3 Things We Know About The Oklahoma City Thunder Through 18 Games

The Oklahoma City Thunder sit at a comfortable 11-7 after their first 18 games of the year, but they still need to improve if they want to be one of the top seeds in the Western Conference come playoff time. Here are three things we've learned about the Thunder so far this season:

The defense is bad, but slowly improving

Oklahoma City's offense has been amazing under new head coach Billy Donovan as they rank second in the league in points per game (108.9). However, their defense has been absolutely dreadful, ranking just 22nd in the league by giving up 103 points per game. OKC has gotten better on that end of the floor of late, holding four of their last six opponents below 100 points and three of the six to 90 points or less. 

The Thunder have the offensive firepower to play with anybody, but if they want to keep pace with the Warriors and Spurs, they need to prove that their recent surge on defense is here to stay and not just an outlier.

The bench is improved

Oklahoma City has been snakebitten in the playoffs over the last few years because of their lack of depth, but that doesn't look like it'll be the case this year. Both Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters average over 10.5 points per game, while D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow provide shooters that space the floor. They have a big problem with their defense (along with the rest of the team), but for once, they aren't that big of a dropoff from their starting lineup.

Kevin Durant HAS to stay healthy

Oklahoma City went from a title contender to a lottery team withour Durant last season, and they can't afford to miss their best player for a significant chunk of time again this year. The Thunder are just 3-3 without Durant (only one win came against a team with a winning record) compared to 8-4 with him through their first 18 games.

KD gives OKC the best scorer in the NBA, causing the defense to focus on him instead of Westbrook, allowing their offense to really work. Without a threat on the outside, most of the Thunder's sets become irrelevant, and therefore much easier to guard. However, with Durant on the floor, they can beat anyone in the league. That's how valuable Durant is.

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Related Topics: D.J. Augustin, Anthony Morow, Dion Waiters, Kevin Durant, Thunder News, NBA News, Enes Kanter