After losing Paul George and franchise face Russell Westbrook, the OKC Thunder hit the reset button this summer, deciding to go all-in on young pieces, drat picks, and long-term development projects.
Coming into the season, nobody was sure what to expect from the team -- but it's fair to say they didn't expect this.
Behind the performances of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder, the Thunder are shocking the world with a 21-16 this season as they sit 7th in the crowded West standings.
They have been a solid playoff team this year and are actually only two games back from last year's record of 22-13 at the same point. They are 9-1 in their last 10 and have beaten some really good teams along the way.
Despite this success, OKC's performance has been grossly underappreciated this season. Last season, with Westbrook and George, they had nearly the same record.
Unfortunately, with the headlines being ruled by the L.A. teams, there hasn't been much room to talk about the Thunder's Cinderella story. But it doesn't make it any less special.
“I think their unselfishness and the relationship they’ve built and established in a short period of time has been a key component of that but really it’s tribute to those guys willing to work together and understand that they’re all going to have to give some stuff up," Donovan said, per Forbes. "As long as we can move the ball, make the extra pass and play together and play with good pace and good speed, everybody’s going to have a chance a succeed.”
Somehow, without a true superstar, the Thunder have more than just kept their heads above the water.
It all starts with CP3. In the past few months, he has turned back the clock with his leadership and play this campaign. His brilliance and basketball IQ have been on display all season long as he puts up 16 points and 6.5 assists in the aftermath of off-season trade rumors.
Gilgeous-Alexander has been nothing short of stellar, posting 19 points per game in just his second season. Steven Adams has managed to stay efficient and positive in light of all the changes, and Dennis Schroder is proving to everyone why he should be in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation.
Indeed, the pieces seem to be falling in just the right way for the Thunder. After what many thought was an unrecoverable summer, they have re-tooled in an awe-inspiring way. It will be interesting to see how this team develops in the months and years to come.