This week's 10 things features a look at the precocious Oklahoma City Thunder, the Toronto Raptors' equation for mediocrity, problems in Clipper Land, and the surging 76ers.
1. The Oklahoma City Thunder are arriving
After all the shrieking over Oklahoma City's allegedly brazen tanking -- I was guilty, too -- the Thunder were bad for all of two seasons. The Houston Rockets, who owe the Thunder a top-four-protected 2024 pick, are awful for the third straight year with no immediate end in sight. The Philadelphia 76ers were terrible four seasons in a row, nudging the league toward lottery reform only one franchise -- the Thunder -- voted against.
The Thunder won at a 50-win pace with Chris Paul in 2019-20. They traded Paul, and sunk for two seasons -- netting Josh Giddey and Chet Holmgren with their own picks, plus a slew of intriguing players (headlined by Jalen Williams) with picks from other teams. Now, they're in a four-way tie for No. 7 in the West (a logjam that includes the LA Clippers -- irresistible symmetry!), 11-5 in their past 16 games, sporting the conference's fifth-fattest point differential.
They have found something with the foursome of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Giddey, Williams, and Luguentz Dort. That group is rangy, switchable, ferocious -- a blur of cuts, screens, thread-the-needle passes, and relentless drives.