We’re rolling out a new daily feature here on Thunder Rumblings.
Now that we’ve reached the halfway point in the Thunder’s season, our staff will weigh in on one question concerning the Thunder each morning. And as the stakes get higher over the final 41 games, there will be plenty to discuss.
Though things haven’t always been pretty, the Thunder has made it to the halfway point 13 games over .500 and in contention for home-court advantage in the Western Conference Playoffs. That’s about where most expected the guys to be. Can they keep it up? That’s our focus in to today’s question.
Will the Thunder finish the season as the three seed?
I’m going to say a 4-seed for the Thunder. I think OKC and Utah will stage a season-long battle for the 3-seed, but I’ll go with Jerry Sloan at the end. What’s crazy is the Thunder and the Jazz have been no more than a game apart for two months now.
Nope, but Oklahoma City won’t be far off that. I see the Thunder as the No. 4 seed in the West behind San Antonio, Los Angeles and Dallas. Those teams are veteran squads that know how to kick it into gear and get where they need to be in the standings. When it comes to crunch time, those teams kick it in and win. Plus, all three of them are really, really good. Right now, I see Oklahoma City outlasting Utah for the No. 4 spot, but I just don’t think the Thunder is experienced enough to jump to that third spot. Still, contending for home-court advantage would be the next step in this franchise’s maturation.
The Thunder’s weaknesses are glaring. And those deficiencies have made it extremely easy to say what this team can’t do. But for a season and a half now, the team has done things it isn’t supposed to do. OKC is winning in spite of youth, defensive slippage and a few major mismatches. I suspect the Thunder will shore up some of their problem areas in the second half and continue winning to hold off Utah and Dallas. The Mavs are beat up but are always a wild card to make a blockbuster trade. The Jazz, meanwhile, still have to face the Lakers three times, and Boston, Chicago, Dallas and San Antonio twice each.
Yes, the Thunder will finish the season as the three seed in the Western Conference. OKC will win the Northwest Division over Utah, which will earn the four seed. The Mavericks are in the midst of a horrible slump, and while they have the talent to recover and climb back up the standings, the loss of Caron Butler is too devastating for them to be a top-four team. I think the race for the Northwest Division title, and therefore the third seed, will come down to the final regular-season games in April. The Thunder’s schedule isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Utah has to play the Lakers twice and the Spurs once, in San Antonio. The Thunder isn’t ready to overtake the Lakers or Spurs in the standings yet, but OKC is playing well enough to win the Northwest, be the third seed and have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.