The Oklahoma City Thunder have surprisingly underwhelmed to start the 2017-18 season. Despite adding Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the team has stumbled out of the gates to a 4-7 record.
Only five NBA teams have lost more games to start the season, even though Oklahoma City has one of the sport’s best cores. While most teams might be inclined to press the panic button–that George might leave after the season, that this group of players can’t win together, etc.–the Thunder are taking everything in stride.
"I'm not worried," Russell Westbrook told reporters after a recent loss. "I love nights like this. It does nothing but bring you close, as a unit, as brothers. I'm encouraged by the group of guys we have in that room, and I will be better. Like I said before, I take ownership of how we're playing, and I will be better.”
It’s important to note that the Thunder have not yet learned how to play with one another. Westbrook has become accustomed to taking the team on his back, but that’s not required with this group. Much like most new units, Oklahoma City is battling trust. It’s still early.
The most encouraging sign is the team’s defense. Oklahoma City is yielding the least amount of points in the Western Conference–second overall only behind the Boston Celtics. The offense will come, it has to, considering how many gifted scorers grace the Thunder roster.
Defense, however, is never a given. The Cleveland Cavaliers, despite prolific offensive performances on a nightly basis, are struggling just as mightily to win games. The Cavs are allowing 114.2 PPG, worse than all but the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets in that category.
Once Oklahoma City finds offensive continuity, the team will start piling up wins. Until then, Billy Donovan’s crew will need to fight through the growing pains.
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