With the trade deadline looming the OKC Thunder enter this week knowing they won’t be making moves to chase the 2022 title. That doesn’t mean they won’t be involved in any deals although it’s more likely they would play the role of facilitator to help another team clear space to land their desired asset.
The question is whether Sam Presti still covets draft picks given there isn’t much room left in that draft closet.
The Suns became the first team to register 40 wins and don’t appear to be slowing down while the East continues to shuffle the top, middle and play-in portion of the ladder making for an intriguing week-to-week shift.
Where National sites seed OKC Thunder in week 16 power rankings
Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and on a losing streak the OKC Thunder appeared to be headed for a double-digit losing streak. Instead, they ripped off three wins in a row with two wins versus the Blazers as well as an overtime victory against the Mavericks in Dallas no less.
Not surprisingly that resulted in the national sites moving them up the ladder. Let’s take a look at where each writer ranked them.
OKC Thunder power ranking – NBA.com:
As noted last week despite the lacking offense John Schuhmann hasn’t pushed the OKC Thunder to the bottom of the ladder often.
Though they landed there last week they didn’t stay in the cellar as he raises them three spots up the ladder to 27th in week 16.
In his Thunder excerpt, you can almost sense his incredulity at the fact OKC won games without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and how efficiently they did it. Schu also notes the defensive acumen of this group but reminds us they were top 10 last year before the break as well before the wheels fell off.
The excerpt below offers his insights on the wins and the players who helped garner the victories. For the full Thunder excerpt and the rest of his week 16 power rankings click here.
"When Shai Gilgeous-Alexander sprained his ankle 10 days ago, the Thunder were 0-5 without their star, having allowed more than 121 points per 100 possessions over those five losses. But they won the first three games after the injury, with no lineup playing more than 18 minutes together over those five days. The most impressive win of the three was Wednesday in Dallas, when the short-named Lu Dort (30, 6-for-10) and Tre Mann (29, 6-for-8) combined for 59 points and 12-for-14 from 3-point range, and when Josh Giddey and Kenrich Williams ad-libbed the game-tying inbounds play. (Williams still has a positive plus-minus in 933 total minutes for this team, by the way.)"
Week 16 arrives for the ESPN crew and shocker they seed the Thunder 27th — I told you that’s where they envision this iteration of the team in 2021-22.
To view the full power rankings by the panel for week 16 click here.
"Trading Paul George to the Clippers signaled that Oklahoma City was entering a rebuilding period after a decade of attempting to be contenders. Thunder general manager Sam Presti used Kawhi Leonard’s free agency as leverage — the Clippers needed to get George in order to sign the two-time Finals MVP — to extract incredible value out of the trade. Oklahoma City received a young potential franchise cornerstone in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps. — MacMahon"
Colin Ward-Henninger was impressed by the tenacity of the Thunder in their comebacks this week and subsequently lifted them two spots to 26th.
"OKC split two overtime games this week, losing to the Pacers and beating the Mavericks. In between, the Thunder came back from 18 points down to beat the Blazers by 17 in a solid win. In the absence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, rookie Tre Mann scored a career-high 29 points in the win over Dallas, while Josh Giddey averaged 14 points, 9.5 rebounds and seven assists in the two games after SGA went down — both Thunder wins."
After skipping week 15, writer Andy Bailey is back for week 16. Bailey dives into the contributions from Luguentz Dort and Josh Giddey picking up the slack without SGA.
He ranks the Thunder 26th in week 16. A portion of that excerpt is below and his full week 16 power rankings can be viewed here.
"During this mini-streak, Luguentz Dort is averaging 24.0 points and 4.0 threes while shooting 44.4 percent from three. Josh Giddey is putting up 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists.Those two, aged 22 and 19, are proving themselves worthy complements to SGA for whenever OKC decides to shift out of asset-accumulation mode."
The pundits placed the OKC Thunder 26th or 27th this week following a strong week. In week 17 they have four matches with them hosting the Warriors and Raptors then hitting the road to play the 76ers and Bulls.