When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Paul George this previous July, and shortly thereafter Russell Westbrook, it was speculated to sign the beginning of a rebuild, and thus the official finish of probably the most persistently profitable franchises over the previous 15 years. Making the playoffs wasn’t even a thought. Chris Paul was speculated to be a short-timer ready to be traded himself. Vegas set OKC’s over/beneath for complete wins at 32.5.
Right here we’re going into the second week of January, and the Thunder are 21-16, adequate for the No. 7 spot within the Western Convention playoff race after a 111-103 extra time victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday. OKC has now received 10 of its previous 12 video games, a stretch that features victories over the Sixers, Mavericks, Raptors and Clippers. Paul was sensational, as he has been all season, significantly when it has mattered most.
On Tuesday, Paul scored 20 of his 28 factors within the fourth quarter and extra time, together with 10 of OKC’s closing 12 down the stretch of regulation. He acquired wherever he needed to get together with his snaking dribble — as he continues to do on a nightly foundation with a ease that belies his age — earlier than tying the sport with a classic mid-range jumper with 47.four seconds to play within the fourth.
By Tuesday, the Thunder have performed in additional clutch video games — outlined as a five-point sport with 5 or fewer minutes to play — than every other workforce within the league. They’ve a 1.5 level differential for the season. They’ve received eight video games by 5 or fewer factors. In the event that they did not come up large within the largest moments, their document would look completely completely different.
However they do come up large. Principally due to Paul, who leads the league with 103 complete clutch factors whereas scoring 6.Three factors per fourth quarter. That quantity is nearly an identical to Russell Westbrook’s 6.four factors per fourth quarter, which makes for attention-grabbing fodder contemplating the 2 had been traded for each other and there continues to be plenty of proof that the Rockets screwed up.
Have a look at the taking pictures splits within the fourth quarter. Westbrook, for his 6.four factors, is taking pictures 43 p.c from discipline, 26 p.c from three and 78 p.c from the free-throw line. Paul is shooing 54-39-95 within the fourth. Westbrook is minus-2.1 in his fourth-quarter minutes. Paul is plus-2.9.
That is just a bit aspect comparability to additional illustrate how improbable Paul has been for the Thunder, who’ve blown previous any and all expectations to such a level that there are league executives who consider they may change into a purchaser, fairly than a vendor, on the commerce deadline, per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
This was unthinkable at first of the season. Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, maybe Paul if anybody could be keen to tackle such an enormous contract, all these guys had been regarded as on their manner out. Now it is cheap to consider OKC has modified its pondering to who they will herald to hitch on this playoff chase.
In any case, the Thunder are 4 video games up within the loss column on the No. eight Spurs. Their place is fairly safe, comparatively talking. Would a workforce that already has all the long run property it wants actually simply drop out of the playoff chase to perhaps add just a few extra? If somebody comes calling for Paul with a younger, rising participant and a first-round choose, certain, OKC in all probability pulls the set off and backs out of this sudden enjoyable run. If somebody throws an unprotected first-rounder at them for Gallinari, wonderful.
These items could very properly occur. Once more, Paul is taking part in brilliantly. I just lately urged the Josh Richardson and a 2021 first-round choose, the Thunder must try this deal given the hole between Paul’s age and their timeline for true rivalry.making an attempt to commerce for him, and in the event that they did that, maybe providing
However till one thing like that occurs, why would not OKC go for this? You take a look at this roster, and it is not some unsustainable story of overachievement. This can be a good workforce. Add yet one more strong piece, and this might probably be a workforce proper there with the likes of Utah and perhaps even Denver. Are you able to think about a first-round Three-6 playoff matchup between Houston and OKC? It isn’t out of the query.
Nevertheless this factor performs out between now and the deadline, anybody who thought Paul was washed up and the Thunder had been finished deserves a outing. Yours actually just isn’t one of many offenders. I picked the Thunder to make the playoffsand I am standing by it, so long as this roster stays in place. Whether or not that occurs is turning into one of many extra attention-grabbing tales because the February sixth commerce deadline approaches.