The scrimmage games offered insight into OKC Thunder player growth and team improvement.
Through three scrimmage games, the OKC Thunder demonstrated player growth and team improvements showcasing this squad came to Orlando with a mission on their mind.
The easiest positive to point to was the Thunder completed their three scrimmage games unbeaten and were one of only two teams to accomplish that feat (Pelicans).
Of the other 20 teams, nine teams won two and lost one, nine squads won one and lost two and two clubs lost all three games. (*see end of article for specifics)
Although these games won’t count toward the final standings they do serve valuable purposes. For all teams it allows players to ramp up their conditioning and measure where they are in terms of regaining their flow. With so long off the hardwood it’s essential the players take their time and allow their bodies to slowly get back to game shape in order to avoid unnecessary injuries.
Outside of that commonality, each squad looked at utilizing these scrimmage sessions for varying reasons. Some teams who have already locked in their playoff spot perhaps aren’t quite as worried about how far along the conditioning curve they are. Those few clubs can afford to build a bit more slowly since they’ve distanced themselves from the nearest opponent and have a bit of leeway.
For at least six teams being more prepared and aggressive is essential since they are chasing the ninth seed needing to be within a four-game margin of the eighth seed. Showcasing a variance even among these teams the Pelicans were unbeaten while the Wizards and Blazers failed to win a match.
Wins don’t necessarily indicate dominance though since a team may have been focusing on specific system tweaks. The Blazers have players returning who need to regain chemistry like Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins while they also held out Damian Lillard for two scrimmages due to swelling on the bottom of his foot. They could just as easily play the seeding games and suddenly shift to winning efforts.
That said, wins will always help build confidence and in the case of the OKC Thunder, the three victories offered some palpable benefits the team can carry into their seeding contests.