With the lockout shortened season, the Thunder won’t be welcoming every team to Oklahoma City and the newly renovated and renamed Peake Arena. Not coming to town: Milwaukee, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Atlanta, Indiana and Washington.
Not really a disappointing slate of opponents to not have come to town, except for the fact that was probably six easy wins down the drain.
And that’s the point — that’s six easy wins.
Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com put together a really interesting schedule analysis which listed the Thunder as an “elite loser.” Why? Because OKC got gipped just for the reason that they’re one of the league’s marquee teams.
The Lakers, Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Knicks? That’s expected. They’re the big market boys with the deep pockets and big spotlight. They’re a major matchup for anyone any time. They dominate in the TV appearances for a reason.
But the Thunder? They’re in the league’s small market and don’t possess a “household” brand, what with them being only four years old and all. Consider this:
Every team plays three non-conference teams twice. The Thunder are the only small market team to be in a group of so-called “elite” teams playing the other so-called “elite” teams. The league has essentially placed the Thunder in the same class with Miami, Boston, Dallas and the Lakers. All those teams didn’t get to miss out on playing each other for the sole reason of TV purposes.
The Thunder get Orlando, Miami and Boston twice each. The only “elite” team the Thunder miss twice is the Bulls, who OKC doesn’t visit this season. The Lakers, for comparison, play the Heat, Celtics and Knicks twice each. Boston gets Oklahoma City Los Angeles and Dallas. Sensing a theme here?
Look at the way other comparable small markets were treated. Portland gets Atlanta, Washington and Milwaukee twice. Denver: Milwaukee, Toronto, Orlando. And both Portland and Denver were playoff teams last season.
So what’s better? The Thunder are big losers in terms of schedule, but it’s only because the league views them as an exceptional, elite team. With Kevin Durant’s starpower and the rising brand of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka, along with the fact the team is really good, Oklahoma City is a marquee team in the same category as the Celtics, Lakers and Heat. But again, that comes with a cost.