In the 12 year existence of the OKC Thunder, 2019-20 is the team’s best season performing against the spread.
In an article this weekend, ESPN writers highlighted each team’s top season performing against the spread. The research team at ESPN pulled up preseason projections and reviewed each club’s performance against those odds over the past three decades. Every team was assigned a year when they outperformed the initial projections. Only one team registered for 2019-20 – – the OKC Thunder!
That was a bit surprising given how many top talents have exited the team despite the brief 12-year history. Even rarer, is the fact at one point the Thunder had three future Most Valuable Players all on the same roster.
The late offseason trade of James Harden was surprising but the club still had two superstars on the roster. The loss of Kevin Durant was arguably the most shocking occurrence in franchise history, particularly since he joined the 73 win Warriors – a team the Thunder had on the ropes 3-1 prior to imploding.
Looking back over the 12 seasons those two departures, although tough to swallow, didn’t leave the team without at least one top tier talent. Even the season following Durant’s defection, Russell Westbrook went on to win his MVP. And, the next season Sam Presti added Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.
OKC best season versus the spread
Yet, it was this season that landed on top for the Thunder. The following is a portion of the ESPN excerpt:
2019-20 Oklahoma City Thunder (39-24-1 ATS)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, acquired in the Paul George trade, increased his scoring average from 10.8 in his rookie season to 19.3. The Thunder went 29-13 in clutch time (games within five points with five minutes left), the third-best record in the NBA, behind only the Bucks and Jazz.
In truth, this shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise. Most analysts and writers presumed the team would either miss the playoffs or be among the groups fighting for eighth. Recalling the TI writing team projections many of us fell in the latter category.
In fairness, there were a lot of presumptions associated with this choice. Clearly, the predominant belief was Sam Presti would trade Danilo Gallinari, Chris Paul, and possibly other players such as Dennis Schroder and Stephen Adams.
Despite Presti stating the team was committed to the ‘replenish and reformat era’, historically it was commonplace for the man running the show to trade a player in their contract year. This year those odds seemed high with expectations for the Thunder magician to pursue trade partners and draft picks. Instead, the newly assembled roster fit together like a glove.
Other than this season the one which likely was in the running was 2009-10, the second season in OKC. The squad improved by 27 wins netting 50 wins.
Instead, this year got the tap and for those who had the foresight to recognize how perfect this group would mesh and bet on them are smiling all the way to the bank.