How far do the Thunder surge in this week's Power Rankings? All the way into the top 10.
Will the Thunder make the playoffs? is an obsolete question. Oklahoma City is just a half game back of the Western Conference's No. 8 seed after winning eight of its last nine games.
The question now becomes, Where do the Thunder rank as title contenders?
With Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant rounding into playing shape after missing 14 and 17 games, respectively, Oklahoma City has been nearly unbeatable. Its only loss since Westbrook returned on Nov. 28 came at New Orleans. Even as the Thunder work out the kinks, they look like the elite team that has made the conference finals in three of the last four years -- which explains their rise from 17th to sixth in this week's NBA Power Rankings.
Just how good have they been of late? Since Westbrook rejoined the lineup eight games ago, Oklahoma City ranks second in the NBA in net rating (13.4) and defensive efficiency (94.7). The Thunder have also seen their offensive efficiency skyrocket to No. 10 (109.1) during that stretch, well above their season mark of 24th (99.6).
In addition to having its two stars back, Oklahoma City is also benefiting from an improved supporting cast. Reggie Jackson (16.6 points per game) gained valuable experience as the top scoring option when Westbrook and Durant were sidelined, Serge Ibaka continues to expand his offensive repertoire and youngsters such as Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson have received much-needed playing time.
With a postseason berth no longer in doubt -- I'm happy we burned all of those calories discussing that topic last month! -- OKC's new quest becomes home-court advantage. That'll be a much more challenging catch-up game because coach Scott Brooks' team trails the fourth-seeded Trail Blazers by seven games. Still, with Russ and KD healthy, the Thunder represent yet another threat in the stacked West.
Let's take a look at where all 30 teams stand in the rankings.
(All stats and records are through Dec. 14.)