The Oklahoma City Thunder entered the season as the second-youngest team in the NBA. Fresh off a surprise 40-win season, the Thunder welcomed in the highest draft pick on their roster in Chet Holmgren who missed all of last season due to injury.
While last year's Thunder team represented a spunky bunch, many believed this year would take more time to gel, and that team's around the NBA would be taking the Thunder "more seriously."
After all, A team this young is not supposed to be this good. A team this young is not supposed to look like contenders just seven days away from Christmas. A team this young has no business having this much success. As Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's buzzer-beater sunk in Denver, who cares what is supposed to happen?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's game-winner in Denver makes this OKC Thunder season feel different.
The Oklahoma City Thunder sit with a 16-8 record, good enough for the second-best record in the West, with a perfectly balanced 8-4 record both at home and on the road. OKC ranks seventh in offensive rating, sixth in defensive rating, and fourth in net rating while playing with the 6th best pace in the NBA.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an MVP candidate. After finishing fifth place last season, there is no question he currently sits in the top three in the conversation for this season. His buzzer beater in Denver to cap off a double-digit road comeback against the defending champion Nuggets only further cements that.
Chet Holmgren is not only a Rookie of the Year favorite but also primed to receive All-Star votes as the polls open up tomorrow. Against the Nuggets, Holmgren tossed in 17 points, hauled in 11 rebounds, and swatted an eye-popping nine shots. His rim protection and scoring threat gives OKC an entirely new dynamic than what they had a year ago.
Sophomore Jalen Williams is capable of exploding for 25 points as he did against the Nuggets while being a versatile defender and a bucket-getter to help push the bench unit along while the MVP takes a breather. Another form of balance for this Thunder team.
On top of being a well-coached team, Oklahoma City has the depth needed to win in the modern NBA night in and night out. Leaning on Isaiah Joe, Cason Wallace, Aaron Wiggins, Kenrich Williams, and Jaylin Williams in combination to help finish a 48-minute fight.
All this isn't to mention an otherworldly perimeter defender in Lu Dort, who is praised by every scoring threat in the NBA as the most difficult matchup to deal with each night.
The Thunder have all the pieces and check all the boxes, except for that pesky experience box. But if that is the only thing holding Oklahoma City back, it is easy to think, 'Why not?'
While the Thunder are not supposed to be this good, they are.