OKC Thunder: National writers question the ‘tank’ in week 3 of power rankings

Week three witnessed lots of shuffling on the national power rankings list with most writers rewarding the OKC Thunder for a stellar 3-1 week.

In week three of the national sites’ power rankings, there was lots of shuffling on the lists. For the most part, the pundits rewarded a solid 3-1 week by the OKC Thunder with huge leaps up the ladder.

The other common denominator was the uncertainty surrounding teams who were hit hard by the pandemic. More games were postponed, not so much because of a massive increase in positive tests. Rather, the NBA is being diligent about contract tracing so that means several rosters experienced more than a full lineup worth of players placed in quarantine.

One thing that became clear is which players tend to spend the most time together. Teams like the Heat and 76ers were greatly affected. However, it was interesting to note the Heat had to shut down their superstars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo along with reserve and end of bench players.

In contrast, the 76ers who also had to put more than a lineup worth of players on ice, didn’t have it affect their two superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Reading between the lines, perhaps that speaks to how close the entire Heat roster is and why they functioned so well in the Orlando bubble (because they function as a team – – on and off the court).

As for the OKC Thunder power rankings, they range from a low of 25th to a high of 15th (yes you read that correctly). This also speaks to the variance in how differently the analysts evaluate the teams and determine their pecking order.

As per usual, Thunderous Intentions has compiled the national sites’ power rankings including excerpts on the OKC Thunder.

Some pundits questioning OKC Thunder ‘tank’ in week 3 power rankings

With that let’s see where the National pundits rank the OKC Thunder in week three of the NBA  Power Rankings.

NBA.com – John Schuhmann:

The OKC Thunder got a special hat tip from the stats man of the NBA in this edition. Every week Schuhmann selects two teams to fill out his  “Make it last forever” and “Something just ain’t right” section at the top of his power rankings. I’d give you two guesses but after the road trip I’m pretty confident you know which spot they landed in:

Make It Last Forever: Oklahoma City (3-1) — Break up the Thunder (again)! They went 4-1 on a five-game road trip.

The Kings landed in the less prestigious of those spots.

As for the rest of his week four offering, below is a portion of his excerpt as he vaults them up to 20th, eight rungs higher than last week’s 28th rating.

The Thunder starters have played the most minutes (171) of any lineup in the league. But coach Mark Daigneault has been tinkering with his second unit, which now includes second-year big man Isaiah Roby. And though the 19-year-olds (Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski) are still getting consistent burn, the bench minutes have been strong as the Thunder have won three straight games to climb into playoff position in the West. (Yeah, it’s early.)

For the rest of Schuhmann’s Thunder comments and the rest of his power rankings click here.

ESPN Poll:

The ESPN panel votes on seeding and ranked the OKC Thunder 24th this week moving them up four spots.

The panel isn’t as high on the performance of this young team who feasted on the road. Perhaps the opponents they beat was part of the issue. While it’s understandable the Nets rank ahead it’s inexplicable both the Knicks and Pelicans do.

New York played four games winning two but only one of those was on the road (Hawks) and they LOST to the Thunder. Worse – the Pelicans played all three of their games at home and lost them all. The takeaway here is ESPN places more emphasis on “potential” to perform well this season than actual results.

The full listing can be found here.

Wait, are the Thunder really doing this again? Last season was expected to be the beginning of a rebuild, but OKC shocked the West all season long. After starting 1-3, the Thunder went on a 4-1 road trip with wins against the Magic, Pelicans, Knicks and Nets. The standout reason: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. On the trip, SGA averaged 20.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists, featuring a 31-6-7 line against the Nets on Sunday. But before Thunder fans start dreaming about another overachieving season, the upcoming schedule may be a reality check. — Young

Bleacher Report:

Mo Dakhil gives OKC credit for a fantastic road trip and pays homage to the solid week by many of the youngsters. However, the Bleacher Report scribe suggests the teams the Thunder beat (other than the Nets) doesn’t move the needle much. Hence he moves them up a measly two spots from 24th to 22nd this week.

At least Dakhil ranked the Pelicans lower and only spot behind the Knicks (who played/beat tougher opponents) which is more than the ESPN panel did. A portion of Dakhil’s excerpt can be found below.

Oklahoma City has the second-worst offensive rating in the NBA but the 11th-best defensive rating. Clearly the focus is on teaching the young kids to defend. It has resulted in them being 5-4, so why are the Thunder so low in the rankings?

Their wins have not been against any of the top teams. Their biggest win came against the Nets without Kyrie Irving and in Kevin Durant’s first game back from COVID protocols.

The full article is available via this link

CBS Sports:

In a bit of a shocker, Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports took an about-face on the OKC Thunder this week. Last week he dropped them all the way down to 29th but reprieves himself by vaulting them 14 spots up the ladder to 15th in week three. The feather in the cap is he ranks them ahead of the Nets!

Whereas the ESPN panel tends to rank more on potential or presumed long-term performance CWH tends to rank and reward based on performance in the given week he’s ranking.

For CWH’s full power rankings placement click this link.

OKC was blown out by the Heat to start the week, but rattled off three straight wins against the Pelicans, Knicks and Nets. In what was supposed to be the first year of a rebuild, the Thunder are sitting above .500 behind the outstanding play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who averaged 23.8 points, 6.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game this week on 45 percent 3-point shooting. They’ve also seen strong development from Darius Bazley and Hamidou Diallo to go with consistent play from veterans Al Horford and George Hill.

Sports Illustrated:

Michael Shapiro of Sports Illustrated – The Crossover notes the overachieving start by the Thunder and similar to last week, credits Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The 25th placement on his power rankings feels a bit stingy but he’s consistently raised them two spots each week.

The following is his excerpt on the Thunder while his full rankings can be viewed here.

So much for the tanking Thunder. Oklahoma City has won four of its last five following Sunday’s win over the Nets, punctuating the impressive week with a double-digit victory despite 36 points from Kevin Durant.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to grow as a leading man. Hamidou Diallo has 48 points in his last two games. This team isn’t completely devoid of young talent, and a wave of draft picks is on the way. Sam Presti continues to wring the most out of the assets on hand in Oklahoma City.

Hoops Habit:

Intentions sister site Hoops Habit isn’t necessarily buying the hype around the OKC Thunder this week. Although writer Corey Rausch moved the Thunder up four spots last week he held them steady in 23rd after their impressive 3-1 record (all on the road) in week three.

The following is a portion of his excerpt on the Thunder while the full ranking list can be found here.

Widely expected to be the worst team in the league this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a thorn in the side of any team that plays them. A different young guy is ready to step up and show that he belongs seemingly every game…

This team still has moves to make as it seems hard to believe Al Horford and George Hill both finish the season on a team playing more for ping pong balls than playoff seeding. Either way, this team has exhibited the next man up mentality that will keep them competitive throughout the year.

This completes the power ranking offerings for the third week of NBA action.

Which of the writers/analysts do you think got the OKC Thunder ranking right this week? Let us know in the comments section.