When you compare the seasonal fortunes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans, the picture is similar.
Both teams have had terrible luck getting their key pieces on the floor together.
As we speak, the Thunder are without superstar Kevin Durant, along with key pieces Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson and Nick Collison due to injuries. Superstar Russell Westbrook, who has been the player in the league over the last month, has missed 15 games due to injuries.
As we speak, the Pelicans are without starters Jrue Holiday, Omer Asik and Tyreke Evans, along with Ryan Anderson. Superstar Anthony Davis has missed 14 games due to injuries.
Phoenix is also still involved in the playoff chase for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.
All three contenders made moves at the trade deadline.
Phoenix made bold moves, discarding Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas while adding Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton, and former Grace King star Danny Granger.
While the Pelicans clearly upgraded their point guard spot with the acquisition of Norris Cole, Oklahoma City clearly won the day at the trade deadline and likely won the final playoff spot in the West with their acquisition of Enes Kanter from Utah.
New Orleans native D.J. Augustin of Brother Martin High School has filled the gap left by the departure of Reggie Jackson as well, playing solidly for the Thunder.
Where would the Thunder be without Kanter? In his last eight games, Kanter has averaged 21.6 points and 12.6 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field. He has six consecutive double-doubles and has recorded double-doubles in seven of his last eight games. He is the second option behind Westbrook that the Thunder sorely needed without Durant in the fold.
I stated at the time that Kanter was a great move by Oklahoma City, a likely difference making move, and it has been.
In 17 games since being dealt to Oklahoma City, Augustin has scored in double figures seven times while providing decent numbers from 3-point range (34%) and handing out 3.3 assists per game.
Cole has played nicely for Monty Williams, averaging 10.5 points and 3.7 assists in 16 games. Cole has shot well from the field (48%) and from 3-point range (38%).
Knight has been a mixed bag with the Suns. While he has averaged 14.3 points per game and dished our 4.5 assists per game, he is shooting just 35 percent from the field and 34 percent from 3-point range. Granger has not played in a game since Phoenix acquired him. Thornton is out as well, with a toe injury and has made no real impact with the Suns, averaging 3.4 points in eight games.
The Thunder have won four straight games and will be at San Antonio tonight while the Pelicans are hosting Houston. Phoenix has suddenly caught fire, winning four straight games, including one over New Orleans. They host the lowly Kings tonight. The Thunder and Suns each have 11 games remaining while the Pelicans have 12 games left and have lost three straight.
When the final tally is in, Kanter may well be the difference in the Thunder returning to the playoffs while the Suns and Pelicans remain home.