Thunder 'basically excluded' from contention due to one potentially fatal flaw

Mar 4, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA;  Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) gets the
Mar 4, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren (7) gets the / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After a three-year postseason hiatus, the OKC Thunder are en route to clinching their first playoff berth since the Lake Buena Vista bubble and appear to be doing so along with home court advantage assuming they maintain their number one seed standing out West.

However, despite their successes and seemingly elite roster spearheaded by the historical play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, many are still unconvinced that Mark Daigneault's club is ready to vie for the franchise's first Larry O'Brien Trophy in 2023-24.

In fact, Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes believes that there's an argument to be made that the rebounding shortcomings of the Thunder have them "basically excluded from serious contention."

History suggests rebounding woes of Thunder could limit title upside

"You have to go back to the 2019 Toronto Raptors to find a champion whose rebounding stood out as a problem, and that team was nowhere near as bad as OKC on the boards. Toronto was 22nd in offensive rebound rate and 18th on the defensive glass, and those full-season numbers were actually much better after deadline deals added size to the rotation.

The Thunder are currently among the bottom three in both offensive and defensive rebound rate, which means they'll have to sustain their exceptionally high effective field-goal percentage while keeping their turnovers to a minimum. Otherwise, they'll never offset the possessions they're losing on both ends."

Grant Hughes

All season long, the Thunder have been simply atrocious on the glass as they've favored more of a five-out lineup rather than one that's four-out, one-in.

While this strategy has certainly led to ample success in the offensive department, as they rank third in the league in offensive rating (119.1), it has come at the cost of both rebounding and second-chance scoring, where they rank 27 and 29, respectively.

Such a limitation has been discussed ad nauseam throughout this season, with Hughes' own Bleacher Report cohort, Zach Buckley deeming it a potentially "fatal flaw" come the rough-and-tough play that comes in the postseason.

Though Hughes did note in his piece that perhaps the Thunder are "just built differently," in the end, "recent history says a deep playoff run isn't in the cards.

Hopefully, this Oklahoma City team can find a way to re-write history.