Let’s take a look back at how the NBA closed out the month of January in this edition of Unpack the Week!
Hello, and welcome to another edition of Unpack the Week! This is a weekly feature where I take a look at the previous week in the NBA and highlight some of the Association’s top performers!
What did you think of this week in the NBA? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back each Monday for more Unpack the Week!
Takeaway of the Week
This week I want to show a little love to another small-market team: the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like last preseason, I came into this year thinking this franchise would be toiling in the basement of the Western Conference. Yet again, they exceed my expectations. Somehow, it’s an even more impressive job this time around.
I clocked the Thunder as the second-worst team in Western Conference in my season predictions article. However, they enter February with an 8-10 record, one game behind the Houston Rockets for the second play-in slot. Their record is bolstered by the 2-1 week they just had, pulling off wins against two Western Conference playoff teams and a loss in a shootout with one of the best teams in the East.
I happened to catch OKC’s two victories this week in the midst of scouting their opponents, the Portland Trail Blazers and Phoenix Suns, ahead of their participation in last Thursday’s TNT doubleheader. The Thunder’s play was pleasing to the eye test, and belied a squad full of young players that should be deep in the lottery.
For one, their effort was high and consistent in their two games. While both the Suns and Trail Blazers had their lulls for stretches of the game, the Thunder never let up. They played poised for all 48 minutes in both games, and it was their opponents that had to keep up.
This bears out in the numbers. Oklahoma City finished the week tied for the fourth-fewest turnovers per game and tied for the sixth-fewest fouls committed per game in the league. Having their opponents on their heels allowed OKC to tie for seventh in the NBA in fouls drawn this week.
Of course, you can’t talk about a team in the modern NBA having success without talking about 3-point shooting. OKC knocked those down with ease last week. They finished the week fourth in the league in both 3-pointers made per game (tied with the New Orleans Pelicans) and 3-point percentage. These are particularly monumental numbers because, on the year, this team places 12th in made 3’s per game and 29th(!!) in 3-point percentage.
I wanted to give the Thunder their due today because it’s hard to tell at this point if they’re a team on the rise or if they just had a really good week. After all, they did lose by 22 points to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, and their defense was the fourth-worst in the NBA this week. They aren’t worldbeaters just yet.
Still, it’s good to see this franchise subvert expectations for another year. The Oklahoma City Thunder put out an effortful brand of basketball this week, and picked up some hard-earned wins along the way.
Top Performers of the Week
Weekly Total Leaders
|Statistic||NBA Leader||Rookie Leader||Bench Leader|
|Points||Bradley Beal, Wizards (143)||Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves (78)||Jordan Clarkson, Jazz (75)|
|Rebounds||Andre Drummond, Cavaliers (70)||James Wiseman, Warriors (25)||Ivica Zubac, Clippers (32)|
|Assists||Luka Doncic, Mavericks (36)||LaMelo Ball, Hornets (25)||T.J. McConnell, Pacers (32)|
|Steals||Matisse Thybulle, 76ers (12)||Facundo Campazzo, Nuggets (6)|
LaMelo Ball, Hornets (6)
|Matisse Thybulle, 76ers (12)|
|Blocks||Myles Turner, Pacers (11)||Aleksej Pokusevski, Thunder (4)|
Isaiah Stewart, Pistons (4)
Jaden McDaniels, Timberwolves (4)
James Wiseman, Warriors (4)
Precious Achiuwa, Heat (4)
|James Johnson, Mavericks (7)|
|3-Pointers||Stephen Curry, Warriors (22)||Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves (13)||Jordan Clarkson, Jazz (14)|
|Double-Doubles||Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (4)||Reggie Perry, Nets|
Tyrese Haliburton, Kings (1)
|Dwight Howard, 76ers|
Frank Kaminsky, Suns
Ivica Zubac, Clippers
JaMychal Green, Nuggets
Reggie Perry, Nets
Thaddeus Young, Bulls
Tyrese Haliburton, Kings (1)
|Triple-Doubles||Ben Simmons, 76ers|
Domantas Sabonis, Pacers
James Harden, Nets
Luka Doncic, Mavericks (1)
|Plus/Minus||Joe Harris, Nets (+56)||Facundo Campazzo, Nuggets (+14)||Furkan Korkmaz, 76ers (+41)|
|Rank||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating|
|1||Memphis Grizzlies (1-0, 129.0)||Houston Rockets (3-0, 96.8)||Memphis Grizzlies (1-0, 17.0)|
|2||Brooklyn Nets (3-1, 125.4)||Phoenix Suns (2-1, 99.3)||Houston Rockets (3-0, 12.3)|
|3||Utah Jazz (3-1, 120.1)||Golden State Warriors (3-1, 102.4)||Golden State Warriors (3-1, 9.9)|
|4||Sacramento Kings (2-1, 119.4)||Boston Celtics (1-2, 105.5)||Brooklyn Nets (3-1, 8.9)|
|5||Denver Nuggets (3-1, 119.3)||Los Angeles Clippers (3-1, 108.0)||Utah Jazz (3-1, 8.6)|
|26||Washington Wizards (1-3, 106.2)||Dallas Mavericks (0-4, 119.3)||Dallas Mavericks (0-4, -10.0)|
|27||Cleveland Cavaliers (1-3, 105.6)||Oklahoma City Thunder (2-1, 119.6)||Orlando Magic (1-3, -10.5)|
|28||Orlando Magic (1-3, 104.8)||Milwaukee Bucks (1-2, 119.7)||Miami Heat (1-3, -11.5)|
|29||Minnesota Timberwolves (1-3, 102.4)||Portland Trail Blazers (1-2, 119.8)||Washington Wizards (1-3, -12.0)|
|30||Miami Heat (1-3, 98.4)||Chicago Bulls (0-2, 124.1)||Minnesota Timberwolves (1-3, -12.3)|