Hey you. Yeah you. The NBA season starts tomorrow night and the Thunder season starts Wednesday. It’s like finally here! So here are the predictions for this Thunder season from our esteemed panel of contributors. Be sure to disagree in the comments.
Patrick James, Daily Thunder
If nearly every player on the roster got at least a little bit better over the offseason and continues to improve as this season plays out, which is what you would expect for a young team, a finish at or near the top of the division and home court in the first round is on the way. Fifty-three wins last season meant the Nuggets needed a tiebreaker to win the division and No. 4 seed over the Jazz, and I expect the division and home-court races to be similarly tight this year.
Another year of experience, and a still-burning desire for playoff success and a still-fresh organizational culture, will be enough to give the Thunder the edge it needs to win a few more close games during the regular season and position itself for a deeper playoff run. The Thunder will be playing in May this year. How close Oklahoma City gets to June is what remains to be seen.
J.G. Marking, Daily Thunder
The Thunder finish with a record of 54-28, good for the 3rd seed in the west behind the Lakers and Mavs, and 1st place in the Northwest Division, as the Blazers still continue to struggle with frontcourt depth because of injuries from last year and this year, the Jazz just aren’t quite as potent without Boozer, Korver, and Wesley Matthews, the Nuggets start their spiral towards rebuilding mode as their own injuries to their front court and mounting chemistry/trade Melo issues finally take their toll. I don’t have to talk about the why the Timberwolves will be last in the division though, right? Cause, I mean, the sky is also blue and water is wet.
Joel Ashbee, Thunderground Radio
The Thunder may not improve in wins, but they will in their position in the Western Conference. The bottom teams like Sacramento, LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors will be much improved, thus shrinking the amount of wins of the top teams in the West. 48 wins will be enough to grab the 4th seed and home court for the first round of the playoffs. As much as that seems like a disappointment considering all the projections of the Thunder finishing 2nd in the West, it’s not.
Going from 8th to 2nd is too great a leap for one season. The Thunder needs to shake the “darling” label and become a legitimate great team. They can do this by winning a playoff round. Anyone who looks at that as a disappointing season in this young team’s development may be expecting too much too fast.
Brad Thomas, Thunderground Radio
There are really only two ways to go with this: Durant stays healthy, Westbrook is the all-star snub the Internet world erupts in founded outrage over, Thabo starts hitting corner 3s, Green’s 3pt percentage climbs to around 40, and Harden and/or Ibaka make a Westbrook like sophomore improvement OR this team kind of plateaus. If the former takes place our first division title would be nearly inevitable but if the latter takes place what I’m predicting may be more realistic.
All the excitement of our playoff loss to the Lakers and Durant’s domination of the World Championships has at times shielded us from some real questions this team has to face this
season: What if real injuries to a key player occur? What if Thabo never develops a shot? What if Harden and Ibaka don’t make a significant improvement? What about our gaping hole down low? To me a season where we plateau a little bit but still make the playoffs is most likely.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder
Common sense says the only option is up from 50. No key losses, the existing youngsters should have improved and there have been some nice additions that should help.
But the fact some key Western teams dealt with injuries last season and that everything seems to break right is a bit disconcerting. Last season could have just been a flash in the pan, but I say it was the first step towards something bigger.
Clark Matthews, The Lost Ogle
Last season, just about everything went right for the Thunder. Durant blossomed, Westbrook embraced his position, Sefolosha turned into an Artestesque stopper, Maynor was given to the team, and most importantly, no one got hurt. That last stroke of luck will be almost impossible for the Thunder to replicate.
During 2009/10, the only starter who missed a single game was Nenad Krstic, who I think had some elbow tendonitis related to working on his combforward. Harden and Collison both missed seven games, but otherwise the entire rotation was healthy all season. Someone, and this time it will be a major contributor, is going to miss time. So, then, why do I expect them to be three games better in the win column and way up in the standings? The West got weaker this offseason.
In this climate, any conclusion that leads to the Thunder having a first round homecourt advantage is a win. Not making the playoffs, on the other hand, would be a disaster. In between would mean they didn’t show much progress.
Overall, another step ahead for the Thunder. While just a one-win increase, the Thunder moves up in the Western standings and challenges for a division crown.