Sports Illustrated's Britt Robson recently went through every team in the NBA and gave them a mid-season grade. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, who, as of Monday, had a record of 25-7 record placing them in first place in the Western Conference (first in the Northwest Division), Robson awarded an A-.
As expected, the Thunder's combination of youthful energy and roster continuity has given them an edge in a year when there is little time to rest or practice. Those who favor teams that pound the ball into the low post don't trust the Thunder offense, which would rather slash than bludgeon. Incredibly, they have built the best record in the West despite a road-heavy schedule, a merely league-average defensive efficiency rating and an offense that turns the ball over nearly as often as it registers an assist. But stars and supporting cast all play their roles to the hilt, and the offense is second in efficiency despite the turnovers because Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are among the top 15 in free-throw attempts per game and collectively convert 83.5 percent of them. Durant also shoots 51.6 percent from the field, making him as reliable as any classic low-post behemoth. It remains to be seen if "Thunder ball" can thrive deep into the playoffs. But the jury is in on its success in the regular season.
The season is only halfway over, but the Thunder looks like a legitimate championship contender so far. If they continue to do what they did in the first half of the season in the coming weeks, they'll be in great shape when the regular season comes to an end and the playoffs start.
For more on the Thunder, head to Welcome To Loud City.