Before the season started, the overall consensus on the Oklahoma City Thunder was that the team was a low-tier Western Conference unit. Now at 19-15, the Thunder are the seven-seed.
After trading former MVP Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul and future draft picks, it seemed that the Thunder were headed towards a traditional rebuild. Rumors began to circulate that Steven Adams and Paul were on the trade block, with many wannabe contenders expressing interest in the players.
The Thunder elected to keep the veteran players and compete for a playoff spot. So far, this plan is working.
Before the team traded Westbrook, the Thunder completed a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for future first-round draft picks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The pairing of Paul and Alexander has been magnificent to watch, as Paul is a great mentor for the young combo guard.
Both Paul and Alexander are enjoying success sharing the backfield. Paul is averaging 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game on 47-90-37 shooting splits. Meanwhile, Alexander is averaging 19.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game on 46-81-36 shooting splits. Even though it looks like an awkward fit on paper, both are able to play off one another and are capable of controlling the offense separately as well.
The 109-103 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night perfectly summed up why this team is effective. Five players finished with double-digit points: Alexander (25), Dennis Schroder (19), Paul (16), Adams (14), and Danilo Gallinari (13). On a nightly basis, these five players produce most of the points for the Thunder.
The Thunder are comfortably sitting in the seven-seed, with the eight-seed being four-and-a-half games behind them. The Utah Jazz are three games ahead of them in the six-seed.