Power Rankings NBA Week 10: Thunder showing Consistency

The OKC Thunder have remained steady all season long, and it might be time to crown them as legit.
Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder
Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

The Oklahoma City Thunder are closing out the calendar year within the week and have learned a lot about themselves since 2023 began.

The team has taken tremendous strides towards what Thunder General Manager Sam Presti has always identified as the goal: sustained success over a long period of time.

Last Week's Outcomes

The Oklahoma City Thunder took care of the short-handed Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. The Clippers were without their leading scorer of the year, Kawhi Leonard, and it showed.

With the exception of a brief stretch early in the third quarter, the Clippers could never sustain consistent offense.

During this early third-quarter stretch when the Clippers were hot, the Thunder were the complete opposite.

Oklahoma City struggled out of halftime, and the momentum had seemingly shifted to the Clippers side. That is, of course, until Chet Holmgren happened.

This incredible self-lob swung the momentum back and propelled the Thunder for the rest of the contest. OKC cruised to a 134-115 victory at home and ended the Clippers' nine-game win streak.

The Thunder then suffered a forgettable loss on Saturday night to the other LA team, the Lakers. In what Anthony Davis dubbed a "must-win" game, the Lakers played as such.

At nearly 39 years old, LeBron James scored an efficient 40 points on 13-20 from the field and 5-5 from three while also netting seven rebounds and seven assists.

The Thunder trailed big in the 3rd quarter but slowly chipped away until the Lakers' lead was cut to eight midway through the 4th quarter.

That would be the closest OKC would get, as wide-open looks refused to fall at the biggest moments. Albeit a tough loss, it is encouraging that there's a strong chance OKC would have won the game if these wide-open looks had fallen.

A post-Christmas matchup versus the Minnesota Timberwolves did not disappoint as OKC dismantled the league's best defense en route to a 23-point victory.

OKC's defensive rotations, in particular, were on point and gave Minnesota fits for the majority of the 48-minute contest.

After dropping a close one in Minnesota earlier in the season, where the offense stalled out late, the Thunder executed a tremendous response against the top team in the Western Conference.

Each team has played around 30 games to this point, and the Thunder have solidified themselves as a top team in the league unanimously. We'll take a look at where they stack up in this week's NBA power rankings.

ESPN Power Ranking:

Oklahoma City remains at #6 in ESPN's weekly NBA power rankings. Tim MacMahon's excerpt is largely focused on Jalen Williams and how well the Thunder play when he scores the ball at a high rate.

"Saturday's loss to the Lakers was the Thunder's first this season in which forward Jalen Williams scored at least 20 points. Oklahoma City had gone 7-0 when Williams, last season's Rookie of the Year runner-up, hit the 20-point milestone."

Tim MacMahon

Williams has been a strong source of secondary offense for the Thunder, outside of Gilgeous-Alexander's offensive brilliance.

In years past, Oklahoma City would leave Josh Giddey to run with the bench unit as the primary ball handler to begin the 2nd and 4th quarters when Gilgeous-Alexander was on the bench. That responsibility has transitioned to Jalen Williams this year, and he's thrived in the new role.

Take the Minnesota game for example. In what was an eleven-point OKC lead early in the 4th quarter, Williams drilled back-to-back triples to balloon the Thunder lead to 17. This measured stretch of play from Williams and the Thunder essentially put the game out of reach.

Williams' adjusting to and thriving in this role will be of paramount importance to Oklahoma City postseason time. When your superstar player is on the bench, you'll need to find ways to move the scoreboard along.

The rest of the ESPN's weekly NBA power rankings can be found here.

NBA.com Power Ranking:

The Thunder stand strong at #4 in this week's NBA.com Power Ranking. John Schuhmann of NBA.com notes how the Thunder have been uncharacteristically bad from 3-point range as of late, but their overall scoring efficiency has somehow gotten better.

Spearheaded by Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder's ability to get to the rim and either finish through contact or get to the free-throw line is second to none in the league. Despite poor shooting stretches,

Oklahoma City still finds ways to efficiently put the ball in the hoop thanks to their knack for getting to the rim.

Schuhmann credits the Thunder's unpredictability as a unique strength of theirs.

" No other Thunder lineup (besides the starting five) has played more than 32 total minutes. Yet, thanks to a lot of mixing and matching, they’re 18-9 and one of four teams that rank in the top 10 on both ends of the floor."

John Schuhmann

Creating advantages out of seemingly thin air has been a great strength of Mark Daigneault early in his coaching career.

The ability to roll out lineups that other teams haven't seen and therefore haven't been able to scout for is an incredibly valuable advantage during a long, strenuous regular season.

Take Tuesday night's game against Minnesota as a prime example of this. Vasilije Micic didn't put up the most gaudy stat line, but his minutes were noticeably impactful for a team facing a back-to-back.

I can almost guarantee that Chris Finch and the Minnesota Timberwolves weren't counting on Micic to play a major factor in the contest before tip-off.

Schuhmann's thoughts on the rest of the league can be read here.

The Athletic Power Ranking:

The OKC Thunder dropped one spot to land at #6 in The Athletic's weekly NBA power ranking. They also fell from the "Contender" category to the "On the brink of contention" group in the past week.

The Athletic's power ranking this week asks a key question for each of the 30 teams in the Association. The question for the Thunder: "Will they make a move for some more size to deal with Denver in a playoff series?"

While this is a fair question, I'm not sure the answer will be revealed before this season's trade deadline. The Thunder know they're smaller than most other rosters in the league, and it's something they're okay with.

Oklahoma City players and coaches alike have acknowledged the trade-offs of playing small, and they deeply believe the benefit outweighs the cost. Does this mean that OKC refuses to add more size to the roster? Absolutely not.

The Thunder will keep all options open, and any chance to add another wrinkle into both their offensive and defensive game plans is something Sam Presti will always look to do. However, the rebounding problem for the Thunder has slowly improved as the season has progressed.

If the Thunder believe they can compete against a team like Denver in the playoffs by playing smaller than tradition suggests, best believe they will.

The rest of The Athletic's weekly NBA power rankings can be read here.

The Week Ahead

The Thunder complete the second night of a home back-to-back against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. The Thunder and Knicks split the season series 1-1 last season, with each team's win coming on the road.

OKC will hit the road Friday night to face their division rival and reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets. The season series is split 1-1 so far, with the most recent game ending in a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander game-winner in the Mile High City. Denver has only lost one other time at home all season.

The Thunder will close out 2023 at home against the Brooklyn Nets, continuing their New Year's Eve tradition. The Thunder swept the season series 2-0 against the Nets last season.

OKC is 3-2 over their last five New Year's Eve games, with wins in 2018 and 2019 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Their most recent New Year's Eve win came back in 2021 against the New York Knicks. The two losses came at the hands of the Pelicans in 2020 and the Philadelphia 76ers in 2022.

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