It took 20 weeks but all the pundits who use the Monday to Sunday schedule unilaterally rank the OKC Thunder in their top 10.
With the season shaping into wild races for playoff seeds and fighting for positioning the world was dealing with the coronavirus. Although nobody knew at the time this was the last full week of games teams would play. As it turned out week 20 featured the last games the OKC Thunder would play prior to the suspension.
OKC was at the center of the storm as news of Rudy Gobert‘s positive COVID-19 test resulted in the cancellation of the Jazz – Thunder game and shortly after the announcement of the season suspension.
The good news is the pundits all aligned with top 10 placements for the team (except one ranking list which doesn’t use the same schedule and therefore was missing the Celtics win).
With that let’s see where the National pundits rank the OKC Thunder in week 19 of the NBA Power Rankings.
NBA.com – John Schuhmann:
The master of the stat is the first power ranking yours truly pulls up weekly to discover what wonderful hidden revelation John Schuhmann has unearthed about each team. And, of course, to discover who makes his top five list.
Placement in that upper echelon feels like a right of passage and this week the OKC Thunder has reached that benchmark. In prior weeks the Thunder got as high as sixth on Schuhmann’s list but hitting the top five is something that should be celebrated.
Schuhmann clearly notes the regression of teams like the Jazz, Nuggets, and Rockets who’ve all placed ahead of the Thunder for most of the season. Consistency finally won over the scribe as did winning on the road and of course the clutch time prowess. OKC joins the top three clubs in the league (Bucks, Lakers, Raptors) and the team most feel has the best shot at the title due to star power and depth (Clippers).
It’s a jump of three spots by the Thunder who leap from eighth to fifth.
Here’s a portion of his excerpt from this week …
With two more games remaining (both at home) against the fourth-place Jazz, whom they trail by two games in the loss column with the season series tied 1-1, the Thunder control their own destiny in the fight for the 4 seed. Of course, given how good they’ve been on the road, maybe home-court advantage in the first round isn’t all that important.
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
I’ve got a bit of a bone to pick with the panel. In their excerpt by Royce Young, they recognize the bounce-back week of the OKC Thunder. Young cites the amazing comeback victory over the Celtics while missing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Yet inexplicably the panel places those same Celtics in fifth. Wait – what?
It’s understandable for the Bucks, Lakers, Clippers, and Raptors to place in the upper tier plus crediting the Jazz and Heat for strong weeks is fine. But, seriously how did they come up with the placement of teams five, six, and nine?
The Celtics gave up an 18 point lead to the Thunder and lost to the Nets and Jazz as well with only a single win over the Cavaliers — but again they rank fifth?? The Nuggets lost BADLY to the Warriors and barely beat the Hornets and Cavaliers (both games won by two points) and yet they place sixth.
Adding insult to injury, however, is the placement of the Rockets in ninth. Houston lost all four games in week 20. Although the Clippers loss is understandable the other three losses were to the Knicks, Hornets and a 20 point beat down by the Magic.
OKC also lost to the Clippers prior to winning three road games versus the Pistons, Knicks and capped the week with the 18 point comeback victory over the Celtics.
But — here they are 10th on the Panel’s list — dropped two spots from the previous week. Seriously — what gives?
Click this link for the full panel rankings.
The Thunder were put in their place in back-to-back games by two of the league’s elites last week, so they had something to prove Sunday in Boston. Without their leading scorer, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder trailed by as many as 18 points. Then they did what they know how to do better than anybody: win a close game. Dennis Schroder added to his Sixth Man of the Year campaign by picking Kemba Walker‘s pocket and scoring the go-ahead bucket with 8.5 seconds left to steal a win against the Celtics. — Young
Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report reiterates Royce Young’s comments about the OKC Thunder being “significantly lower than the elite”. Yet, all season Hughes has quickly pointed to the consistency and ability of the club to win in the clutch. He holds them steady in ninth this week.
A portion of his excerpt is below and the rest of it along with his full rankings list can be found by clicking this link.
Oklahoma City had little trouble with the Knicks and Pistons on the road after those tough defeats against elite competition, and Sunday’s win over a shorthanded Boston Celtics team was even more meaningful.
There’s still an outside chance the Thunder could finish as high as third in the West if the Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Jazz keep struggling with consistency.
Sports Illustrated – The Crossover
Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated – The Crossover hasn’t ever viewed the OKC Thunder as among his top five clubs. Still, he recognizes their constancy and the win in Boston vaulted them up two spots on his list to 10th.
Shapiro’s full ranking list can be viewed via this link.
Chris Paul and the Thunder continue to be among the season’s best stories. Oklahoma City exits the weekend now No. 5 in the Western Conference, defeating the Celtics in Boston on Sunday behind 28 points and seven assists from CP3. The Thunder obviously aren’t title contenders, but make no mistake: nobody wants to face OKC in April.
Writer Phil Watson of Hoops Habit holds the distinction of being the only pundit who doesn’t place the OKC Thunder in the top 10. Part of that might be because his ranking list runs from Sunday to Saturday instead of Monday to Sunday. That means the team he ranked fourth (the Celtics) weren’t part of his equation.
In fact, like the ESPN Panel, his list credits teams like the Celtics, Nuggets, and Rockets all ahead of OKC. Since he’s missing the Sunday games where big losses occurred to the above teams it’s at least more understandable than the Panel’s odd ranking.
Watson holds the Thunder in 12th and highlights the work of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander through this point in the season.
For the full excerpt and the rest of Watson’s rankings click this link.
Second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues his breakout campaign, scoring 27 points with three assists, two steals and two blocks in the win at Detroit on Wednesday. For the week, he put up 20.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks in 30.1 minutes per game, shooting 67.6 percent overall and nailing 4-of-9 from long range.
CBS Sports writer Colin Ward-Henninger follows his peers suit by ranking the Thunder in his top 10. He moves them up one spot from eighth to seventh.
Ward-Henniger notes the absence of Gilgeous-Alexander and cites Dennis Schroder for stepping up in his stead.
For Ward-Henniger’s full power ranking list click this link.
With its win over the Celtics on Sunday, OKC gained sole possession of the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, ahead of the Houston Rockets — simply remarkable given the outlook for this team heading into the season.
The Thunder even beat Boston without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, as Dennis Schroder came up with the game-winning steal and layup in the final seconds. He led the team with 22.5 points per game this week, to go along with 4.5 assists on 38 percent 3-point shooting.
That wraps up this week’s column for where the pundits ranked the OKC Thunder in week 20. The club’s high rank was fifth and the lowest rank is 12th, although again, that one ranking is missing the Sunday win over the Celtics which otherwise might’ve meant a clean sweep of top 10 rankings
Make sure to add Thunderous Intentions to your bookmarks and visit us daily for insights on your favorite team and players.