhaps so, although right now they’re feeling good about the state of things in OKC. Not only do they own a treasure chest of first-round picks from Houston and the Clippers (from the Paul George deal), the idea of this being a rebuilding year was effectively flushed by Chris Paul.
The veteran guard had every reason to pout and hatch an exit strategy from OKC once he arrived from Houston, and yet he’s been the exact opposite on every level. Not only is Paul playing well here in his twilight, he’s being a leader, good soldier and inspiration to the younger players on the roster.
Click this link to read Powell’s full list of grades in the West.
Bleacher Report – Dan Favale
Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale gives the OKC Thunder an A and believes that they were always going to be a good team with the talent that they have. He highlights the rise of Gilgeous-Alexander and explains how OKC has many options, revealing that they are open to trading players.
It would be sad to see any specific player of the Thunder traded away and I stick with my stance that they should hold tight. However, if they do decide to be active leading up to the trade deadline, it would be silly not to have faith in Presti and the front office who do what is best for the franchise. And from history every decision always denotes excellence.
Cracking the Western Conference playoff race is not an against-all-odds feat for the Oklahoma City Thunder. A team with Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul would always make noise. Whether they’d stay together long enough to remain competitive was the issue.
That hasn’t changed. The Thunder are comfortably above .500 and closer to the West’s second seed than ninth place, but they remain committed to the bigger picture. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently said on SportsCenter that they’re “open for business” ahead of the trade deadline (h/t OKC Dream Team podcast’s Andrew Schlecht).
Click this link to read the rest of the above excerpt and Favale’s midseason grades.
Sports Illustrated – The Crossover
Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated couldn’t have said it any better because I agree with all of his points. I promise you it’s not just my fandom talking.
He grades the OKC Thunder an A- and is enjoying how OKC is playing. Nadkarni was one of the very few who wrote back in July about how they were still going to be a tough team this season. Alluding to the leadership of CP3 and how he, SGA and Schroder are all shining in their own way. As a result of this, he thinks OKC should persist with the current squad.
It’s not completely shocking the Thunder are playing this well. I wrote all the way back in July I expected a baseline level of competence from OKC, thanks in large part to the presence of Chris Paul. CP3 has delivered, while Denis Schroder has been a sparkplug off the bench and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has looked like a future All-Star.
The city of Oklahoma will be buzzing when they read the rest of this. The full list of Nadkarni’s midseason grades is available via this link.
CBS Sports – Panel
The Panel at CBS Sports shares their thoughts on how well NBA teams have done after 41 games in action. Writer Colin Ward-Henninger takes an in-depth look at why the OKC Thunder got to where they are. He also grades them an A.
Once again mentioning the dangerous three guard lineup and raving about the team’s incredible statistics. This shows how they are blessed with the best of both worlds. As Ward-Henninger explains whatever OKC does, they’ve still got support through draft picks and also current talent.
This continues the Thunder’s run as a determined team who for much of the last decade, has remained in sight of everyone. Players have gone, a Coach has gone but never the winning mentality.
How did they get here: The Thunder remedied their glaring lack of wing depth with a simple solution: Just don’t play any wings! The lineup of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams has the best net rating of any five-man unit in the league that has played over 100 minutes together — an absolutely absurd plus-31.4.
Part of that is a breakout year from Gilgeous-Alexander and a bounce-back year from Schroder, but the MVP of the team has been Paul, who has helped the Thunder go 17-11 in games that meet the NBA’s “clutch” criteria (within five points with five minutes remaining).
Follow this link to read CBS Sports’ full list of grades.
Yes, I proudly grade OKC with an A. They have won seven of their last ten games, playing with nothing but tenacity and purpose every single night. Backing each other, motivating the guys coming up and continuing to fight no matter the circumstance.
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It is good to consider not just the Thunder winning, but who they are beating too. They’ve gone up against All-Star lineups and Championship caliber sides such as the LA Clippers, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks and beaten them.
This is who OKC is and this is who they’ve always been. I’ll always remember what their inspiring leader CP3 said during the Media Day in October. “It’s funny because a lot of people try to tell your truth, try to tell your story, say what you want and a lot of stuff.”
Well, this success and team have taken time to write a piece of their own story game by game. As we hit the halfway point, they bring light to what can transpire when you believe in what you have and just run with it. Isn’t it a great time to be a Thunder fan.
That concludes the National NBA writers’ and reporters’ midseason grades for 2019/20. Looks like everyone is aboard the Thunder train.
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