Most of the time when you make predictions, you’re mostly wrong and just hope to let it all fade into oblivion and never mention it again. Except when you’re right, then you make sure to remind everybody. Which is what I’m doing here. Of last season’s 35 predictions, I’d give myself at least 25 of them.
So I’m back with 35 new ones for the new season. And yep, I had to do some erasing and replacing because of The Trade, but you those predictions about The Beard Who Must Not Be Named were going to be wrong anyway. All made with the utmost highest amount of confidence and unwavering conviction.
1. Kevin Durant will win his fourth straight scoring title. Bold. SO BOLD.
2. Serge Ibaka won’t win Defensive Player of the Year. Too many “smart” basketball writers will stand in the way. And by “smart,” I actually do mean smart. Ibaka wasn’t deserving of the award last season, nor should he have placed second. The raw amount of blocks were incredibly impressive but defense is about much more than a single stat.
3. But Ibaka will lead the league in blocks again. He led the league last season by a full hundred blocks. He’ll do it again this year.
4. Kevin Martin will average fewer points per game than James Harden did last season. Harden averaged 16.5 ppg for OKC last season. For his career, Martin averages 18.4, with a career-high 23.4 a game. That said, he’s always been a featured option and it will take some time for him to adjust to maybe taking only seven or eight shots a game.
5. Ibaka will average more than 15 points per game. When the Thunder traded Jeff Green, it opened the door for Harden to spread his wings as a third scorer. While Martin is there to fill a lot of that role, this could be a chance for Ibaka to showcase the offensive skillset he flashed throughout the preseason.
6. Perry Jones III will produce the best Thunder dunk of the season. That feels like a silly thing to say when Russell Westbrook is on the roster, but Jones has sick bounce and is going to put one on somebody this season. Maybe it’s a crazy oop or maybe he jumps over Hasheem Thabeet.
7. The Thunder will lead the league in margin of victory. Last season, third in the league at +6.1 ppg behind Chicago (8.2) and San Antonio (7.2). The Thunder played quite a few close ones last season and I expect fewer of those this year.
8. KD will flirt with 60 points in a game. There’s more on KD’s shoulders this season and there will come a night, maybe a triple-overtime game against the Wolves or something, where Durant goes off.
9. PJIII will not only settle in to the rotation, but he’ll provide some much-needed Harden relief. The door has opened wide for Jones to be more of a difference maker. Not only is Harden gone, but Aldrich and Cook are too. Meaning the rotation has obvious open spots to it.
10. Rumble will go 3-for-94 this season on halfcourt granny shots while looking the wrong way.
11. The Thunder will lead the league in offensive efficiency. They finished second last season and with Martin’s free throwing along with another year of understanding between Westbrook and Durant, OKC should have the league’s best offense.
12. Kendrick Perkins will play better. That’s all I’m going to say. I just think Perk is going to be better.
13. The Thunder will be a player at the trade deadline. Maybe it’s Eric Maynor if the Thunder feel good about Reggie Jackson being featured more prominently. Maybe it’s Kevin Martin and his expiring deal. Maybe it’s the picks the Thunder have stockpiled. One way or the other, the Thunder are going to be buyers at the deadline.
14. KD will finish with more assists than turnovers. Hasn’t happened yet in his career, but he’s getting closer. If preseason was any indication (21-7 ratio), Durant’s figuring this thing out.
15. KD will set new career-highs in assists per game. KD set a new career-high last season with 3.5 a game. I think he reaches at least four per game this season. Assist to turnover.
16. The Thunder will have two All-Stars. Pre-Harden trade, that number was three. But with so much depth at power forward in the West (Griffin, Dirk, Gasol, Love, Aldridge, Millsap, Duncan) that it’s hard to picture Ibaka making it.
17. Russell Westbrook will make first-team All-NBA. That even feels a bit bold for this. But you could make the case Westbrook should’ve been first team last season and with more of a role handling and distributing, I see Westbrook getting back to his assisting ways, averaging 22-8 or something close to that.
18. KD will go 50-40-90. It’s quite a feat to be a 180 shooter, but Durant will do it. Last season he was 49.6-38.7-86.0. So pretty close.
19. Westbrook will miss the first game of his NBA career. He’s played in 312 straight. He’s got to miss one eventually, right?
20. After Perk shuts down Dwight Howard in OKC’s first meeting with the Lakers, people will praise him wildly, only to turn on him completely two games later. And the cycle will continue.
21. Cole Aldrich will bite someone in a game. I had that one in there before he got traded. I still think it’s gonna happen.
22. Perk will say “at the end of the day” two million times. Seriously considering putting a counter on the site that tracks it all season long. “At the end of the day” makes Westbrook’s “definitely, definitely” look like nothing.
23. KD will record a triple-double. He flirted with it multiple times last season but a Thunder blowout got in the way most of the time. Pretty hard to put up a triple-double in three quarters.
24. Westbrook will record three. If he’s going to put up better assist numbers, and I expect he will with Ibaka as a legit pick-and-pop option, then it’s bound to happen.
25. Serge Ibaka will make 20 3-pointers. I think the 3-point thing is real. He’s going to get that shot and he can knock it down. I don’t think it’s going to become regular thing where he’s attempting three or four a game, but I can certainly see him consistently knocking some down when afforded the opportunity.
26. Hasheem Thabeet will… uh… um. Let’s move on.
27. The Thunder will go 3-1 against the Lakers in the regular season. The Lakers look to be in a little disarray right now and it’s going to take them time to figure things out. The Thunder have their number right now and will be fired up to send a little message.
28. Serge Ibaka will have 25 double-doubles. Points and rebounds, points and blocks, blocks and rebounds — he’ll get there.
29. KD will have his talent taken by an annoying kid, but will eventually get it back after we all learn a valuable lesson.
30. Westbrook will make third-team All-Defense. OK, so this feels absurdly bold, considering Westbrook is such an inconsistent defender. But he has it in him. He can be an elite on-ball defender. It’s about limiting his gambling, focusing in on his assignment and not losing himself ball watching.
31.The Thunder will win the Northwest, by more than five games. Everyone is riding high on the Denver bandwagon, but I think they’ll be moderately disappointing. And while the Blazers will probably be decent and the Wolves are improved and the Jazz OK, the Thunder are still the class of the division.
32. KD will win MVP. The departure of Harden only helps in that case. More media sympathy for Durant, more of an underdog story for the Thunder and more of a burden for Durant. LeBron will assuredly be fantastic this season, but as you know, the MVP is about a lot more than just numbers. It’s about the story, the hype, the buzz. And if the Thunder win close to 60, top the West and Durant has the kind of season I’m thinking he will, after the Harden trade, the media will be drooling all over him.
33. The Thunder will claim homecourt throughout the playoffs. Close last season but a lousy finish coupled with a Spurs charge prevented it. I think the Thunder have learned from their mistake. Even though it really didn’t cost them at all.
34. The Thunder will meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
35. When the season ends, the James Harden trade will still be the story surrounding OKC’s season. Read into that what you will.