In general national media lists for week 18 of the NBA Power Rankings are finally recognizing the sustained excellence of the OKC Thunder.
As teams returned from the break there was a renewed focus on the playoff ladder, positioning and emphasis on the closing schedule. That led to pundits looking at how teams had performed through the first 55 days of the schedule and subsequently the OKC Thunder were benefactors of this review.
Many sites and media members who previously refused to put the Thunder in their top 10 realized not only was OKC not going away – in fact they are getting stronger.
Previously a loss here or there resulted in the Thunder unilaterally dropping down lists always sticking in the range of 11th to 15th. However, it’s hard to discount the team with the third best record since Thanksgiving!
With that, let’s take a look where the national sites ranked the OKC Thunder in week 18 of the NBA Power Rankings.
NBA.com – John Schuhmann:
Whoa – the guy known as the stats man serves up some interesting tidbits on the OKC Thunder this week. More importantly, he vaults them all the way up to his highest ranking ever for the club to sixth on his list.
That’s a three ranking jump in a territory often reserved for the most elite in the association. Impressive!
One notable from Schuhmann is the Thunder record against elite clubs. In fairness, the Thunder schedule hasn’t served up many elite clubs in mass doses They played a ton early before they found their stride and chemistry and will finish the season with a bunch on tap.
Here’s a portion of his excerpt from this week …
The Thunder still have the worst record (8-15) in games played between the 13 teams that are currently over .500. But they came out of the break with a win over Denver on Friday. Chris Paul had zero points, just one assist and four turnovers through the first 15 minutes against the Nuggets’ more aggressive pick-and-roll defense, but figured things out after that, got to his spots, and finished with 29 points on 11-for-17 shooting.
To read the rest of the above excerpt by Schuhmann and the entirety of his power ranking list click on the following link.
ESPN – Panel
ESPN’s panel: ESPN: Tim MacMahon |Andre’ Snellings | Royce Young | Bobby Marks, The Undefeated: Marc J. Spears
Perhaps I should’ve clarified regarding most pundits or added the caveat “the Panel” who never fails to cite the Thunder prowess but simultaneously never credit them for it.Despite how hot the Thunder has been and the teams they are beating the group still held them in 10th for the third straight week.
I mean – how on earth do the Jazz rank ahead of the Thunder after the weeks each team delivered? Even if they ignore one week look back over the past 10 games and it’s not even close! It feels like the panel maybe has buyer’s remorse from the last few seasons and are reticent to commit again in case the team ends up bowing out in the first round.
Click this link for the full panel rankings and the rest of the excerpt.
At 35-22, the Thunder would need to go 15-10 in their remaining 25 games to get to 50 wins — something the franchise hasn’t done since Kevin Durant was wearing a Thunder uniform. Fifteen of those games are on the road, which might make the task seem more daunting; but then again, the Thunder are riding an eight-game road winning streak. They came out of the break with a barometer game against the Nuggets — a possible first-round opponent — and put down an impressive 12-point win. The Thunder are serious. — Young
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report is a favorite – other than John Schuhmann his offerings each week are sure to tantalize with some heady stat.
This week his focus is on the consistency of the Thunder, Chris Paul’s effect on and off the court and the excerpt below.
Hughes is speaking of the clutch time crew of the “United Nations” who have feasted all season and rarely lose when they reach that critical clutch time. The good news is Hughes holds the Thunder steady in ninth, the bad news is he holds the Thunder steady in ninth instead of rewarding them for all the things he highlights.
His excerpt below touches on that killer Thunder closing unit. You can read his entire segment on the Thunder by clicking this link.
That lineup is an NBA-best plus-61 in fourth quarters. And that’s in just 84 minutes. As the battle for playoff positioning heats up, all these high-leverage possessions played by OKC’s closing lineup will come in handy. This is a battle-tested team that could absolutely pull off a first-round upset.
At this rate, the Thunder even have a shot to finish fourth and be a favorite at the start of the postseason.
Sports Illustrated – The Crossover
After missing a week, Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated – The Crossover returns with a power rankings list that touches on most teams’ chances at the title or playoff expectations.
Interestingly he avoids all title or playoff talk for the Thunder instead electing to focus on Chris Paul and his shot to make the Olympics.
In week 16 Shapiro ranked the team 13th and in week 18 his ranking pushes the Thunder up two spots to 11th.
Shapiro’s full ranking list can be viewed via this link.
Adrian Wojnarowski said on Saturday that there is, “traction” to get Chris Paul on the 2020 Olympic team, and rightfully so. Not only would Paul be a valuable presence off the floor, he can also still control the action as an ideal Olympic point guard. Paul is cerebral as they come. He feasts on a shorter three-point line. Paul would certainly be a worthy asset to Team USA, and a third gold medal would help brandish his legacy as one of the greatest point guards in the game’s history.
More from Thunderous Intentions
- OKC Thunder: Media ballots revealed for COY detailing Billy Donovan votes
- OKC Thunder: Paul George playoff failure adds credence to Presti winning trade
- Should the OKC Thunder exercise Deonte Burton team option?
- OKC Thunder: A later season start benefits development of young stars
- Should OKC Thunder pick up Hamidou Diallo team option?
For his power rankings list of week 18, writer Phil Watson of Hoops Habit examines all teams’ post All-Star break schedules. Watson also highlights each team’s best game from before the break and their long-range potential.
In week 18 he holds the OKC Thunder steady in 12th for the third week running. .
For the full excerpt and the rest of Watson’s rankings click this link.
Along with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the biggest surprises of the NBA’s first half. We had the Thunder — who traded away superstars Russell Westbrook and Paul George last summer — at No. 20 in the preseason NBA Power Rankings, but OKC has been terrific (28-12) after a 5-10 start.
The Thunder still have some work to do — with 27 games to go, their remaining schedule strength of .512 is the 13th most-difficult in the NBA, according to Tankathon.
Of all the national sites CBS Sports and NBA power rankings writer Colin Ward-Henninger gave the OKC Thunder their biggest nudge in his list. A week ago he placed the team 11th but vaults them to sixth this week.
Ward-Henninger was one of the only scribes to credit the Thunder for defeating the Nuggets in both his excerpt and in his positioning.
For Ward-Henniger’s full power ranking list click this link.
OKC picked up home wins over the Nuggets and Spurs this week, and now have sole possession of the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, just four games back in the loss column from the No. 2 seed. Luguentz Dort has become a viable rotation player for a team in desperate need of wings. He’s logged over 20 minutes in five of the last six games.
That wraps up this week’s column for where the pundits ranked the OKC Thunder in week 18. The club’s high rank was sixth and the lowest rank is 12th. Four lists have the team in the top 10 (five once TI’s ranking is posted) and two just outside that area.
Be sure to visit Thunderous Intentions daily for insight on your favorite team and players.