Sports are where the impossible happens. The Miracle on Ice. Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson. Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2016. This year in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder did the impossible when they made the playoffs as the Western Conference No. 5 seed. Before the season started, ESPN gave the Thunder a 0.2% chance to make the 2020 postseason. Despite the astronomical odds, Oklahoma City is here, and they’re here to stay.
The Thunder went through a major roster reconstruction in the offseason
Just last season, the Thunder had a completely different team. Paul George and Russell Westbrook led the way for OKC, with veterans Patrick Patterson, Markieff Morris, and Raymond Felton backing them up.
In the 2019 offseason, though, all five players departed. George was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Westbrook was sent to the Houston Rockets in return for Chris Paul.
Paul became the new face of the franchise, but the rest of the roster was littered with question marks. Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams were solid starting pieces, and Dennis Schroder was a proven bench scorer, but that was about it for established NBA players.
Rumors were swirling about the Thunder punting on the season and tanking for a top draft pick. Before the season started, ESPN gave OKC the worst odds to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.
ESPN gave the Thunder a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs
Usually, there’s a case to be made for every team in the NBA to make a playoff run. For the Thunder, though, there was virtually none leading into the 2019-20 season.
According to ESPN BPI, Oklahoma City had a minuscule 0.2% chance to make the postseason. That was far lower than any other team in the West. The media and fans believed the Thunder would trade Paul for assets and start to build for the future, but they went the opposite route.
Paul stayed in Oklahoma City and led the underdog Thunder to the No. 5 seed in the conference.
The Thunder defied the odds and made the playoffs as the No. 5 seed
Despite losing two superstars in the offseason, the Thunder shocked the NBA by going 44-28 in the regular season and earning the No. 5 seed in the West. Amazingly, Oklahoma City finished with a better seed than last year despite the massive roster turnover.
The reinvented roster gelled extremely quickly. Paul has looked like his prime self all season, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been a revelation in year two. Four players finished the season averaging over 18 points per game, making the Thunder one of the most balanced teams in the entire league this season.
The Thunder have been proving everyone wrong all year, and they don’t plan on stopping now. OKC begins their playoff run in the first round against Russell Westbrook and the Houston Rockets. Westbrook’s departure was supposed to signal the end of the Thunder as a contender. How perfect would it be if they defeated their ex-franchise cornerstone to continue their magical season?
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference