Thunder at Magic – NBA Pick for November 29th
- Spread: Thunder -6
Coming into the season, most believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would be right there with the likes of the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs challenging the Golden State Warriors’ supremacy in the Western Conference. It’s still early in the season, but it’s obvious that OKC is going to have to work some kinks out before they can truly be considered contenders.
The Thunder reached a new low with a brutal 97-81 loss over the weekend against the lowly Dallas Mavericks. OKC slid to 8-11 on the season with the defeat, and they’re currently dead last in the Northwest Division. It’s safe to say that a team whose core consists of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony should be doing better.
Westbrook cruised to an MVP last season when he was essentially a lone wolf, but now he’s struggling to acclimate to his new high-usage teammates. Westbrook still leads the team in scoring at 21.6 points per game, but he’s shooting just 40 percent from the floor and 31 percent from long range.
Trying to build an offense around three ball-hungry stars was always going to be a challenge, but scoring the ball really shouldn’t be this difficult. Far too often, the Thunder’s offense devolves into one-on-one isolation situations that result in a contested long-2. OKC enters play Wednesday just 22nd in the league in offensive rating.
Letting Westbrook work more off-ball and letting PG3 handle the ball may be a solution to consider. George has been quietly superb, as he’s averaging better than 20 points and is connecting on over 40 percent of his looks from three-point range. Combine those numbers with his standard stellar defense and he’s having another outstanding individual campaign.
Speaking of defense, that is the one area of the game on which this team can hang its hat. OKC is second in defensive rating behind only the Celtics, which is a good sign moving forward. Even if the offense winds up being only about league average, that should still be enough to get them near the top half of the Western Conference.
Magic Losing Skid
While OKC’s struggles have been pronounced, there may not be a team in the league right now playing worse basketball than the Orlando Magic. The Magic are now 8-13, but they have lost 9 games in a row. The Magic are coming off a disappointing 121-109 defeat in Indiana a couple of nights ago, and things are looking bleak once again.
Aaron Gordon got off to a blazing start this season, but his performance seems to have dipped since Elfrid Payton returned from injury. The bouncy forward is still averaging better than 17 points and 8 rebounds per game, but he’s topped the 20-point plateau just once during the 9-game skid.
The Magic have slipped all the way to 23rd in defensive rating, though they’re still respectable 13th on offense. To be fair, Orlando has faced some tough opponents during the streak. They’ve had to go up against the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Celtics, 76ers and Denver on the road. They’ve also enjoyed just 2 home games in their last 9.
Despite the struggles, this looks like a get-right spot for the Thunder. The Magic are the most hapless opponent they will have faced, and the spread is manageable. Losing to a team like Dallas doesn’t inspire much confidence, but OKC is in too good of a spot to ignore here.