Can someone give the Thunder an ice pack? This off-season beat them up, pretty bad at that!
You go from being up 3-1 in the NBA Conference Finals to losing a top-three player in the world in Kevin Durant and defensive big Serge Ibaka. You go from being favorites to winning the title next year to being viewed as a second tier team and questionable to making it out the first round of the playoffs. For the Thunder, life came at them fast this summer!
Losing Ibaka is one thing. There are several big man that can protect the rim while being a average shooter. But losing Durant? That’s a once in a generational player, he can’t be easily replaced.
One thing OKC has in it’s favor is a ticking bomb that is ready to be detonated; Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook is arguably the most athletic point guard the NBA has ever seen. His ability to go coast to coast in a flash and destroy the rim with a vicious dunk has never been seen. Westbrook plays with a fury that puts fear in teams night after night and that will be in full effect this season. Get this, without Durant on the floor, Russ averages 28.1 points per game and a near triple double. It was always a question of whose team it was between Durant and Westbrook and that affected the play of both. Now that Durant’s gone, expect Westbrook to go full rampage while leading his own team.
Steven Adams showed that he’s a very promising big with his play in the playoffs last season. His length and defensive presence makes it tough for opposing players to score in the paint. Adams also has great footwork, seen as he expands his offensive repertoire.
It was not a complete lose this off-season. In a trade with the Magic, the Thunder did receive Victor Oladipo, who will go perfectly with Westbrook. The two of them will be one of the top backcourts in the league, that will help the Thunder’s pursuit of the posteason. Their collective explosiveness and defensive toughness will keep the Thunder afloat in the playoff race.
The Thunder will look very difference this season. Westbrook will be in the running for league MVP and OKC will be exciting to watch. Many will tune in just to see how they handle life without Durant. Will all of Westbrook’s greatness amount to enough wins to stay in title contention? That will be the narrative throughout the whole year.