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Monday, October 2, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: 2017-2018 Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

By @TrueGodImmortal

The NBA season is just two weeks away and if you're like me, you're more excited than ever. There are new rosters and new Big 3s and duos that should make for one of the most interesting seasons and postseasons we've seen over the last few years. One of the teams that will garner attention is the new look Oklahoma City Thunder, who recently acquired Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. With these new acquisitions, many have the Thunder winning a lot of games and having a hugely successful year. Is it possible? Well, let's examine.

The trade for Paul George saw the Thunder lose its second best player in Victor Oladipo, and the trade for Carmelo Anthony saw the Thunder lose a vital piece in Enes Kanter. What does this say about the future of this team? It says tep things: one, this team is literally one season away from a full rebuild possibly if things go like I expect them to. Two, Russell Westbrook is and will always be the franchise in Oklahoma City as he signed a 5 year extension for 205 million dollars, which means for the next 6 seasons he will be in OKC. So, now, the transition from the 2nd best player on his team to the franchise star is complete for Westbrook. What does that mean for PG and Melo? That's where things get a bit fuzzy.

There are two options that could happen. Either the Thunder have a successful season and make the playoffs (which is almost guaranteed) and both PG and Melo decide to stay, or they have a slightly successful season and make the playoffs, but both Melo and PG decide to leave. Paul George will be a free agent this off-season and the rumor is that he wants to go play in Los Angeles for the Lakers. While the extension for Russ seemingly could be a factor in PG signing back in OKC, it's in the Honeymoon phase. Every team is in the Honeymoon phase right now from the new look Cavs, the Rockets, the Clippers, the Celtics, and the Thunder aren't excluded from that. Truthfully, the style of players that Melo and PG are could honestly clash with Russ and his style, but on paper it looks to be a successful pairing. So, OKC now has an official Big 3 with three prominent scorers. What could go wrong?
Well, aside from the usual chemistry issues and role defining, I don't think that Billy Donovan is a great coach. His schemes are predictable and his rotations at times have proven to be suspect. So, with that said, what does the future hold for this team? There are a lot of questions. 

Andre Roberson and Steven Adams helped round out a solid defensive starting 5, but Roberson can't score or hit a free throw, and Adams is too inconsistent offensively. However, their starting 5 is probably top 4 or 5 in the NBA, maybe top 3, so when playoff time comes, they could be a threat. The one issue that they will have is the defensive end. Russ has never been a great defender, and Melo was never a great defender, while Paul George has taken a slight drop defensively himself. Can Roberson do the dirty work alongside Adams to hold off the offensive star power of other top tier teams and allow the three Big 3 control the pace if the game offensively? Well, here's where the biggest issue and likely the reason they won't win a title comes into play. Depth. The Thunder and their bench unit seem relatively worse than last season's team, which wasn't great. They added a few pieces and Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson could help, but only so much. The lack of true depth will be a very big issue for the Thunder when they play against teams like the Cavs, the Rockets, the Spurs, the Wolves, and of course, the Warriors.

So, what is the future for the team? What will their record be? I predict the Thunder will finish around 53-29 or at best, 56-26, and will be a top 3-4 seed in the West. The best case scenario will have them as a no. 2 seed if everything clicks just right. More than likely, they finish as a possible 4 seed, and leave the playoffs in a 2nd round exit. If they end up making the Conference Finals to take on the Warriors, there's very little chance of them winning that series. Does their season end with a championship? Likely not, but the journey to a 2nd round exit could be fun to watch for fans. The 2017-2018 Oklahoma City Thunder will be must see and that's enough to have us looking forward to the season ahead.



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