It was the most unpredictable season in Thunder history, and the weight of the unknowns certainly took a toll on my annual predictions column. Suffice to say, I fired up an Andre Roberson-esque number of airballs here.
Let’s get to them and all laugh together at my incompetence.
1. The opening night starting five: Westbrook, Oladipo, Roberson, Sabonis and Adams. Check. A perfect tone-setter and I’m sure it won’t go downhill at all from here.
2. Russell Westbrook will record 14 triple-doubles. Lol.
3. Westbrook’s rebounding numbers will be down. Lol x2.
4. Westbrook’s usage rate will be under 35. Lol x3. Westbrook’s usage ended up setting a new NBA record at 40.8 percent.
5. Steven Adams’ numbers will be in this range (for scoring purposes, give or take 0.5 each way): 14.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 assists. Adams ended up at 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.1 assists. By most interpretations, Adams had a disappointing season. We all expected a leap that took place in last year’s playoffs to carry momentum into this season, but Adams clearly had trouble with consistency. Now, let’s also consider, if he had pulled in all those free throw rebounds and wasn’t so willing to cede to Westbrook, his numbers might’ve been more like 11.3 points and 11.5 rebounds a game, and I think our perception might look different. Point is, though, numbers aside, I don’t think Adams was as impactful as expected.
6. The Thunder will make at least one needle-moving trade. Maybe two. I’d say the trade netting Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott was needle-moving. I expected them to trade Payne, and they did.
7. Enes Kanter will finish the season with the Thunder. Kanter was seen as one of OKC’s primary trade assets coming into this year. He could still move on draft night, but it seems to me he’s a “Westbrook player,” the kind of guy that can fit on a Westbrook-led team. Maybe he’ll be around for a while, actually.
8. Andre Roberson makes an All-Defense team. We don’t know this answer yet, but he’s going to, I think. It’ll be second team, because there’s just not a reasonable way to get him on first-team. Roberson is (unfairly) listed at the forward position, a place that carries Kawhi and Draymond, so there’s no room. I have Roberson on my second team.
9. The Thunder don’t extend anyone before Oct. 31. I said this: “There are a number of reasons why they should, and why they shouldn’t. If you have players willing to re-up, normally the Presti handbook says you do it, especially if there’s a chance of a discounted rate.” That’s exactly what ended up happening. Oladipo and Adams signed for less than the likely RFA market value, and OKC took it.
10. Adams re-signs next summer for less than the max. Well, it wasn’t next summer, but it was for less than the max.
11. Alex Abrines becomes OKC’s best 3-point shooter. I suppose this is relative. Jerami Grant was OKC’s top percentage 3-point shooter (38 percent), Westbrook made by far the most (200), but I do think it was obvious that Abrines was OKC’s best shooter.
12. I will think to myself “Man, Joffrey Lauvernge sure does look like Miles Plumlee” 62,000 times. Accurate.
13. Fans boo Kevin Durant on his return. Accurate.
14. Kyle Singler wins Most Improved. He made a late, strong push against the Timberwolves with that big nine-point first quarter. And if you’re wondering, this wasn’t a serious prediction.
15. The “Victor Oladipo Can Sing Okay” thing gets way old by the end of the season. It didn’t become a thing really, but I did get slightly tired of him singing his heart out in the background while players conducted interviews postgame.
16. The Thunder will finish top 12 in defensive and offensive efficiency. 17th in offense, 10th in defense.
17. The starting five will be one of the five best lineups in basketball. I guess it depends on which starting five. The Sabonis group was a +3.5 per 100 possessions. The Gibson one was a +11.8. Replace Sabonis with Gibson for the entire season, and the Thunder are probably firmly a 50-win team, maybe more.
18. The bench will induce 6.8 face palms per game. 5.9 of them came from Semaj Christon alone. In the postseason, the team average went up to 13.6 face palms. It was a rough playoffs.
19. The Thunder will have one All-Star. Yep. And he wasn’t even a starter.
20. Andre Roberson will be an adequate offensive player. I said: ‘I don’t think he’s going to be that much improved as a shooter, but as a slasher and screen-and-roll guy.” And I think he was. He had a rough stretch in December/January where he tried to shoot too much, but once he got into cutting and screening, he was effective.
21. The Thunder’s smallball lineup will eventually feature Josh Huestis at the 4. Oh man. I thought Huestis would see some actual floor time this year. Nope.
22. The Thunder will finish in the bottom five in 3-pointers made. The Thunder finished 26th in 3s made.
23. The Thunder will lead the league in points in the paint. They did. Barely. At 49.9 a game, just ahead of the Nuggets at 49.8.
24. Steven Adams will get kicked in the balls. I can’t remember officially if he did, but technically, he’s kind of still getting kicked in the balls by Draymond Green.
25. Enes Kanter will miss an easy layup, look at the ref in disbelief, touch his face and check if he’s bleeding when he’s clearly not, then run back on defense saying “Unbeeleebable man.” Happened at least 400 times, I think.
26. Domantas Sabonis will make an All-Rookie team. Nope. Sabonis had an odd rookie year. There were certain flashes, and I believe he will be good, but he clearly struggled with comfort and confidence. He ran into that rookie wall headfirst sometime in January.
27. Russell Westbrook will attempt the most 3s on the team this season. He did. And made 99 more this season than he had in any other season. Westbrook’s shooting was quietly one of his biggest improvements.
28. The Thunder will have a losing record in two possession games. HAHAHAHA. Check this out: “This is going to be their big problem, methinks. Westbrook isn’t a very good clutch time player, and there’s a question of if he’ll have enough trust to distribute the ball to others in big spots. I could see the Thunder losing a lot of four and five-point games.” The Thunder ended up the second-best clutch-time team in the league, only behind the Spurs. They outscored teams by almost 20 points per 100 in the clutch.
29. Russell Westbrook won’t win the MVP. I picked Kawhi, and I knew better. Russ was going to make sure he won this award, one way or the other. And he’s going to.
30. The Thunder win 49 games. I said, “I went on record with that number a few weeks ago, and admittedly, I hate it. I wish it was 46. Or maybe even 44. I’d feel way better with that. 49 feels like too many.” I never liked going as high as 49. I got carried away with thinking the Thunder’s pieces were pretty good, and didn’t really factor in enough of how they’d fit around Westbrook as a team of support specialists. That’s why I think the Thunder actually exceeded expectations this season, by a big margin. Once we saw how the roster was meticulously calibrated to support Westbrook and Durant, and then what it looked like with one removed, what OKC accomplished was quietly very impressive.
31. The Thunder go out in five games in the second round. Close! Only one round off. Half credit.
Thanks for following along this season. Onward to another one.