I don’t pretend to be an expert. Or maybe I do. I don’t really know. Regardless of that, anyone can make predictions, expert or not. Anyone can say things like, “I think the Thunder will win the West” or “I think Kevin Durant will have a five dollar footlong for lunch tomorrow.”
I’m not here to do that. I’m here to make 35 statements, but not with any wavering conviction. Statements made with a nonsensical, possibly irrational amount of confidence. Statements that will more than likely be mostly incorrect by the end of the season, but by then you’ll have forgotten this and if you try and search for it, I will have deleted it and deny that I ever said that.
So here are 35 statements made with extreme confidence. And possible stupidity.
1. Kevin Durant will win his third straight scoring title. Bold? Not at all. I’m starting easy. But then again, I could see KD’s scoring decrease a bit because of James Harden’s emergence as a legit third scorer. That doesn’t mean KD won’t average 27 or 28 a game, but I don’t see him bursting into 33 or 34 points per game range. He’ll take another scoring title simply because he just can’t help it. Dude could score 27 a game if he was in a wheelchair.
2. Russell Westbrook will make his second straight All-Star team. He made it last season simply because he bulldozed his way in with a terrific first half of the season. Now he’s a household name. Along with Chris Paul and Steve Nash, he’s one of the top three point guards in the West.
3. Kendrick Perkins will have 75 dunks this season. Last season, he finished with two. Maybe three. (Note: I don’t think that’s accurate, but that’s how it felt.) Already in preseason he’s got five by my count and with Westbrook driving and dropping to him, Perk is going to have a lot of opportunities to finish with that new-found athleticism.
4. Westbrook will finally produce the Ultimate Dunk. He’s gotten close a couple of times. His finish over Shane Battier nearly had me, but I’m talking the kind of dunk that you never, ever forget. The kind that is replayed on every Thunder intro for eternity. Imagine him actually finishing this one he tried over Andrew Bynum. That’s what I’m talking about.
5. KD will score 50 points in a game not once, but twice. His career-high is 47. He’s never been able to break over that. It happens this year not once, but twice. Oh, I already said that.
6. Serge Ibaka will win the dunk contest. I kind of feel like Ibaka got robbed because his free throw dunk truly was ridiculous and he got crap scores for that. But he wasn’t beating Blake Griffin even if he had dunked from the other free throw line while rescuing an actual boy off the top of the backboard while doing it. This year, contingent on if he enters, Ibaka will blow people away.
7. Nick Collison will break Sam Presti’s team record for charges taken in a game (six). Did you know Presti once took six charges in a game playing for Division III Emerson College? Starting to make sense why Presti loves Collison so much, isn’t it?
8. Brian Davis will say something stupid on air that I actually kind of like 57 times. For example, he actually said this last season after a big dunk: “Excuse me! I just had an accident… but it was the good kind of accident!” I want to hate that, but I love it. It’s why I started the “Brian Davis Line of the Night” thing. I think someone should start a Twitter — @BDSays or something like that — and chronicle his whole season.
9. Ibaka will lead the league in blocks. Hang on, let me one-up this one.
10. Ibaka will win Defensive Player of the Year. That’s Dwight Howard’s award, but Ibaka led the league in total blocks last season and has gained the much-needed notoriety to take home an award like that. Ibaka truly is a block machine and with a full season of starting at power forward coming his way, it’s not unreasonable that he could put up three blocks a game. .
11. DJ Boom will ask the crowd to MAKE SOME NOISE!!! and the crowd will respond with some noise.
12. Sandi Patty will sing four national anthems. She’s OKC’s staple. Our Al Green. The go-to when it’s a big night. I still can’t believe Garth Brooks hasn’t participated in a single Thunder game. Graham Colton is cool and all, but come on, I want Chris Gaines.
13. KD will average three assists a game. Durant has struggled becoming a playmaker in the way he really wants to be. He averaged 2.7 assists a game last season, but still had more turnovers than assists. That changes this year.
14. James Harden will win Most Improved. Unless he’s coming off the bench. Then it will be Sixth Man. Or maybe both, I don’t know. I said this already after the second preseason game, but I don’t think anyone got more out of the summer of charity games than Harden. He’s always struck me as a guy that needs a self-confidence in his own game to succeed and he’s playing with the swagger his beard demands. He looks like he knows he’s good. The midrange game is there, he’s finishing at the rim, creating and isn’t shy about taking an open shot. Everyone saw his potential last season, but I think he’s realizing it now.
15. Oklahoma City will have three All-Stars. Serge Ibaka already thinks he will be, but whether it’s him, Harden or Royal Ivey, the Thunder are going to get a third All-Star just by the product of being a top three team in the West. It always seems to sort of work that way.
16. Perk will have to serve a suspension because of technicals. He picked up one in preseason! Preseason! The guy just can’t help himself. The only thing stopping this from happening is because there are 16 fewer games which means 16 fewer opportunities.
17. KD will not win the MVP. I want KD to take home this award, and I think he genuinely wants it too, but it’s not the primary objective. If OKC has the West’s best record, it’s possible, but I don’t think this is the season KD wins Most Valuable Player. He’ll win two, maybe three, maybe 10 before his career is over, but not yet. Remember: He’s just 23.
18. Westbrook will lead the league in turnovers again. He’s taken that crown two of the last three years. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You know who was second last year? Steve Nash. You know who was first the year Westbrook wasn’t? Dwyane Wade. When you’re a playmaker, you turn the ball over. It happens. I’m not really that worried about it. The ones that bother me are the out of control charges, not the forced passes.
19. The Thunder will finish in the top 10 in both offense and defensive efficiency. That’s where they were last season after the Perk trade. The team became an offensive machine and greatly improved defensively.
20. Westbrook will lead the league with the most triple-doubles. Last season, Westbrook led the team with three in the regular season and one in Game 7 against the Grizzlies. Obviously LeBron is the current triple-double king, but he only had four last season.
21. Matt Pinto will break the world record for most consecutive words said starting with the same letter. Maybe something like, “Westbrook with a soaring, scintillating, scorching, sizzling, super, stazzling (he’ll have to make up words to get it), supreme scoop to the hoop for two!”
22. Perk’s Twitter will finish as one of the best things about the 2011-12 season. It’s amazing. If you’re not following the Yung Hawg, you’re missing out.
23. James Harden’s beard will grow a beard.
24. OKC will break the team free throw percentage record. The Thunder got close last season, shooting 82.3 percent as a team. They need KD to do a little better (88 percent last season), Perk to do better (53 percent) and Ibaka to do a little better (75 percent). The record is 83.2 and it’s reachable.
25. Harden will finish second on the team in assists. Russell Westbrook is a superstar, but I think Harden is the best playmaker. Westbrook will have more assists by virtue of him being the point guard, but Harden, who averaged 2.1 a game last season (fourth on the team), could easily get that to four or five a game.
26. You will grow so sick of the Westbrook-Durant story that at some point in the season, you will stick your face in a bowl of hot tortilla soup. I’ve already done it once. It hurt.
27. Cole Aldrich will make a real impact at some point. Whether it because of injury, because of the shorter season or because he just earned the minutes, Aldrich is going to help OKC win some games this year. Not that he was in a competition with Byron Mullens, but gone is the logjam at that position. Aldrich is the de facto third big and it’s just up to him to get on the floor.
28. Westbrook will finish top three in the league in steals. He was fourth last season at 1.89 a game behind CP3, Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo. Westbrook was a menace in the preseason, stealing four in about 40 minutes.
29. The team OKC will struggle most with is the Clippers. Everyone loves to ask me who I think the team OKC matches up worst with. It used to be easy to answer that: Anyone with good big men. But after the Perk trade and Ibaka moving into the starting five, OKC can handle teams with size. What I think would hurt the Thunder is a team with playmakers and shooters, notably Chris Paul and Chauney Billups. The Clips have size, good perimeter players and an all-world playmaker. They won’t be easy for anyone to beat, but I could see the Thunder having issues with them.
30. OKC will win the Northwest, but it won’t be easy. For a while, it looked like the Northwest was about to be watered down. The Nuggets had like four people on their roster, the Blazers had everyone either hurt or retired, the Wolves are still the Wolves and the Jazz are rebuilding. But the Nuggets look deep and solid again, the Blazers restocked with Jamal Crawford, the Wolves should be better and the Jazz have some talent. It won’t be a cakewalk for the Thunder by any means to hang a second straight Northwest banner.
31. Ibaka will lead the team in double-doubles and it’ll be more than 30. Westbrook led the team last season with 27 double-doubles. KD was second with 14. Ibaka finished with 11. This season, he triples that.
32. Harden will shoot 40 percent from 3. He hit just 35 percent from deep last season but it’s obvious that Harden has spent a lot of his offseason really working on his deep shot. Shooting 40 percent puts you in a pretty elite class of shooters, but I think Harden will be just selective enough to be there.
33. Harden will lead the team in scoring five times. That might not sound like a lot, but consider this: Last season, either Durant or Westbrook led OKC in scoring 80 of 82 games. The only other two came from Jeff Green. But with Westbrook and Durant looking to create more as well as defenses keying on them both, plus the evolution of Harden’s game, I could see him putting up a couple 25-30 point nights.
34. The Thunder will go 2-0 against the Heat in the regular season. I just feel like Oklahoma City matches up really well against Miami. In the one meeting post-Perk trade, the Thunder pretty much handled the Heat in Miami. Maybe it’s a Finals preview and maybe the Heat are a better team, but I like OKC in this matchup.
35. However, the Thunder will go 3-4 against Miami in the playoffs. You see what I did there? You see what I did there.