The Arrival: Can the Oklahoma City Thunder Exceed Expectations in the Playoffs?

Can the Oklahoma City Thunder Exceed Expectations in the Playoffs image

📖 Published on: April 2nd, 2024

✍️ Updated: April 3rd, 2024

⏳ 10 mins read


The Oklahoma City Thunder is one of the best teams in the NBA right now, and it is a no-brainer that the Thunder have done a great job of putting up some of the best strides in the season, let alone for the youngest team in the league. This just sets bigger expectations for the team as they aspire to make a climb that will put them on the championship radar this season.


Can the Thunder Make a Big Push in the Playoffs?


Jalen Williams celebrating after a slam dunk image

OKC has been waiting for a long time to get back into the playoff mix this year after a promising rebuild progress that involved them tanking for just two seasons and then competing in the Play-In for the third season. In that short span of time, the Thunder went on to secure monumental talents in Chet Holmgren, Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, Aaron Wiggins, Isaiah Joe, Cason Wallace, and many more young players who are well under 25. This just shows how well the Thunder have made the most of their rebuild and capitalized it to turn their chances around. OKC has also built around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as their main star, along with two-way stalwart Luguentz Dort.


These two players are the only ones left from the last iteration of the Thunder that reached the Playoffs in the 2019-20 season. So far, it has been a rollercoaster ride for OKC as they’ve gone from being a tanking team to being one of the teams battling for the top spot in the wild Western Conference.


Believe it or not, OKC is in for a massive run now that they have finally arrived on the playoff stage now more than ever. The Thunder are now reaching for the stars as they hope to cement their place in the West and are definitely expected to make waves in the postseason where they have been sorely missed for quite some time.


Ideal Playoff Matchups for OKC


OKC may end the season either as the first seed or the second seed in the West, and believe it or not, this could have ramifications in their run for the NBA Finals even if it is just a small difference in their record by the end of the season. This just means that OKC needs to have an ideal set of opponents – teams that the Thunder are more likely to beat in the Playoffs as they did in the regular season.


Here are the ideal playoff matchups for the Thunder.


First Round: Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets


The First Round of the NBA Playoffs is the most tricky part for OKC’s run in the 2023-24 season. The Thunder need a boost to make it to the second round. Facing either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Dallas Mavericks will be a nightmare for OKC as it means that they will be going up against a team that has a size advantage over them – a weakness that has been seen from the Thunder all season long. This is why the preferred opponents for the Thunder would be the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets.


The Warriors are no longer the team that they used to be, and it does seem that they are expected to even fall off from the Play-In chase should the situation worsen for the team. The Warriors are a shadow of their former glory, with Stephen Curry no longer being the massive threat that he is back in the day and Klay Thompson continuously in decline. On top of that, Chris Paul is no longer the relevant star that he is, which further proves how the Thunder can take them down as they did in the season with a 3-1 series win. Furthermore, OKC has the size advantage and the well-rounded supporting cast that is needed to beat the Warriors in at least five or six games.

Chet Holmgren hits game winner versus Warriors image


Chet Holmgren has thrived in his games against the Rockets image

The same can be said for the Houston Rockets, who have been easily handled by the Thunder even with or without Alperen Sengun. This just means that there are going to be a lot of easy wins for OKC in this potential series especially if they are going to make the most of their chances in the playoffs. The Thunder squad just matches perfectly against the Rockets with the size advantage and there’s simply no one to match against OKC’s combo guards. One can expect OKC to come up with an impressive win in this series without much hassle. However, the Rockets will have to make it to the Play-In Tournament and win twice if this matchup will happen, which is a long shot with the standings in consideration.


Second Round: New Orleans Pelicans or Los Angeles Clippers


Once the Thunder make it past the First Round, their chances would increase at a great level considering that they have blown past their biggest nightmares in the Western Conference. Now, OKC is likely to be matched up against the New Orleans Pelicans or the Los Angeles Clippers should they end up as the first seed. Being the second seed would give them trouble as they are either playing the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Sacramento Kings.


The Clippers matchup would be a fun rivalry game to look out for considering that OKC built off the bulk of its roster today from the Clips’ draft capital. This just proves that the Thunder owes the Clippers their success so far. However, matching up against former Thunder stars Paul George, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook along with Kawhi Leonard should be fun to watch, seeing as how the new generation of SGA, J-Dub, and Chet would lead the way for the new era of Thunder to emerge against one of the star-studded teams in the Western Conference. This will be a generational showdown that fans would not want to miss at this point, especially with the rivalry building up ever since the Thunder rebuild began in 2021.

A Thunder-Clippers matchup will feed families image


Playing against the New Orleans Pelicans will put OKC’s guards in the spotlight as the Pels do not match up well against the Thunder’s set of guards who are sizeable in almost every way possible. This is why it is expected that OKC will make quick work of the Pelicans considering how well they can match up against them, especially in the paint, which is a big reason why fans should expect to see more from Chet Holmgren and how he will work to contain the big men of the Pelicans in a playoff series.


Conference Finals: Denver Nuggets


With the rest of the conference aside, the only two threats to the Thunder’s potential NBA Finals berth would be their division rival Minnesota Timberwolves, or the defending NBA Champions Denver Nuggets. OKC has won the season series against the Nuggets at 3-1, losing only the first game before winning three straight games. It is a no-brainer that this says a lot about the impressive improvement considering how the Thunder were far from their form when they first faced the Nuggets. Now more than ever, fans would be keen to take the Thunder’s side when they play in the Conference Finals.


The Thunder have won the season series against the Nuggets image


Imagine a showdown between Nikola Jokic and Chet Holmgren – two of the generational bigs in the West; a clash between Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – two clutch players who specialize in scoring at an efficient level, and a battle between Jalen Williams and Aaron Gordon – two high-powered dunkers who are great at putting up massive performances of their own to help their teams win. This just gets more fun as these two teams will likely battle it all on the big stage.


What are the Odds for the Thunder to Win in the NBA Playoffs?


The Thunder began the season as far-fetched underdogs to win the NBA Finals. Since the turn of the year, however, the odds have slightly changed in their favor as the team went on to actually come up with impressive strides in their games and immediately became a fiery team to look out for in the West. No one can deny the fact that the Thunder has a chance to make a historic push this season as they arrive on the playoff stage.


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