With the teams back from the break the OKC Thunder began their stretch run with sights set on a bottom three seed.
There is ample work to be done by every team whether it be to secure home court, a cemented top sixth seed, a play-in berth, or tanking for better lottery positioning.
Suffice to say, there are plenty of questions left to be answered. Although the Suns have built a pad between themselves and teams in both conferences the injury to Chris Paul leaves the situation fluid.
Some teams are struggling to rediscover their mojo after a week off and there are numerous teams integrating new trade assets, dealing with injuries, or conversely anticipating the return of injured players.
Where National sites seed OKC Thunder in week 19 power rankings
As the OKC Thunder complete their schedule they could begin to tweak the line-up or there might be some extra players on the injured list as they look to secure a bottom three seed to improve their draft lottery odds.
Considering what happened last season it begs the question of when (or if) Mark Daigneault will start to make moves that make winning slightly more difficult. OKC seems to be adopting the longer-term healing option to their advantage but the team is still winning.
And, just like last season, they enter the stretch with more wins than the teams in the bottom three slots. That’s even more concerning in 2022 with a class not deemed to be remotely as deep as the draft class of 2021.
As for week 19 of the campaign, the Thunder played two games losing to the Suns and defeating the Pacers in overtime.
Let’s see how the national sites ranked their performance…
OKC Thunder power ranking – NBA.com:
With the return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the OKC Thunder got some love from the stats master as he raised them to 26th after three consecutive weeks in 27th.
It’s clear John Schuhmann is a fan of SGA – just check out the vernacular he uses to describe the cornerstone’s drives.
He also touches on the upcoming opponents the Thunder will face and wonders if they’ll finish in the top 10 on defense based on the elite teams coming up.
A portion of his excerpt discussing SGA is below. To view the Thunder excerpt in full along with Schuhmann’s full week 19 power rankings click here
"Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returned from a 10-game absence on Thursday and played in both games of the Thunder’s back-to-back. He leads the league with 23.8 drives per game and, with his 68 points, totaled 70 drives on Thursday and Friday, two of the eight times in his career that he’s had 34 or more drives, according to Second Spectrum tracking. And all those drives came with some delectable dribble moves and finishes. With his huge drop in 3-point percentage, Gilgeous-Alexander has also seen a drop in field goal percentage in the paint, from 57.2% last season to 51.8% this season. But he was 22-for-31 (71%) in the paint over the first two games out of the break."
The panel continues to rank the OKC Thunder 27th for the fifth consecutive week. They made a brief drop to 28th in week 14 but have spent the majority of the season in this position.
MacMahon focuses on the Thunder backcourt this week in his excerpt (see below).
"Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has come back strong from the ankle sprain that sidelined him for 10 games, averaging 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in the Thunder’s first two games following the All-Star break. Gilgeous-Alexander will play off the ball more often to allow rookie Josh Giddey to be the primary playmaker.“It’s still not my Plan A, but it’s something that you have to sacrifice to be a really good team,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “I know that.” — MacMahon"
It was a big week for the Thunder in Colin Ward-Henninger’s eyes as he raised the team six spots up to 22nd. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drew high praise from CWH as he notes the bright future of the club.
To view CWH’s full power rankings for week 19 click here.
"Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an All-Star level floor leader, Josh Giddey is a triple-double machine and the Thunder seemingly have more picks than the other 29 NBA teams combined over the next several seasons. Eventually OKC will be judged on wins and losses, but for now their future looks bright based on potential. Landing a no-doubt future superstar in one of these upcoming drafts, or cashing in their picks for an established one, will be paramount to future success for the Thunder."
For week 19 of Andy Bailey’s post All-Star list the OKC Thunder are back in the 26th seed. Bailey touches on the trio who have performed well enough to be considered part of the core moving forward.
For Bailey’s full week 19 power ranking click here.
"The Oklahoma City Thunder have only been all-in on a Trust the Process-like rebuild for two or three years, but they already have multiple players—Luguentz Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey—who look like they could be part of a good team’s rotation.Giddey, specifically, looks like the kind of team-first playmaker who can lift everyone around him. His eyes are always up, he’s rarely rushed by defenders and his pinpoint accuracy on cross-court passes is something most veterans don’t have.He’s had a triple-double in each of his last three games and is averaging 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 10.7 assists over this stretch."
Week 19 found the OKC Thunder placing as high as 22nd and predominantly 27th.
Next week the team plays four games hosting the Kings, Timberwolves, and Jazz at home and has one road game in Denver.