As a site, we ranked all the NBA teams from worst to best for our release of season previews. Day twenty-seven’s release of a season preview ends up being the Kevin Durant lead Oklahoma City Thunder. I will provide a recap of their past season, an offseason recap, and then finally the season preview all of us fans are eager for.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
Last Season’s Record: 45-37
Playoff Status: Missed Playoffs
Heading into the 2014-2015 season, Oklahoma City was looked at as a force to be reckoned with. Well then the injury bug hit this squad, and their three stars, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka all spent good chunks sidelined with different injuries. To try and increase their potency off the bench, and bring more shooters to the team, Oklahoma City traded for Dion Waiters, who can be electric, but has not found consistency in the league, leading to many disappointments about his play. To hopefully ignite a spark at the trade deadline, Oklahoma City traded away Reggie Jackson, and received Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle SIngler in return. Kanter quickly became a double-double machine for the Thunder, while Singler and Augustin helped revitalize the bench. Once Westbrook was healthy he came back with a vengeance, and took over the league as a one man show. In the season final with the New Orleans Pelicans, with the winner advancing to the playoffs, Anthony Davis and Co were just to much for Westbrook and the Thunder to overcome, and even with his dominant performances, Westbrook was unable to carry the Thunder into the rugged Western Conference playoffs. At the end of the season, Oklahoma City decided to fire Scott Brooks, and hired Billy Donovan a week later, so heading into the offseason, Oklahoma City had a lottery selection to play with, develop a new team chemistry built around Donovan, but their main priority was getting the team healthy, mainly their former MVP, Kevin Durant.
In the 2015 NBA Draft there was not many rumors surrounding the Thunder. Many experts expected them to go with a point guard, as they were looking to develop one in case Westbrook cannot stay healthy, as well as needing another explosive bench piece. With the 14th overall pick, Oklahoma City selected Cameron Payne, a point guard out of Murray State University. Payne will help bring an explosive scorer off the bench, and good point guard attributes to develop over his first couple of seasons. With Oklahoma City looking to never lose Westbrook, Payne may never develop into a starter for this team, but he will provide a good bench piece for Oklahoma. With no second round pick, Oklahoma City turned to undrafted guard, Dez Wells from the University of Maryland. If Wells can make the final roster, he has the potential to be a nice asset off the bench with his scoring abilities. Although, Oklahoma did not get a bonafide star in the draft, they increased their depth and that is always a win in this league.
Heading into the offseason, Oklahoma City did not have many pressing needs to fill, and their main priorities were retaining their current free agents. The biggest resigning being Enes Kanter, who was offered a five-year $70 million deal by the Portland Trailblazers, but due to Kanter being a restricted free agent, Oklahoma City had the chance to match, and they did. This move is seen as a bit of a gamble, as we all know Kanter is about useless on the defensive side of the ball. Serge Ibaka will need to continue to play dominate defense in the low-post, as he will be about their only hope when these two are paired together. Oklahoma City also signed Kyle Singler to a five-year, $25 million deal, and he will provide a good back-up to Durant at the small forward position, as well as a sharp shooter off the bench. These two signings were not huge moves, but they will both help keep Oklahoma City deep and built to compete in the Western Conference.
The 2015-2016 season is an important one for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant is going to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and this team needs to show him they can win it all, or he might leave. Although it is highly unlikely he leaves, there is quite a few teams who have the cap room and talent to draw his interest away from Oklahoma City. The good thing for the Thunder is, they do have the talent. The starting five of Westbrook-Roberson-Durant-Ibaka-Kanter provides every aspect needed for a championship squad. All of these players, except Kanter, are good defenders and can be electric scorers. The back court depth of Augustin, Waiters, Anthony Morrow, and Payne provide Oklahoma with leaders, shooters, and a little bit of defense. The back-up forward positions will be manned by Kyle Singler, Josh Huestis, Mitch McGary, and Nick Collison. McGary showed he can be a dominate post player if he can stay healthy, and having him come off the bench will allow for a devastating weapon for Oklahoma City to use, while Singler and Huestis can space the floor, and Collison provides veteran leadership off the bench. At the center position, Steven Adams will be the primary back-up, and he has the ability to start if Oklahoma City decides he would be a better option than Kanter. Adams can provide defense, rebounding, and an improving offensive arsenal. With this team coming together and having so much depth across the board, it is easy to see why this team is a favored championship pick. With so much riding on this season expect big numbers from Kevin Durant, who is looking to reclaim his crown of MVP, as well as win his first title. As long as Oklahoma City can stay healthy this upcoming season, they will be a title favorite, and a likely top three team in the Western Conference, who have what it takes to win it all.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17