Here Come the Thunder?

Give your students an opportunity to reason with ratios in this NBA-themed challenge:




  1. What percentage of their remaining games must the Oklahoma City Thunder win in order to make the playoffs?


The Oklahoma City Thunder—a team in the NBA’s Western Conference—lost their two star players (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) to injury for the first part of the season. After the Thunder posted a 5-12 record (5 wins, 12 losses) in their first 17 games, Durant and Westbrook were poised to start Game 18.

A bit more background… The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs. In the previous year, the 8th team in the Western Conference (the Thunder’s conference) won 49 games. Hence, the estimate in the image for the number of wins needed to make the playoffs.

Lesson Notes

To establish the setting (and ultimately the question), display the following three images:




Ask students: “Do you think the Thunder have any chance of making the playoffs with their star players back in action?” After students share their responses (with reasoning), ask them to identify what information would be helpful in determining their answer.

Ideally, students will suggest the following:

  • Total games in an NBA season
  • Thunder win percentage with a healthy Durant and Westbrook

Next, display these images:



With that information in hand, students should be able to determine the number of wins needed (44 out of 65 games) as well as the win percentage needed (0.677) to reach the projected minimum of 49 wins.


How does that compare to recent results? That depends on how far back students want to look. But the win percentages for the last two years (59/82 = 0.720 in 2013-2014, 60/82 = 0.732 in 2012-2013) suggest that they have a real shot.

So what happened? You’ll have to wait a few months for the results to roll in. In the meantime, enjoy some highlights!


  1. What is the best playoff seed (1-8) you think the Thunder could earn? (This will require a bit of research on Google, Wikipedia, or


Key Standards

  • CCSS 6.RP.A
    Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems.
  • CCSS 7.RP.A
    Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world and mathematical problems.

Shout Outs


On Monday, January 5, 2015, the Thunder played the Golden State Warriors. At the start of the television broadcast, the following image was displayed:


Depending on the direction you take this lesson with your students, it may be helpful to know that the Thunder won 9 out of 11 games when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were both in the lineup. (Or 9 out of 12; the Warriors destroyed the Thunder that night.)

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