Before the season started, I made 35 statements filled with a robust amount of confidence. Let’s check in to see how brilliant I am.
1. Kevin Durant will win his fourth straight scoring title. Woo. Off to a good start.
2. Serge Ibaka won’t win Defensive Player of the Year. Really not all that big of a limb to go out on, but I don’t think many saw him finishing third to Marc Gasol and LeBron.
3. But Ibaka will lead the league in blocks again. Nailed it!
4. Kevin Martin will average fewer points per game than James Harden did last season. It’s funny, because prior to the season, we all had different expectations and ideas about Martin and how he’d fit. Not that he disappointed — specifically in the regular season — but when he was added he was coming in as one a primary scorer that was known as one of the league’s best. That reputation changed a lot this season. Also, Harden averaged 16.5 in 2011-12. Martin averaged 14.0.
5. Ibaka will average more than 15 points per game. Close-ish. Ibaka averaged 13.2.
6. Perry Jones III will produce the best Thunder dunk of the season. Swing and a miss. Not only did Perry Jones play about as much as I did this season, but it would’ve been hard to top this dunk by KD. Or this dunk by Russ. Or this dunk by KD again. Or this dunk by Ru… you get the point.
7. The Thunder will lead the league in margin of victory. Not only did the Thunder lead the league in MOV (+9.2) but it kind of became a storyline as they pushed towards historical significance. In terms of history, margin of victory often indicates championship chops. Too bad we didn’t get to find out with this team.
8. KD will flirt with 60 points in a game. Here’s what I said: “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.” Turns out it was a single overtime game against the Mavs, but he dropped 52 and really, probably should’ve had at least 60.
9. PJIII will not only settle in to the rotation, but he’ll provide some much-needed Harden relief. Let’s pretend No. 9 never happened. Good? Good.
10. Rumble will go 3-for-94 this season on halfcourt granny shots while looking the wrong way. Nailed this one to the number. (Did I? It’s not like you know I didn’t.)
11. The Thunder will lead the league in offensive efficiency. For much of the season, this was looking very good. A little offensive slip and the Heat going on an absurd ran dropped OKC to No. 2, but a 110.2 offensive efficiency is very good. And only 0.1 behind the Heat for No. 1 anyway. It’s an improvement over last season’s stellar mark and a good illustration of the team’s continued offensive evolution. They aren’t there yet. That’s the point.
12. Kendrick Perkins will play better. I’m all Perk’d out and regardless of what I say here, people will argue. Recency bias is dominating the discussion around Perk and while the case could be made that his 2012-13 was better overall than his 2011-12, no one is going to accept that because they can only remember those disastrous 11 playoff games. For example, Marc Gasol got whipped in the pick-and-roll by the Spurs in overtime, being involved in 12 of San Antonio’s 18 points, and already I’ve seen and heard people questioning him winning DPOY. I’m not comparing Gasol and Perk by any stretch, but the point is, sometimes basketball players don’t play great, or the other team does, and thereby it makes them look bad.
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.”
That’s what I said. They did indeed trade Maynor and they did indeed deal one of those stockpiled picks. But it was for a trade exception and Ronnie What A Pointless Trade Brewer.
14. KD will finish with more assists than turnovers. 374 assists, 280 turnovers. Not only did KD finish with more assists than turnovers for the first time in his career, but he did it by almost a hundred assists. KD knows how to improve.
15. KD will set new career-highs in assists per game. Previous career-high was 3.5, set last season. Durant averaged 4.6 a game this season.
16. The Thunder will have two All-Stars. That doesn’t sound like such a bold statement — along the lines of, “people will say Kevin Durant is good!” — but it was more a prediction to say Serge Ibaka would NOT be an All-Star. And he was definitely in the conversation for a while, but in the West, making an All-Star team as a power forward is a major challenge. So the Thunder might be stuck with just two All-Stars for quite a while.
17. Russell Westbrook will make first-team All-NBA. He didn’t. He made his third straight second team. But really, he probably should’ve made first team. My preseason comment: “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.” He averaged 23.2 and 7.4. And had probably his best individual season yet. Was it better than Chris Paul’s or Kobe Bryant’s? Hard to really make an ironclad case that it was, but there’s certainly one there to be had.
18. KD will go 50-40-90. Check. (51.0, 41.6, 91.0, to be exact.)
19. Westbrook will miss the first game of his NBA career. Well, I definitely regret this one. I imagined a rolled ankle or flu-like symptoms or something in late February. Not a devastating knee injury that essentially eliminated the Thunder from the postseason. But hey, I was 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. I’m sure this happened. Though I don’t know if there was actually much praising ever going on.
21. Cole Aldrich will bite someone in a game. He bit the Thunder with his double-double in just 23 minutes, amirite? I’m not rite.
22. Perk will say “at the end of the day” two million times. Just missed it. He said it 1,893,456 times. Darn.
23. KD will record a triple-double. KD got his first, then his second and then his third.
24. Westbrook will record three. Westbrook just had one this season, his first since Game 7 against the Grizzlies in 2011.
25. Serge Ibaka will make 20 3-pointers. Well, how do you like that? Ibaka made 20-of-57 from 3 this season. That’s 35.1 percent, which isn’t shabby at all. A lot of people regard Chris Bosh as an ideal floor spacing power forward that can step out and hit 3s (after Kevin Love, obviously), and he went 21-74 for the season. So Ibaka was actually a lot better from deep than you think.
26. Hasheem Thabeet will… uh… um. This came true. On this play.
27. The Thunder will go 3-1 against the Lakers in the regular season. The Thunder went 3-1 against the Lakers in the regular season.
28. Serge Ibaka will have 25 double-doubles. Ibaka finished with 15 double-doubles, all of the points and rebounds variety.
29. KD will have his talent taken by an annoying kid, but will eventually get it back after we all learn a valuable lesson. Game 2 against the Rockets, this annoying kid named Patrick stole KD’s “talent” (metaphors, yo) and we all learned that Russell Westbrook is super duper important to the Thunder.
30. Westbrook will make third-team All-Defense. Two things about this prediction: 1) It was impossible, because there’s actually not a third-team All-Defense (good job, me!) and 2) if there were a third team, Westbrook would’ve been really close to making it with his honorable mention votes.
31.The Thunder will win the Northwest, by more than five games. My statement: “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.” The Nuggets were legit and made it a battle for a while. The Thunder won the Northwest by three games. But that had more to do with them winning 60 games than it did anything else.
32. KD will win MVP. I really thought this was going to happen. The storylines seemed to line up. Harden was gone meaning Durant had to pick up the slack, meaning the media would sympathize with KD as he did more. I said this then: “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.” Well, the Thunder won 60 and Durant had an absolutely outrageous season. But LeBron was too good and the Heat won 27 games in a row. Wasn’t meant to be this time, again.
33. The Thunder will claim homecourt throughout the playoffs. They did!
34. The Thunder will meet the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. They didn’t!
35. When the season ends, the James Harden trade will still be the story surrounding OKC’s season. In a lot of ways, it still is. But for the wrong reasons. Some have remained focused on the Thunder trading Harden, but for the 50th time, the Thunder didn’t miss James Harden; they missed Russell Westbrook.
I saw the story of OKC’s season being defined by the fact a healthy Thunder team might fall short. But in so many ways, they exceeded my expectations of how good they were and by all appearances, were headed back to the Finals with a healthy Westbrook. Harden’s story has creeped in again, for stupid, unintelligent reasons. The story of OKC’s season was Game 2 against the Rockets and what happened after that.