There was a point in time when the Oklahoma City Thunder would be a number one seed in the Western Conference once they cash in on their 10,000 draft picks.

Well, that time is now and they didn’t need to break the bank to do so.

The Thunder will enter the 2024 NBA Playoffs as the first seed and they await the winner of the battle for the eighth seed in the Play-In Tournament. While they wait, the celebrations have begun for the youngest franchise in NBA history to become a top seed. 


For more storied teams, a top seed and a division championship are nothing to throw up confetti and break bottles for. But OKC has every right to be elated; after all, this current campaign is the product of years of hard work both at the individual and team level.

For much of the last decade, the Thunder have been taking on a developmental approach which was further complemented with an arms race built on future draft picks and players to build around. Even if they made playoff appearances here and there, it was more of playing with house money with a long-term lens.

Acquiring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the first domino to fall, and even with Chris Paul coming with him to Oklahoma City, it was only a matter of time until Gilgeous-Alexander took over. All that work should make him a frontrunner for MVP and OKC head coach Mark Daigneault gave him the most glowing endorsement a mentor could ever hand out.

For a time, the Thunder surrounded Gilgeous-Alexander with veterans and some young players, but most came with a draft pick OKC intended to use at a later time. It got to the point, however, that the young ones took up more spots and while the wins and losses fluctuated, the fountain of youth did not.

Fast forward to the 2023-2024 season and the Thunder have all grown up. Chet Holmgren is making up for lost time and showcasing all the qualities of a unicorn. Jalen Williams clearly avoided the proverbial sophomore slump as he improved on an otherwise solid rookie season. Josh Giddey and Lu Dort have also provided the necessary production to complement their peers.

As a team, OKC finished the regular season as a two-way juggernaut worthy of a top seed. While they were third in the league in points per game (120.1) and top-5 in terms of shooting splits, the Thunder were top-two in the NBA in steals and blocks per game at 8.5 and 6.6 respectively.

It helps that they’re a young team, as opponents struggled to score on them on the break and in the paint as evidenced by their place in the top-10 in both categories. More importantly though, OKC never let up.

The Thunder didn’t want to miss out on a chance to lock up the top seed and they proceeded to obliterate the Dallas Mavericks, going on an 11-0 run to open the game. OKC led by as many as 58 points, and while they did play against the Mavs’ bench players, their effort should help give them momentum heading into the postseason.

After all those years, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and they emerged as the best in the Western Conference. How they’ll fare in the 2024 NBA Playoffs is still up in the air, but with the way things are going, the Thunder may just be getting started.