The OKC Thunder continued to stack victories during week 4 of NBA action, tallying three wins and just one loss. There was no shortage of competition, as three of the four teams the OKC Thunder faced this past week were top-five seeds in the playoffs last season.
The lone exception to this is the San Antonio Spurs and Victor Wembanyama, who visited Bricktown for a Tuesday night national television matchup, which provided a little extra juice even amid a blowout.
While a loss on a Friday night in early November to the De’Aaron Fox-less Sacramento Kings seemed like the end of the world to some OKC Thunder fans, it’s essential to keep in mind that the Thunder managed to log three wins against quality opponents this week.
The OKC Thunder’s solid week has them climbing the charts in the eyes of both NBA fans and media members alike. We’ll take a look at how the Thunder stack up in a variety of national sites’ power rankings as the regular season is officially in full swing.
ESPN Power Ranking:
While not making a jump from last week’s list, the Thunder stand firmly at #10 on ESPN’s Power Ranking this week. ESPN’s panel shows love to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his play over the past week, mainly crediting him for the team’s success and ultimate placing in this power ranking.
"Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has five straight games with at least 25 points on 55% shooting from the floor, the longest such streak in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. He has averaged 33.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.6 steals while the Thunder won four of the five games.-MacMahon"
Gilgeous-Alexander and the OKC Thunder continue to force their way into national media conversations with excellent individual and collective team performances.
The rest of ESPN’s weekly power rankings can be found here.
Power Ranking via NBA.com:
The Thunder’s strong week helped them jump up to #6 in John Schuhmann’s NBA.com weekly power rankings.
After being placed at #15 last week, the Thunder’s nine-spot jump tied them for the third-highest improvement in the league from this week to last.
Schuhmann notes that the Thunder are an unblemished 5-0 vs. the Eastern Conference but have struggled against Western Conference foes. Their first win in the West came in a spirited comeback against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Schuhmann cites the Thunder’s incredible offensive efficiency as a critical component of their success early in the season. The Thunder’s starting lineup has four of the most efficient players in the league thus far (SGA, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren) of those who qualify. This doesn’t even include Cason Wallace, who has been by far the league’s most efficient rookie to this point in the season.
The high level of efficiency from Holmgren, Wallace, and Williams ties directly into Schuhmann’s excerpt regarding the Thunder leaning on their rookie and sophomore players more than any team in the league.
"The Thunder have gotten 45% of their minutes, the league’s highest rate, from rookies (23%, highest) or second-year players (22%, third highest). While they’re 6-4, the other seven teams that have gotten at least 25% of their minutes from first or second-year players are a combined 22-45. Six of them are at least two games under .500, while the Kings (eighth at 25%) are 4-4."
This offensive efficiency (as well as defensive prowess) is what allows head coach Mark Daigneault to give these youngsters a heavy dosage of minutes while still retaining the ability to win games.
You can view more of Schuhmann’s thoughts on the Thunder and the rest of the league here.
CBS Sports Power Ranking:
It’s important to note that Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports does his power rankings differently than most.
Ward-Henninger only takes into account the past week and nothing else. What you did in the prior weeks leading up to the present does not come into consideration in this power ranking. This ranking is based on games played from Tuesday to Tuesday of each week.
That being said, CBS Sports placed the Thunder at #10 on its weekly power ranking. The Thunder were ranked #16 in the prior week’s article, marking a six-spot improvement. Ward-Henninger credits the Thunder’s defense for their improved play this week while also noting the stellar output of star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander during the stretch.
"The defense has been impressive, allowing 108 points per 100 possessions over the three games, but the real story is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The All-NBA guard averaged 37 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the week on absurd 65% shooting from 2-point range."
The entirety of Ward-Henninger’s weekly power rankings can be found here.
The Thunder received a pretty fair shake from the national media in this week’s power rankings. While having a solid week record-wise is always a positive, the Thunder has clear areas of improvement.
Cleaning up both the offensive and defensive boards could help the Thunder continue to climb the NBA hierarchy. The Thunder failed to out-rebound a single opponent in this past week’s action.
The upcoming week will see the OKC Thunder head to Golden State for two consecutive battles with the Warriors on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, and they will conclude their brief road trip in Portland on Sunday night with a showdown against the rebuilding Trail Blazers.