I’m not getting ahead of myself here. I’m not going to start talking about the p-word until at least late January. But if other people want to, by all means.
Oklahoma City has got a seriously tough December ahead and some difficult January games. But regardless, Hollinger still projects 48 wins, with a best case scenario of 64-18 and a worst case of 28-54. (Hollinger’s Playoff Odds)
Right now Hollinger has the Thunder’s playoff odds at a solid 82.5 percent. Remember though, that’s as of RIGHT NOW. That could change drastically with a five-game losing streak. Right now though, he puts OKC’s NBA Finals chances at 8.8 percent, which is right where Utah, Houston and Miami sit. The Thunder has a 4.9 percent chance to win it all. I just peed a little.
He gives the Thunder the second best chance to win the Northwest Division (19.6 percent) behind the Nuggs who hold a 60.6 percent chance. The Lakers are his favorite to win it all, in a series with Boston. Ooooh fun.
The thing about the Thunder that’s most encouraging is that conventional wisdom says this team is only going to get better as the season goes along. So as the team sits at 11-9, you have to keep in mind that the deeper we go, the better Kevin Durant will get. Russell Westbrook will get more confident. James Harden more comfortable. Jeff Green more assertive. Roles better understood and defined. This team is young and young teams improve. Just like last season, I suspect this team is going to play its best basketball later in the year, especially since the schedule gets much easier in March and April. (UPDATE: Hollinger’s comments about OKC after the jump)
The projection for the Thunder is a 48-win season and, quite possibly, a top-4 seed in the loaded Western Conference. For an 11-9 team, that seems optimistic — until one sifts through the Thunder’s first 20 games. They beat the Magic senseless, beat San Antonio and Utah on the road, and have been outclassed only once (an 18-point home whuppin’ by Boston on Dec. 4). In contrast, the Thunder own eight double-digit wins.
The Playoff Odds project a 37-25 mark the rest of the way for Oklahoma City because it has played most of the tough teams on its schedule already — the Thunder are done with Orlando and face the Lakers and Boston just once more each. Oklahoma City’s opponents have a .553 winning percentage when not playing the Thunder; by that measure, only four teams have faced a tougher slate. Inevitably, the schedule evens out, and in the Thunder’s case it does so with a much cushier docket for their final 62 games.