WFNY Stats & Info: Comparing Cavs’ momentum to the Thunder’s

Yesterday, we started off a new series in the WFNY Stats & Info column. Today, I follow up on some of the same themes.

After looking at breakdown of the Cavs relatively improved play in their last 15 games, I couldn’t resist looking into how it compared to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008-09. As I wrote at great length in The Diff on Wednesday, that was Kevin Durant’s second year and Russell Westbrook’s first. Let’s look at the numbers.

2012-13 Cleveland Cavaliers
Cavs efficiency in first 28 games (record: 5-23): 99.1-105.9 (-6.8)
Cavs efficiency in last 15 games (record: 6-9): 102.9-106.4 (-3.5)

2008-09 Oklahoma City Thunder
Thunder efficiency in first 32 games (record: 3-29): 97.6-107.1 (-9.5)
Thunder efficiency in last 50 games (record: 20-30): 103.7-108.1 (-4.4)

Obviously I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The sample size isn’t quite there yet. It’s impossible to truly say they’re similar situations, at all. And as comments and tweets replied back yesterday, the Cavs’ recent easy strength of schedule could certainly be a factor. But it’s just a neat comparison.

Digging deeper, the Thunder fired P.J. Carlesimo after starting 1-12 that season. They then kept sliding to 3-29 under Scott Brooks until eventually figuring it out. Their 20-30 run then led to a 50-win season the next year, and they’ve been great ever since.

Dare I say the Cavs are going to be that good that quickly? Absolutely not. But it’s undeniable they’ve looked and played more competitively recently, even without Anderson Varejao in the lineup. And they seem to be carrying a decent amount of momentum that should carry over to higher expectations in the 2013-14 season.

[Related: The Diff: Franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers]

  • mgbode

    good point. on one hand, you have the missed games of Irving. but, without the increased level of playing by TT, the latter numbers wouldn’t have improved nearly as much.

    be interesting to see if Speights can help them increase even a little more (and potentially Ellington a little bit).

  • Natedawg86

    Did the Thunder win a championship? I would love to have that lineup and team, but there is a difference between being one of the top teams, and winning the championship….

  • JimLahey

    One step at a time buddy, a team needs to be a playoff contender before a championship contender. I would argue that the OKC Thunder have the brightest outlook in all of the NBA. They have shown they can get to the finals and compete with the core being still very young.

  • mgbode

    ND’s point is valid as well though. You could have said the same thing about the outlook of the 1995 Orlando Magic.

  • Mid-Afternoon Snack


  • Vindictive_Pat

    Where’s Afternoon Tea? That dude never shows up around here.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    OKC lookin’ pretty good this year but long way to go. I think they need something else myself though come playoffs like another big man who can put up a few points. I think they are locked in as far as the roster goes however. Loved seeing them beat the Clippers but then my sleeper team the Warriors defeated them the next night.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m really not a fan of these sorts of comparisons not when one team has achieved and the other currently has a record of 11-32, second worst in the NBA. If Kyrie is the Cavaliers Durant I think it’s painfully obvious the Cavaliers are missing a Westbrook and/or Ibaka. Tristan Thompson is showing signs of being a poor man’s Ibaka so the Cavaliers are getting closer at least.

  • Yup

    Actually, if you look at it, TT is ahead of Ibaka at similar pints in their career and Dion is similar to Westbrook in many ways as a rookie. Though the Harden comparison is a more apt one. So, again, stop using the Thunder players of today when comparing; use the Thunder players in their second year and as rookies. If one does that, seems pretty clear the Cavs are right on track…

  • Steve

    Well what are the alternatives? If we limit our models to only NBA champions, we can either try to be the Heat or Celtics, teams that were able to acquire a couple superstars in possibly underhanded deals. Or we can be the Lakers or Mavericks whose main strategy is to throw money at any problem. I’m not sure how we can be any of those. That leaves the Spurs, who cornered the market on foreign players before the rest of the NBA figured it out. It will be tough to do that. At this point, they’re just relying on the best coach in the NBA and knowing how to fit players into their system well.

  • mgbode

    he’s on the UK version of the site.

  • mgbode

    why limit it to the Thunder though? What about Memphis and Indiana and Golden State? the fact is that we do not know if the way the Thunder built their team is good enough (or the others). despite an unprecedented streak of drafts and trades by Presti, they still had to trade away their 3rd best asset to manage their cap situation.

    Memphis built through trades and picks but their window may close even quicker. Indiana seems built for the long-haul but are stuck in the unfortunate situation of not having an elite star among their solid picks. GS is another hybrid trade/draft team and will be interesting to track as they made a leap this year that they may be unable to maintain.

  • Steve

    I’m just referring to ND’s point about championship only. Sure, I think you can look at those other three teams as well, especially if the goal is to make it to 50 wins and then see what you can do, or how you can improve from there.

    OKC is viewed as the model because they have been successful at what the overarching goal is – getting the type of talent that you need to win a title. We all pretty much agree that you need a MVP-candidate guy and then still a second all-star, right? Sure, that’s not the end of the list, and you might be able to work around not having one of those two main pieces, but it’s incredibly difficult without both.

    Those three teams you mentioned don’t have that. Their records are good, but not great, and their scoring diff pales in comparison to the best of the league. I’d confidently bet that none make the Finals, and that only Indiana comes close because of how weak the East is.

    And regardless of what anyone else has done in the history of the game, the Cavs need to figure out a way to pair that second star with Irving. Right now they need that #1/MVP candidate. Maybe Irving really steps up his game and we only need the #2, but between the injuries and little improvement defensively, he’s not really close yet. The best way for them to do that is to hit on picks at the top of the draft.

  • mgbode

    fair enough, I think we were all stating slightly different points. no worries.

    memphis and indiana want to buck that trend (though Marc Gasol is currently the best center in the NBA). i think Memphis could have given it a run if they weren’t destroying all their depth because of $$ concerns (Mayo, Speights – Ellington to a small degree). They still might but it’s getting tougher. both use the Pistons model of defense first philosophies.

    GS is strange. Curry could be a MVP candidate in couple years and Mark Jackson has them playing defense. they still “feel” short though but I guess we will see as they go.

  • Natedawg86

    Utah Jazz with Malone and Stockton? Utah made the playoffs 20 straight years and the finals twice…no champtionship (84-03)

  • Natedawg86

    I would love to have a good/great CLE team, but I really also want a championship in NFL, MLB or NBA (in that order). We have seen the Indians as a powerhouse, but never won the WS. Cavs lost their one chance in the finals, and I have not been alive for a Browns championship or championship appearance. I do think the Cavs are going about it the right way, and they do get me excited a little when thinking about their potential. I actually rooted for the Lakers last night because hopefully they will make the playoffs. I want them to succeed, and watching Cavs playoffs games are awesome, but lets win one for once!