Last season: 59-23. 1st Northwest Division (2nd Western Conference), Lost 4-2 to San Antonio in Western Conference Finals
Notable Acquisitions: G Anthony Morrow (free agent, NOP), G Sebastian Telfair (China), F Lance Thomas (China)
Draft Picks: F/C Mitch McGary (Michigan, 21st overall), F Josh Huestis (Stanford, 29th overall)
Notable Losses: F Caron Butler (DET), G/F Thabo Sefolosha (ATL), G Derek Fisher (retirement)
Burning Question: Is it possible for a point guard to attempt 30 shots a night?
If we’re lucky, we just might find out. Russell Westbrook’s green light will be brighter than ever in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury. He will be more aggressive than ever to try and help the Thunder win games the first couple of months in the season.
The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in unfamiliar territory after Kevin Durant’s injury. The reigning MVP is expected to miss the first couple of months this year with a stress fracture and will be missed by both OKC and all fans across the league.
On the court, it may have a devastating effect for the Thunder’s record. Unless, Russell Westbrook starts doing, well, Westbrook-esque things. If you look down OKC’s inexperienced/inconsistent roster, Russ is the unquestioned leader and go-to guy for coach Scott Brooks.
It’ll be a fun, interesting ride to say the least. Westbrook is arguably a top-5 player and could be a dark horse candidate for MVP if he competes at a high level. Honestly, he’s too talented to crash and burn in an alpha dog role but his shooting percentage could take a ridiculous nosedive.
But enough about Westbrook, let’s discuss the Thunder’s “active” offseason. Hmm, what do we have here?
Ok, they signed Anthony Morrow from the New Orleans Pelicans. Sharpshooter who should space the space the floor, nice pickup.
What else? Well, they drafted Josh Huestis (who???) from Stanford, Mitch McGary from Michigan and signed Sebastian Telfair. Telfair, apparently, still plays basketball, so that’s a plus.
Yeah, nothing really happened for OKC in the offseason. Once again, GM Sam Presti and the rest of the Thunder hierarchy is relying upon internal improvement over proven commodities.
Yes, they have previously drafted well with Reggie Jackson, Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams panning out as very special players. All three players will be important for OKC to remain as an elite team. Jackson has to continue to put pressure on defenses and Ibaka and Adams must protect the paint with their lives.
The jury is still out, however, on Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson and Perry Jones. If that young trio doesn’t step up, forget about Durant’s eventual return, OKC might not have a leg to stand on by then.
Of course they’ll be a force in the division and, eventually, in the playoffs. But winning an NBA Championship looks as far as it’s ever been, even with a healthy Westbrook and Durant. They need more firepower on both ends of the court to keep up with the likes of San Antonio and Los Angeles (Clippers).
If the Thunder can’t make a splash at the trade deadline, it’ll be another disappointing exit in the playoffs.
Projected Starting 5 (til Durant returns):
A couple of weeks ago, Russell Westbrook responded to a reporter’s quip about memes. A quizzical Westbrook said, “I don’t even know what memes is.” In the digital age, that’s impossible. Not only are memes everywhere, Westbrook himself has been featured on a LOT of them.
Check out a few of our favorites:
Once Durant returns from injury, there are a couple of key roster decisions Coach Brooks must make: start Steven Adams at center and play Perry Jones additional minutes at both forward spots.
Adams is viewed as the successor to Kendrick Perkins at center and he showed why as a rookie (made All-Rookie team). His athleticism and natural instincts, on both offense and defense, make him a very rare breed in today’s league.
Jones needs a lot more playing time too. At 6’10, Agent P is a matchup problem with the ability to play both the 3 and 4. He can take opponents off the dribble and shoot pretty well from three (36% in limited minutes a year ago). Often criticized for being too stubborn with his rotation, Brooks can make huge waves with a lineup of Westbrook, Durant, Jones, Ibaka and Adams.
G Reggie Jackson- Another huge “beneficiary” of Durant’s injury is Jackson, the fourth-year guard from Boston College. With an improved jumper, nice playmaking ability and sneaky athleticism, he is becoming a “Westbrook-lite” type of talent these days, which is a huge compliment.
Until Durant gets back, he could average upwards of 18 ppg and 5 assists.
Best Case: OKC is a title contender year in and year out. Somehow, their scrappy mix of parts defy the odds and give Durant and Westbrook enough help to win a title.
Worst Case: OKC’s lack of creativity catches up to them. They lose in the second round and will try to re-tool in the offseason.
1st, Northwest Division (3rd Western Conference), Second-Round Exit
“I say, ‘Why Not’ to everything”- Russell Westbrook