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Oklahoma City Thunder poised to not threaten New Orleans Pelicans nor other playoff hopefuls in Western Conference

Will one of the predicted best teams in the West be a complete nonfactor?

New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans have begun the season with a perfect 3-0 record and are the only remaining undefeated team in the Western Conference. On the opposite end of the spectrum sits the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are now off to an 0-4 start after a loss to the Boston Celtics last night.

While it’s been only four games, the Thunder haven’t been all that competitive, losing contests by an average of 10.25 points per game. Although Russell Westbrook missed his team’s first two matchups, he did post a line of 32 points (on 13-23 shooting), 12 rebounds and 8 assists against the Kings, but OKC still lost the game by eleven points — at home!

According to Basketball Reference, the Thunder have posted the 11th worst point differential (-41) among teams to have started the season winless in their first four contests dating back to the 2013-14 season. Have a look at how the others from that group fared over the course of their full regular seasons.

Team Point differential after 1st four games Regular season record Conference finish
2014-15 Lakers -68 21-61 14th
2015-16 Nets -59 21-61 14th
2018-19 Cavaliers -58 ? ?
2015-16 Pelicans -57 30-52 12th
2017-18 Mavericks -57 24-58 13th
2015-16 76ers -56 10-72 15th
2016-17 76ers -56 28-54 14th
2014-15 76ers -53 18-64 14th
2016-17 Suns -46 24-58 15th
2014-15 Magic -45 25-57 13th
2018-19 Thunder -41 ? ?
2015-16 Lakers -40 17-65 15th
2016-17 Pelicans -36 34-48 10th
2016-17 Mavericks -34 33-49 11th
2013-14 Jazz -33 25-57 15th
2013-14 Celtics -30 25-57 12th

Over the previous five seasons, 14 0-4 teams suffered point differentials of -30 or worse. None of those teams legitimately threatened to make the playoffs, as all failed to reach the 35-win plateau. As this list shows, this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Thunder have joined the ill-fated list.

Don’t be so sure of the old adage, “but it’s early.” Notice a couple of New Orleans Pelicans teams sit in the table above. Despite the presence of one of the game’s greats, Anthony Davis, the Pelicans began a couple of seasons very poorly and never managed to get on the right track.

If you may remember, the 2014-15 Thunder got off to a 3-12 start. That team managed to finish the year with a 45-37 record, narrowly missing out on the postseason. However, both Kevin Durant and Westbrook were sidelined with injury during that rough beginning stretch. Where is the help going to come from this time round? Obviously, Durant isn’t going to save this year’s roster, plus Paul George has been in the lineup throughout the first four losses of the 2018-19 schedule.

Now, it’s important to remember that unless one of the star’s play drops precipitously, the Thunder do have two All-NBA talents that should be able to combine their efforts and stem the bleeding soon, possibly even right the ship enough and still make the 2019 playoffs. After all, last season’s 48-win roster is back for another go, minus Carmelo Anthony. However, recent history says the OKC is in for one heck of a bumpy ride that’s seemingly bound to end in bitter disappointment.