The NBA Playoffs are set to begin on August 17, but each team will play eight regular season games to determine seeding starting on July 30.
Here’s a look at the current Western Conference standings:
How can the Thunder move up in seeding?
Well, OKC could have a chance to move up in seeding right away in their first game against the Utah Jazz. Oklahoma City was actually scheduled to play Utah back on March 11, but we all know what happened there.
The Thunder will get another shot at the Jazz on August 1. The Jazz are currently in the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings, just one game ahead of OKC. Not only that, the two teams split the season series, so the winner of this game will win the tiebreaker, which could be huge if it comes down to that.
The Thunder and Houston Rockets do have the same record. Although, the Thunder own the tiebreaker over them, so playing at least even with them (both teams will play eight seeding games) could also be huge down the stretch.
It might seem far-fetched, but OKC does have an opportunity to reach the Denver Nuggets at the three seed. Denver only leads OKC by two and a half games. The Thunder play the Nuggets on August 3. The Nuggets also finish the season with a three-game gauntlet: they have to play the top two teams in the Western Conference (the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers), followed by the reigning champs (Toronto Raptors).
If we’re looking for the Thunder to finish with the best playoff seed possible, these are three teams that we should be rooting against.
How can the Thunder improve their pick?
All of this is determined on what the overall league standings look like at the end of the regular season.
Here is what they currently look like:
Just two days after the Paul George trade to the Los Angeles Clippers, Sam Presti traded Jerami Grant to the Denver Nuggets for Denver’s first-round draft pick, which is top-10 protected.
The Nuggets are currently sitting at the sixth spot in the overall league standings, just two and a half games ahead of the Rockets, who are at 10th. If the Nuggets stay inside the top 20 (guaranteed), the pick goes to OKC. It will improve if the Nuggets drop at all.
The Thunder also have their own pick that they could lose to the Philadelphia 76ers if OKC finishes inside the top 10. They are currently sitting at the ninth spot. Obviously, losing would generally improve OKC’s draft pick, but at this point in the season, I think most fans would want the team to finish with the best seed possible.
Can they get both quality seeding and retain all possible picks?
The short answer is yes, yes they can. They would have to fall out of the top 10 in the league-wide standings to prevent their pick from going to Philadelphia, and could do so without dropping to the bottom of the Western Conference seeding
The Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Dallas Mavericks all have a chance to jump OKC. Indiana, Philadelphia, and Dallas are only a game and a half behind them.
Here is one of the more realistic scenarios for this to happen:
If the Rockets and one of either the Pacers or 76ers jump the Thunder in the league standings, it would put OKC at sixth in the Western Conference, also knocking them out of the top-10 in the league standings. This would allow them to keep their draft pick, while also having a decent playoff seed. They would likely play the Jazz or Nuggets in this hypothetical.
However, I am all for them trying to get the best seed possible. I am not going to root for them to lose. With the way they are playing and how great the chemistry is, Thunder fans should be excited to watch the end of the regular season and the playoff run.