Something special is taking shape right here in our backyard.
In fact, it's historic.
It's the Oklahoma City Thunder's offense, which is stringing together a season unlike any other seen in NBA history.
Through 20 games, the Thunder is averaging a league-best 106.2 points while shooting 49.2 percent from the field, 42.6 percent from behind the 3-point line and 83.7 percent from the free throw line.
No team has ever finished a season averaging at least 100 points on at least 49 percent shooting, 42 percent shooting from 3-point range and 83 percent shooting from the foul line, according to basketball-reference.com.
That output has helped establish the Thunder as the league's best offensive team while also confirming once and for all that life does indeed go on without James Harden.
The Thunder has sprinted out of the gate with a 16-4 record largely because of its high-octane offensive attack. Oklahoma City has scored at least 100 points in 11 straight games and is winning by an average margin of 9.5 points per game, a scoring differential that would be the league's highest since Boston won the title in 2008 after outscoring opponents by an average of 10.3 points.
Equally impressive is the Thunder's offensive efficiency, or points scored per 100 possessions. The Thunder through Friday ranked second with an Oklahoma City-era best 111.1 points per 100 possessions, just 0.1 points behind league leader New York.
When searching for what gives with the offense, the answer begins with maturity.
“I think it's the growth of our players,” said Nick Collison. “Our guys are making better decisions. We're not having those long stretches where we don't get good shots like we used to have at times. I just think it's a maturity and growth of our team.”
Of course, several other factors must be taken into account, starting with Kevin Durant.
Durant is on pace to become only the sixth player to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the foul line. His scoring efficiency has been the backbone of the Thunder's record offense.
Russell Westbrook, though, can't be ignored.
The Thunder's point guard has drawn more defensive attention than he ever has as a scorer but is playing with the most balance of his career by creating more shots for others. By getting more players involved, as well as taking better care of the ball this season, Westbrook has given the Thunder's offense more opportunities to shine. Westbrook's turnover ratio, for example, or the percentage of possessions that end in a turnover, currently is at a career low 10.5 percent this season.
Meanwhile, Westbrook is averaging a career-best 8.7 assists, which has had a trickle down effect that is impossible to overlook. The Thunder is now averaging 22.6 assists after netting a league-worst 18.5 last year, and many of Westbrook's passes are leading to high-percentage shots for his teammates.
Serge Ibaka, for instance, is averaging a career-high 14.5 points but is benefiting from 76 percent of his baskets coming off assists, according to hoopdata.com, by far the highest percentage of his career. Similar effects are found in the scoring stats of Collison, Kevin Martin, Thabo Sefolosha and Eric Maynor.
“When our assists numbers are high we're tough to beat,” Collison said.
Improved ball movement has allowed everybody to become a factor and, as a result, made the Thunder tougher to defend. It's afforded role players more opportunities but created situations where they aren't being asked to play outside of themselves. As we remember from the Western Conference Finals, that's when the Thunder is at its very best.
More subtle intricacies have been important, too. Better spacing, screen-setting and cutting has all helped the Thunder transform into the league's best offensive machine.
“Those are the things that don't have stats on them,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “Those have been better, but they've been better because we've been working on it for years.”
The question is whether this current success is sustainable?
The answer is probably not.
The 2006-07 Phoenix Suns — the most lethal version of those Steve Nash-led run-and-gun teams — were the only team to come close to matching the Thunder's current production. Those Suns averaged 110.2 points on 49.4 percent shooting but fell short on 3-point percentage (39.9 percent) and free throw percentage (80.8 percent). Still, they won 61 games.
The Thunder seems destined to regress to the means. Ibaka's production perhaps epitomizes how OKC might be playing over its head at the moment. Ibaka is shooting a career-best 59 percent despite nearly half of his field goal attempts coming on jump shots.
Generally, that's a clear sign of fool's gold.
At the same time, we've seen enough to know the Thunder also has figured out some pretty important aspects.
“With the team being together this long, I think you knew at some point we were going to click and be more mature and make better decisions,” Collison said. “It was just kind of a matter of when. But I think we're starting to see that some.
“But it's a long season. You can get into a funk real easily with one or two bad games. I think for us the key thing is to realize it's given us some success, passing, spacing, those things, and try to repeat it and know that that's how we're going to win games. That's how we're going to be a good team.”
Maybe even an historic team.