Thunder Journal: State of the Thunder U-nion
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My fellow Thundericans, for the first time all season, Oklahoma City is on a hot streak.
After coming close so many times and failing, the Thunder were finally able to get over the hump of losing more than three games in a row. As a matter of fact, Mark Daigneault’s frustratingly well coached, annoyingly high effort, irking try hard squad has been stripped of enough top end talent and experience to double up that number and lose six straight. Along with tanking royalty the Kings, that’s currently the league’s longest losing stretch. Nobody can match OKC’s record over their past 10 games at 1-9, the lone victory being the costly Raptors respite that sounded the tank’s internal alarms.
If the season ended today, the Thunder would have the seventh best odds to land a top 4 pick at 32%. That’s basically the same chance of guessing which one of the three Tulsa born and bred Hanson brothers I’m thinking of right now. Go ahead and try, and don’t pretend like you’re too cool to remember their names. Okay got it? I was thinking of Zac, but I’d also accept “the drummer” or “the little one.” Two thirds of you just ended up with consolation prize Scottie Barnes, but congrats to the one third of you who get to draft Evan Mobley.
The odds of drafting Cade Cunningham to pair Poku with a local Poke with the #1 overall pick is just 7.5%. You have the same chance to guess which one of the 13 different cards in a suit I am thinking of right now. Okay got it? I was thinking of the 2, but I’d also accept “the little one.” Twelve out of thirteen of you just ended up with Moses Moody, but congrats to the one in thirteen who are drafting Luka Lite.
But here’s the good news: the Thunder breaking NBA history by starting the youngest lineup of all time has narrowed the gap between OKC and the bottom five teams, which is where the percentages point up on picking prodigious players.
OKC is now just half a game behind Beal and Brodie for the #6 draft slot, and the Thunder play the play-in hopeful Wizards twice over the next 11 days. The Washington Basketball Team has the fourth easiest schedule the rest of the way. The odds bump up if OKC jumps that #5 slot–to 37.2% for a top 4 pick and 9% for the #1 overall pick.
OKC is now just one game behind the Sexland and Love Cavaliers. Cleveland has shown some life lately and may make a play for the play-in because they are only 3.5 games back and have the fifth easiest schedule the rest of the way. The odds if OKC jumps to #5 bump up to 42.1% for a top 4 pick and 10.5% for the #1 overall pick.
Even better, those two teams directly in front of the Thunder play each other three teams the rest of the way, so someone has to pick up some wins.
As far OKC goes, there are two important topics hanging over the rest of the season: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s foot and the schedule’s rear end.
The Thunder won many more games than expected leading into the All-Star break because of a few factors. The three-shooting frontcourt twosome of Al Horford and Mike Muscala undeniably contributed to wins, so they’ve been replaced by the long distance allergic law firm of Brown and Bradley. George Hill was helpful until he was hurt, but the return of his leadership loomed large, so he was FedExed to Philly. Trevor Ariza’s skills on and off the floor haha just kidding I can’t even type this one with a straight face. A lovable cast of young pups overachieving and showing promise on a nightly basis while under the impressive tutelage of Mark Daigneault has played a portly part as well, but the kiddie core and capital coaching leading wins are promising developments, not losses.
Still, the main ingredient in this too-victorious recipe has been SGA. OKC will continue increasing their odds for an elite draft talent with a tablespoon of Theo, a cup of Kenrich, a pinch of Poku and a dash of Dort. But if the team doctor clears Shai in a few days, the team chef adding even a gram of Gilgeous-Alexander may result in a couple costly percentage point diminishing wins. Every Thunder fan wants to see SGA back on the court. But wouldn’t it be nice if his next time back, he was joined in the backcourt by Jalen Suggs?
The other area of concern for those simming the lottery every day with monotony is a handful of games over a one week period in May in which OKC plays the Kings three times and the Warriors twice. As of now, they haven’t decided to go full Suckramento or Sterling Silver State, but both teams are teetering on the tip of a tank. That Cali couplet having something to play for could be big when every win hurts and every loss helps.
Ultimately, despite the Raptors closing in on OKC like objects in a mirror appearing closer than they appear and the Kings royally flushing their playoff chances down the bidet, the Thunder are in prime position to finish the season in the #5 lottery slot.
But I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the possibility of the Magic–with their seventh easiest schedule-or the plucky Pistons opening the door for OKC to finish in fourth. If that happened, the odds of a top 4 draft pick shoot up to 48.1%.
You have the same chance to guess which Olsen sister I’m thinking of right now: Mary-Kate or Ashley? Okay got it? Sike! I was thinking of Elizabeth. That one was for all those who think the NBA Draft is rigged and none of this even matters anyway.