One. That’s the number of playoff series that the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka healthy. The model once again projects them to be a powerhouse, projecting the second best record in the league. The Thunder finally added a capable coach to an already stacked roster when they brought in Florida’s Billy Donovan. Donovan has a glorious resume including two NCAA Championships, 4 Final Fours and he’s also a three time SEC Coach of the Year. Whilst the Thunder’s offensive efficiency was good under Brooks (this generally happens when you have two of the top five offensive players in the league), this team and their limited plays and lack of off-ball movement got found out when it really counted in the crunch time in playoff matches. Hopefully adding a seasoned, tactically excellent coach such as Donovan will rectify this situation. Also on the sidelines this year will be former New Orleans coach Monty Williams, a brilliant basketball mind much better suited to an assistant role. This model projects a 16 win increase from last season, which is mainly attributed to a projected Kevin Durant recovery and healthy season. His stats from last year have been used in the model, his least productive year in quite some time, which shows that this team potentially has even more improvement left in them.
But, as Jack will happily tell you, recurring injuries can often derail a career and star players are no exception to the rule. Over the past 12-18 months, Kevin Durant has been plagued by such injuries and, as such, there is no guarantee he returns to the KD we know and love. But this OKC team is more than just KD. Russell Westbrook was an MVP candidate last season and Serge Ibaka is still a top 30 player, but after that, this team is seriously deep for the first time in a long time. This bench unit will potentially include Enes Kanter, Cameron Young, DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler, Mitch McGary, Andre Roberson and Dion Waiters: that’s some serious depth. The Thunder are ready to contend and with Kevin Durant’s upcoming free agency (not to mention Westbrook’s the following year), this year is more than crucial for OKC. But as we already know, if their three star players are healthy, they don’t lose in the playoffs, and finally after all these years, they have the supporting cast to back up the big three.
Projected Record: 61-22
My Predicted Wins: 57-62
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