NBA Week 10 Power Rankings – Where National Scribes Rank OKC Thunder

Dec 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) handles the ball against LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Victor Oladipo (5) handles the ball against LA Clippers guard Austin Rivers (25) during the first quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The OKC Thunder finished their week 2-1 and look to move up the power rankings with a big New Year’s Eve win over the Clippers.

Oklahoma City took care of business in South Beach to start the week, but ruined their chance at shooting up the power rankings after getting blown out by the Grizzlies sans Mike Conley. Victor Oladipo made his way back after missing nine games with an injury and helped the Thunder to a good win against the Clippers.

With that in mind, here’s how the national pundits ranked the OKC Thunder:

Sports Illustrated Power Rankings – Jeremy Woo

The Thunder hold steady at number six, but Jeremy had a lot to say about the Russell Westbrook show.

As good as Russell Westbrook has been, it’s honestly still a small shock to the system that the Thunder have been quite this successful. It’s not that the formula—an explosive scorer, a top-10 defense and elite rebounding—has been surprising, it’s just that it’s been this sustainable. The Thunder are not a good three-point shooting team nor are they an especially well-rounded one. This type of success comes with a tip of the cap to Billy Donovan, but of course, would be impossible without Westbrook.

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OKC may have lost Kevin Durant this off-season, but it hasn’t lost much of its identity at all, and that’s due to Russ’s gratingly consistent dominance. The percentages actually speak louder than his triple doubles. His 41.2% usage rate is ridiculous but functional. During his minutes, he’s been responsible for two-thirds of Thunder assists, more than 60% of their made free throws and nearly a third of total rebounds. If you combine points and assists, he’s responsible for 39.1% of points scored while on the floor.

Dec 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the LA Clippers during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 31, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts after a play against the LA Clippers during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

This team is going to the playoffs, God forbid this guy begins to wear down. The Thunder are not a pretty team, but they’re an effective one. Purists may not love the whole one-man-show thing, but here’s a counterpoint: in the absence of consistently great NBA rivalries (Cavs-Warriors happens sparingly and I’m not hearing it otherwise), you can always turn on Westbrook and just imagine how much he might conceivably hate the other team. He looks the part, at least. It’s thrilling television and even better in person. It’s one of the redeeming things about this season.

And the stat chase and MVP race are going to make Thunder games matter down the stretch, too. Think of all the times where you can substitute “Westbrook” for “Thunder” and still make perfectly correct statements about their basketball games. “Westbrook won the game last night,” or you could say, “Westbrook needs more shooters around him,” or “I really hope Westbrook gets a good playoff seed and home court,” or something like that. You can say the same for James Harden, sure, but take this one to the water cooler this week: if you swapped the two players, how would their teams fare? I’m not sure Harden could thrive playing OKC’s physical style, but I feel great saying Westbrook would do the same stuff within Houston’s offensive machine. Chew on it.

NBA.com Power Rankings – John Schuhmann

The godfather of the League Pass Alert moved the Thunder up one spot in his rankings to number six and noted that their January schedule is the toughest in the league.

Pace: 100.2 (7) OffRtg: 104.6 (15) DefRtg: 103.5 (8) NetRtg: +1.1 (12)

Two nights after he got ejected (with zero assists and six turnovers) in the third quarter in Memphis, Russell Westbrook made sure he had a triple-double by halftime against the Clippers. Throw away the loss to the Grizzlies and the Thunder have played their best offensive basketball of the season, scoring 117 points per 100 possessions in their other seven games since mid-December. And most of that was without Victor Oladipo, who returned on Saturday. We’ll see if that continues as they play the league’s toughest January schedule, both in regard to opponent strength (nine of the 15 opponents are at or above .500) and home-road ratio (3/12).

ESPN Power Rankings– Marc Stein

Marc Stein held steady and kept the Thunder in eighth in his power rankings.

The final week of 2016 made the MVP duel between former teammates Westbrook and Harden even tastier. And here’s how: While Harden was assembling what might just have been the most delicious single-game stat line in the history of fantasy hoops, Angry Russ uncorked the fastest triple-double of his career as the Thunder brought the calendar year to a close by improving to 21-13 … which happens to equate to a 52-win pace. OKC’s schedule is about to get seriously tougher, with 12 of its 15 games in January on the road, but Westbrook’s MVP résumé looks infinitely better if these guys finish in the 50s win-wise.

CBS Sports Power Rankings – Matt Moore

The Thunder fall two spots in Moore’s power ranking to number eight.

OKC has won six of its last eight, five of those by double-digits. They’re beating teams they should, and comfortably. That’s a big step forward and shows that the Thunder are better than most gave them credit for in the preseason. They slip here because of how other teams have played, but they’re basically tied with Boston and Memphis, all of whom have beaten one another in the past two weeks.

The Thunder start the week with three road games and finish it with a home game against Denver. The week could finish with the Thunder getting fully healthy as Cameron Payne is projected to play Saturday after a short stint with the Oklahoma City Blue. Check back next week to see how they did.

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