The stretch of games since Nov. 14 has juiced the Thunder’s offensive and defensive numbers. Here's what OKC is doing to make that happen and why the lack of rebounding is less of a concern.
Despite an ugh-filled loss to the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder is still playing impressive basketball. Somewhat surprisingly, OKC is second in the Western Conference through 20 games with a 13-7 record.
After 10 games, I dove into a few stats to get a feel for how the team is performing. With 10 more games in the books, let’s look at where the Thunder stands overall and also what the previous 10 games tell us.
As a reminder, offensive, defensive and net ratings are a statistical measure per 100 possessions. Through 20 games, the Thunder is producing the league’s sixth-best offense and third-best defense. While the offense has held steady all season, the defense made a big jump in just 10 games. OKC’s defense was ranked 17th in the league after the first 10 games of the season.
Shockingly, the Thunder is second in the league in net rating at 7.6, just behind a Boston Celtics squad with a per-100 possession point differential of 8.5.
In short: OKC is, by and large, beating up on its opponents. And a lot of that work came in the last 10 games where the Thunder has a whopping 13.6 net rating. That’s in spite of a 9-point loss to the Rockets, and the rating could be even larger if it had not allowed the Mavericks to erase a 24-point lead last Saturday.
Granted, the schedule helped make that possible. The Thunder thumped the Spurs by 36 points and defeated the Blazers by 43. The Bulls fell 14 points short and the Lakers lost by 23 in OKC. The Thunder lost to the 76ers and Timberwolves by a combined seven points.
The next 10 games probably won’t be as big of a cakewalk, but that’s a story for after New Year’s Day. The big takeaway is that the Thunder took care of business when warranted and has not played with its food so far.
OKC’s shooting from deep has improved over the last 10 games.
Despite an 8-29 misfire against the Rockets, the Thunder is the league’s best three-point shooting team through 20 games. After double-and-triple checking, I can confirm that the Oklahoma City Thunder is shooting almost 40 percent from distance for the season. That stat is boosted by the fact that OKC connected on 41.5 percent of its three-point shots over the past 10 games.
Four regular rotation players — Isaiah Joe, Cason Wallace, Kenrich Williams and Aaron Wiggins — all hit 50 percent or more of their threes over the last 10 games. At the other end, shooting cooled off for Jalen Williams, Lu Dort and Chet Holmgren. All hit on 33.3 percent or less over that stretch. All three are capable of boosting back up even if other hot shooters begin to regress.
The Thunder’s inability to corral rebounds was a hot topic at the start of the season. The numbers improved a bit over the last stretch of 10 games, but not drastically. For the season, OKC remains a middle-of-the-road team in grabbing defensive boards and near the bottom in offensive rebounds.
The topic has been discussed a lot and tends to come up again when the Thunder loses a game. But to reiterate, the team is designed to thrive in other areas at the expense of rebounding.
Opponents will feast on the offensive glass and pile up second-chance points against the Thunder. But in turn, OKC’s versatility shows up in the defensive ratings mentioned above. The Thunder is designed to get steals (8th in the league with 8.3 per game) and block shots (5th in the league at 6.1 per game). OKC generates nearly 20 points per game off of turnovers, tied for best in the NBA.
The Thunder’s swarming defense holds opponents to the third-lowest effective field goal percentage at 51.1 percent. The number two team? The Houston Rockets.
All told, the stats are backing up OKC’s record so far. Sure, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Opponents are starting to adjust to how they defend the Thunder, exposing Josh Giddey’s weakness as a shooter. On a few occasions, OKC has faced an opponent missing at least one key player and the schedule strength has been fairly average to this point. And some fans would feel better with a win against a top-4 team from either conference. But with 20 games worth of data, there’s still plenty to feel good about.