Kevin Durant's healthy return has pushed the OKC Thunder into the Top 5 of this week's NBA Power Rankings.
Congratulations, we’ve made it through the first month of the season. And after sifting through four sets of rankings and looking at the trends, one specific spot has resulted in way more trouble than any other: number four.
There’s been a different team sitting fourth each week: the Spurs began there before proving worthy of a top-three place alongside the Warriors and Cavaliers. All have cruised in the early-going and made life really, really easy—these are the first three teams I comfortably pencil in every week, followed by the Sixers in last (gotta win one first, guys).
But the Hawks, Heat and Bulls have rotated in that place since, in some cases more by performance-based default than any clear vibes that they are the fourth-best team in the NBA. They were also all less than convincing in the week that followed their new rank, and like drummers, tupperware and professional Power Rankers, they were replaceable. In honor of Kobe Bryant’s retirement, I was planning to break it down poetically until the Thunder spared me what would have surely been a delightful haiku.
In short, Kevin Durant came back healthy, Oklahoma City looked the part, and a six-spot leap felt justified. When net-destroying Durant and inimitably aloof person-sized tornado Russell Westbrook weren’t busy giving Reggie Jackson zero-star reviews on Yelp this week, they were leading a team many pegged as a Finals contender to three convincing wins. I'm buying, now and long-term. Welcome back, Thunder.
With that decided, here are this week’s Power Rankings, which are not in the form of a poem.
(All records and stats through Nov. 29)