3 Increasingly bold predictions for the Thunder the rest of the season

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City Thunder / David Berding/GettyImages
2 of 3

No. 2: The Thunder will reach the Western Conference Finals

The Oklahoma City Thunder have all of the components of a team that should go deep in the postseason. They are Top 5 in both offense (No. 3) and defense (No. 5), the kind of balance that usually points to a title contender. Their net rating of +8.3 passes the test of an elite team that could reach and win the NBA Finals.

They have a legitimate MVP candidate and Top-10 player in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way, a prerequisite for winning a title with only a couple of exceptions in league history. They have a defensive ace in Chet Holmgren, a legitimate second option in Jalen Williams and a deep roster filled with versatile players that allow them to deploy a variety of lineups.

That's the resume of a title team...except for one thing: they are too young. It took trading for Gordon Hayward and signing Bismack Biyombo to drag them out of the bottom spot, but their core of players are extremely young. What's more, they are inexperienced; Gilgeous-Alexander hasn't been to the playoffs in years, and other than Hayward the rest of the rotation has never played in a playoff series.

Young, talented teams playing in their first playoffs together have often won playoff series; the Golden State Warriors did in 2015, or the Philadelphia 76ers in 2018. It's nearly unheard of for a team with no experience to make a run all the way to the Conference Finals, but then again, it's also unprecedented for a team to be this good, this quickly.

The Thunder could lose short of the Conference Finals and this season still be viewed as a success, and it's possible their team quality overcomes their youth and drives them to the NBA Finals. The outcome we are predicting is that they win two series and then lose in the Western Conference Finals.